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Past Posts

Predators: A competent white man, and some other people who die

This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.

What can I say about Predators? Probably nothing terribly coherent, but here goes.

The scariest thing about it is probably the poster. I've never seen any other Predator movies so I don't know if these things were more intimidating in their previous incarnations, but they lose a lot of their mystery once they ditch their cloaking devices. While I had a good time watching the film, due to the lots of shooting, there was never much dramatic tension for me. Watching a group of elite human warriors battle unstoppable humanoid killing machines who have abducted them to use for game hunting practice should at least get your heart beating a little bit faster. Sadly, no.

For what these people were supposed to be - executioners, cold blooded mercenaries, serial killers - they're pretty useless in a crisis. Except Adrien Brody's (smoking hot!) character, who is the White Man Who Will Save Us All. I think you could write a script in which that archetype takes leadership of a group and still show any of the other characters making a useful suggestion maybe once? Or twice? But I guess it was just easier to have Brody's character do all the thinking.

For a few minutes near the beginning, the film seemed like it was going to let Alice Braga's character be the de facto second in command and actually come up with some strategy, but no. She carries a big gun, but she's just there to follow Brody around, get teary eyed, and care about people. Just because you give the woman the heaviest gun doesn't mean anything else has to change, and hey look who was the first one to fall in a hole and need rescuing? This is not the "women of color in action role" revolution you were looking for, please move along.

What really got me, though, was how badly the men of color in our happy band of adventurers were treated. My favorite stereotypical character was Japanese-Taiwanese actor Louis Ozawa Changchien's character, who is a member of the Japanese Yakuza. OF COURSE. Because the Japan of Hollywood movies has no military or police or assassins. All the badasses are Yakuza or Ninjas. And Yakuza are really Ninjas too, you can tell, because this guy rocks out with a sword!

And as could have been predicted, the order of death of characters with speaking parts went like this:

  1. Hispanic man from Mexico (Danny Trejo)
  2. Black man from Sierra Leone (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali)
  3. Black man who sounds American (Laurence Fishburne)
  4. White man from Chechnya we didn't really care about, while saving white man from the United States
  5. Asian man, while saving white men and pretty lady
  6. White man from the United States

Even where you're from seems to matter in marking you for death!

I would have labeled those lists with a spoiler warning, but COME ON! Like you didn't see all of that coming. It was like Resident Evil: Extinction crossed with The Mutant Chronicles. So yeah, nothing much to report on the HC front. Another day, another movie full of men of color being redshirted.

Despite these flaws, I did have fun watching the movie. The pacing was quite good. I was not glued to the edge of my seat, but I was entertained. I ended up enjoying Topher Grace's performance most of all. I recognized his voice but I could not place it until I got home. I've seen quite a bit of That 70's Show, so I was impressed that he didn't give himself away.

So we end up with 1 star, since it was oh so typical, but I would recommend it for a fun summer movie.

4 Comments

Well, don't forget that the Black Man from Sierra Leone was called "Mombasa". You know, just like many Germans are called Dusseldorf and US-Americans get names like Jersey or Portland... and actually, maybe US-Americans do that. You guys have *strange* names.

I don't even think you can call Alice Braga a WoC here, I think she's cast as white, and her being Israeli is as close as you can get to being American without being American.

You know what would have been great? To actually have them work as a team with all of their respective strengths – or to have the group totally dissolve, but then of course the foreigners can't sacrifice themselves for the whiteys. Even the smaller predator sort of sacrifices himself.

Finally, good to know that even a Black Ops Sniper needs rescuing by the white man, and not only against predators, but guys like Topher Grace. She should have wiped the floor with him – as a matter of fact, imagine the doctor killing some other wounded person in the beginning of the film so we know he's evil (well, with him being there it's a pretty good bet he is, anyway), and we get a little scared for Alice Braga, and then she just destroys him and maybe even uses him to flee from the predator – the one who suddenly stopped killing to put the two humans in a hole to be rescued from.

And I don't want to know how the predators chose the people they kidnapped. Or, I want to know, but whatever they did, it did not make any sense. Unless they randomly flipped through phone books.

SunlessNick said at July 17, 2010 2:06 PM:

"Finally, good to know that even a Black Ops Sniper needs rescuing by the white man"

So Alice Braga's character was a black-ops sniper? In other words, used to moving through unfamiliar territory to find good ground? And yet she's the one who falls down a hole?

Skye said at July 23, 2010 10:34 PM:

YES. Ack!

Conrad Barwa said at July 26, 2010 1:25 AM:

What is interesting is that the Predator franchise had a fairly good record in terms of casting non-white characters. Danny Glover is the main protagonist in 'Predator 2'(imo an underrated sequel which was actually quite good) where for a change is the predominantly White govt agents who get slaughetered and 'Alien vs.Predator' had Saana Latham a WOC in the main role. Disappointing to see a deviation in this film.

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