Hollywood's current wave of nostalgia for the 1980's continues with the new version of a science fiction-action favorite from that decade. It's humans vs. the ferocious aliens all over again in Predators.
The American soldier-of-fortune looks down the gun barrel of the Israeli sniper; the racist convict faces off against an African revolutionary commander; a Russian veteran of the Chechnya conflict warily backs up a South American drug cartel enforcer while, from the shadows, a Japanese Yakuza gangster analyzes the disparate group. They all arrive the same way: unconscious as they plummet from the sky and awakening just in time to open parachutes and land in a dense jungle where it soon becomes apparent that someone …or some thing …is after them:
"We're being hunted. This planet is a game preserve …and we are the game."
The chase is on as the humans eventually learn that their adversaries are deadly warrior alien creatures that any fan of 1980's movies will recognize as "Predators." Adrien Brody stars as the combat-hardened mercenary and the Oscar-winning actor fondly recalls the 1987 film that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"I'm a huge fan of the original and I distinctly remember going opening weekend," Brody admits. "I was about 14 when it came out and I remember my friends and I doing our Schwarzenegger impressions for the rest of the week."
Walton Goggins, who plays the murderous death row prisoner, also found himself delving into teenaged memories of the original film
"I was in the tenth grade with this movie came out and, just like very other tenth grade guy at the time, I just freaked out on it," Goggins says. "It was the ultimate teenaged guy movie, so I was definitely the target audience and I think one of the most important things about this movie is that it is made by fans of the original."
Brazilian-born Alice Braga was only four years old when the first "Predator" came film came out, so she doesn't have that sort of personal connection; but Braga is pleased that this time around a woman - her skilled sniper character - gets to fight alongside the men.
"I'm a small, short girl and never thought of myself running around punching and shooting," she says, "but I totally love the challenge, physically and emotionally, because it is a different type of woman that faces that kind of thing."
"In case you didn't notice, we just got flushed out. They sent the dogs in, just like you would if you were stalking a boar or shooting quail. They split us apart and they watched, testing us."
"How do you know this?"
"Because that's what I would do."
Today's science fiction films usually rely heavily on computer-generated or CG images, but Predators uses the old-school 'practical' technique of putting actors in masks and costumes to play the aliens. Brody believes that makes it seem more real to players and audience alike.
"Somehow, deep in the recesses of my subconscious, the image of these Predator creatures still lurked because it did have such an impact on me in my adolescence," Brody says. "So to find myself battling them and encountering them is a powerful experience. It did 'adrenalize' me. When you have a chance to interact at any time as an actor with a practical effect …any time you're having actual interactions with something, it is going to have a more powerful effect on you and feel more truthful."
Producer Robert Rodriguez, who first developed the story some 15 years ago, ranks the snaggle-toothed, technologically advanced Predators among classic film monsters.
"People still love the character," notes Rodriguez. "No matter how many movies they made that were not great or not as exciting as the original, the character is just classic …like The Creature From the Black Lagoon or any of these creatures. I think part of it is because it is humanoid [and] you can identify with it more than, say, the Alien creature. The Predator looks like a human, acts very human and is the anti-hero. I think people identify with that and that's why we didn't want to go CG with them at all …to keep it a man in a suit …because that's what creates the bond with the audience."
Although he usually directs his own material, Rodriguez says that was never the plan with Predators. He turned that task over to American-born, Hungarian-raised filmmaker Nimrod Antal.
" When I made my first film in Budapest it was 'whatever you want to do' and when I got to the United States it was 'this is what you are going to be doing,' " explains Antal. "Then to be able to see that within this system there is someone who is doing the right way … we both had our paranoia regarding one another. I think Robert was concerned I was going to go off and blow the budget out the window and shoot 50 days over our schedule. I was worried Robert was going to come in and tell me where to put the camera or how to speak to the actors. All those worries were purely created in my mind and we were very collaborative. He was nothing but a support."
The Predators cast also features Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo, Topher Grace and Russian mixed-martial arts champion Oleg Taktarov. The film was shot on location in Hawaii and at producer Robert Rodriguez's "Troublemaker" studios in Austin, Texas.