Predators pretty much ruled — but after we walked out of it, we were left going, "Waaaaait a minute." Because this movie's trailers were deceptive as heck. They included one iconic shot that wasn't quite in the actual film. Spoilers!
So I really did like Predators a whole lot. It was an action movie in which the action mostly felt logical, and as if there was a reason for everything that happened. It's a minor miracle to see an action movie in which the action feels organic, and it's not just a flatulence of CG. (By the way, that's officially the plural term for a lot of CG, or several CG effects in one place — a "flatulence." The same way you say a flock of geese, or a murder of crows. "A flatulence of CG." Pass it on.)
But that doesn't make it okay that Predators' trailers were totally misleading. If you've seen the movie, you already know what I'm talking about. The coolest, holy-shittiest, moment in the trailers was this this one. Adrien Brody's know-it-all, ass-kicking merc Royce gets a full-body temporary tattoo, courtesy of a buttload of Predator gunsights:
But in the actual movie, it looked more like this:
One gunsight. One. You know, I think we got shortchanged on that bulk order of Predators we were promised.
You might think I'm over-emphasizing that one shot, but I really felt like it was the emblematic trailer screencap that everybody posted for this film. People were pumped to see this movie after the trailers came out during SXSW — and that "multiple gunsights" image was a big part of the reason why.
There are a number of reasons why that moment is so arresting in the trailers. For one, you wonder how the fuck Adrien Brody is ever going to get out of that. How can he possibly survive another 30 seconds with so many crab-faced fuckers taking aim at him at once? But also, it convincingly raises the stakes from the previous Predator outings. I count 15 gunsights on Adrien in that shot. That's not The Most Dangerous Game, it's a freakin massacre.
That image says: "This film is turning it up to 11,000. We're not just recreating the original Predator with an alien jungle instead of an Earth jungle. We're giving you TOO MANY PREDATORS. They're going to be relentless. They're going to be everywhere, like Lord Of The Rings Orcs or some shit. You'll have Predators coming out of every one of your orifices, and you're going to like it."
So what happened? Did they make this scene with the 15 gunsights, and then decide to change it in the final cut of the movie? As far as I know, nobody's commented one way or the other. We're trying to get to talk to director Nimrod Antal, so we can ask him ourselves.
Update: MTV asked producer Robert Rodriguez about this, and he said that shot was indeed created specifically for the trailer, and he didn't feel it was deceptive. "A lot of my movies have trailer shots that I shoot just for the trailer, so that people haven't seen the movie already but they get the feeling of what it's supposed to represent." So there ya go.
My guess is, though, that Antal and producer Robert Rodriguez never intended for those 15 gunsights to be in the film. Because Lawrence Fishburne makes a big point of explaining that the aliens hunt in threes, and that there are just two groups, one from each rival species. That's a major plot point. And indeed, there are just three of the "Black Predator" aliens in the film: The one that the Russian guy blows up, the one that the Samurai kills, and the one that Royce and his new Predator friend take out in the end.
Who was it that looked at this well-made, smartly done action movie, and decided to pretend it was something totally different? Because whoever made that decision, it backfired somewhat — Predators got its ass kicked by Despicable Me, and was the third Fox summer movie this year to have an opening weekend under $30 million. (Although it did better than the other Predator sequels. And with its low budget, this film probably will wind up making a profit. It did great for a B-movie, just not blockbuster numbers.)
Like I said, I really liked Predators, and I really feel like this movie could only be a letdown if you were expecting something totally different. If you were pumped up to see a movie featuring 15 Predators, then you might feel a bit cheated. And that, to my mind, probably accounts for a lot of the negative buzz this movie was getting last week.
Edited to add: Of course, it's standard for trailers to include scenes that aren't in the movie. We did a giant round-up of examples of this last summer. But this is kind of different, since the extra gunsights actually mislead you about this film in a more basic way.
But would the movie the trailers kept promising, over and over, have been better? I don't think so.
If there really were 15 Predators, all working together to hunt these humans, it would be a very, very different sort of film. Much less a battle of wits in the jungle, and much more a no-holds-barred battle royale kind of thing. And with those kind of odds, the humans would be dropping like flies, unless the Predators decided to toy with them.
You'd end up with a much more conventional 2010s action movie. Instead of Nimrod Antal's gritty, intense film where all of the action feels thought out, you'd get a lot of over-the-top set pieces — and, yes, a flatulence of CG — with logic and basic storytelling flying off to one of those ten moons. The only way you could believe Adrien Brody and the United Colors of Mass Murder taking out more than a dozen Predators would be if there was huge ridiculous gravity-defying Michael Bay-style flim-flammery. Exploding giant Predator testicles, the whole deal.
Instead, Predators is old school — like I said, the action is organic and mostly pretty logical. You could outline the film and it would feel like things progress in a real sequence. The Predators drop the humans onto their planet, they use the dogs to flush them out, Royce decides to follow the dog tracks back to the Predator camp, Royce sets a trap which fails, but this leads to them meeting Lawrence Fishburne, etc. Royce is proactive instead of reactive, but his plans go wrong, etc. The humans are resourceful, the Predators are smart, and nobody talks down to the audience.
So yeah, I believe that Predators is a better movie than the "smorgasbord of gunsights" image would have led you to expect. But someone in the marketing department at Fox disagreed, and felt like the only way to trick people into watching a decent B-movie was to mis-represent it as another Hollywood bloat-fest. But whether you'd rather have seen 15 super-Predators or just three, you still have to admit that this was kind of a crappy bait and switch.