i do appreciate that i might, look you see, be a little late to this party. the (presumably) official you tube thingie for the fan financed and made film Predator Dark Ages, which you can see the trailer for here, has had slightly north of 930,000 views. that means, however that near 6.9 billion people have not yet watched it, so there's every chance that many more shall, like i, stumble upon this by accidents.
what is it and a quick, spoiler free review? surely. it's a fan-made, fan financed film based on the celebrated Predator creation and stories. don't be fooled by the "fan" element there - despite some flaws (most of which are circumstantially unavoidable, but flaws all the same), this is a fine, polished 27 minute film which has been professionally made and is well worth the time of any Predator fan.
you can watch the full film by clicking here, or if you like you can read on after the next image and see if it is of interest to you to do so first. be warned, though, for a *** POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING *** warning thing is in place from here on out.......
plot? it is the era of the Crusades. Thomas, a battle and world weary member of the Knights Templar, is ready to leave the order. he has, however, one final task to complete, apparently at the behest of Brother Joseph (i think, he doesn't get a picture credit at the end), played by an actor who could do a very convincing elderly Peter Cook.
the mission, which Thomas apparently has no choice but to accept, is to hunt down and kill a "devil beast" that's wiping out soldier after soldier, knight after knight.
the trick, however, is that Thomas and his band of knights (a perfectly acceptable collection of the typical stereotypes of an action movie - the lady, the big huge muscleman, the wildcard and the older, wiser source of wisdom) must take with them someone who was at the time a sworn enemy - a Muslim, or rather a Saracen as he is correctly, historically, referred to by the team.
the Saracen, Sied, is the only person known to have seen the "devil beast" and survived to tell the tale. we are told that he saw it in action in Jerusalem. Thomas and the Templars (cool name for a band) are understandably reluctant to take the sworn enemy with them, but as Sied points out, whoever or whatever is killing soldiers could not care less for religion, belief or anything other than killing....
lets' get to the actual review then. Sied is introduced to us in a tent, set up near where the Predator is apparently set up and attacking. this is cool, but the premise presented in the Kickstarter page was an even better one. i believe that this film was made for just south of £15,000, so some cost based changes were inevitable, but man it would have been awesome if they could have started the film off as intended.
shall we start with the bad? some of the acting. it's 50-50, really. Adrian Bouchet is brilliant as Thomas. Ahmed Hashimi as Sied and Sabine Crossen as Freya are, however, below average. at some points awful. not to the point of distraction - Sied gets better as the film goes on, for a start - but noticeable all the same.
i don't want to sound like an apologist, but the "less than great" acting performances that make it into the film are understandable on the basis of the low budget and, you would think, seriously limited time they had to film in. Kubrick once famously said, when he indulged a question, that he did so many takes of scenes because "it would be stupid not to" as it was "the cheapest part" of making a film. that's true if you happen to be the greatest director of all time and have Warner Bros indulging absolutely everything you want. a film made as a labour of love does not, alas, have such benefits. i would suspect all involved with Predator Dark Ages would look at some of the performances and say "yeah, it would have been lovely to go back and redo that". perhaps one day they shall get the chance.
onto the good, then, and there is plenty of it. first, and most important to any Predator film would be the Predator himself, for there seems to be a lack of lady Predators (they do, presumably, have girl ones somewhere, unless they have a really weird reproduction system).
for what is fundamentally a fan made project, even allowing for the clearly high end professional skills on show, the Predator was the easiest way for this to all fall apart. the Predator needed to be convincing for this film to work. i am delighted to say that, by my word, the Predator in this film is awesome.
let me make something clear. i love the idea of Predator. i love all of the films - even the Alien vs Predator film that fanboys whine and moan about. and yes, even Predator 2, despite the overt Busey content. my favourite ever South Park is Imaginationland, mostly because of the awesome Predator that Butters encounters in it. so if they had delivered a poor, average or silly looking Predator in this film, trust me, i would have gone all "fanboy" on it and whined.
another key ingredient is, of course, action. there are more action sequences than you might think in a low budget, 27 minute film, and they are all impressive - well staged, crafted, lensed and what have you. and yes, you get to see all of the Predator's tricks, bar the smart self-destruct nuclear thing it has.
but how is the story? it's a brilliant concept. as was used as the premise of the aforementioned Alien vs Predator film, why wouldn't you have it that the Predators have been visiting our planet for the thrill of the hunt over the centuries? the broad concept of the Predator films is that the Predators are drawn to battles across the universe, so that they may test themselves against those who consider themselves to be the greatest warriors in the galaxy.
the reason i and many others love the Predator is because it is the sort of mentalist, gung-ho up for a fight character we all like to picture the vikings as being. think, to refer to the show again, that episode of South Park where Russell Crowe cruised around the world just to have fights with people. the concept is awesome.
so how did they "get away" with making a Predator film and distributing it? because, presumably, whilst they are not as fan friendly as Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox (the ostensible "owners" of all things Predator) are not as bad as, for example, Sony or Apple.
whilst they might be a trifle miffed at someone using their "intellectual property", the broad picture for them was, presumably, this was all market research that was not costing them a penny and not making anyone else any money either. the studio has not done anything with the Predator concept since the (rather good) Predators film from a few years ago, although i believe that Shane Black (as in Mr He Who Can Do No Wrong after the excellence of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) is having a go at a new film. why not let a bunch of fans, at their own cost, make a Predator movie, sit back and gather all of the marketing and fan feedback information that goes with it?
that feedback is, hopefully, that fans want more smart Predator films. they don't even have to be massive budget things. we would be happy with "the adventures in space and time of a Predator" sort of thing, so long as the effects and the presence of the Predator are as convincing as they are here in Predator Dark Ages.
to the cast and crew, i can only say thank you very much indeed for this very entertaining and hugely enjoyable slice of entertainment. i can only hope that it has helped showcase your clear talents to those that have money to throw at making movies, and it helps you catch a break. a big thanks, too, to all those dedicated fans that threw money at this, with the only return wanted or expected being to see a class Predator film. i trust you got what you wanted.
on that note, no i did not know about it at all, and only stumbled on this film over the weekend. would i be prepared to throw money at a project? in all honesty, before i saw this the answer would have been no. now that i have seen just what is possible by dedicated (and talented) fans, that would be a likely maybe on me doing so.
off you go, then - if you haven't already, head off to enjoy Predator Dark Ages, or go watch it again!
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!