You probably know by now that this is a sequel of a sequel of a sequel of the 1987 Schwarzeneger vehicle. There's also a comic book version, but forget itŠ
An varied set of 8 people drop out of the sky and onto a jungle-like planet (actually filmed in Hawaii's lush forests, with some rocky terrain in Texas added for one sequence), one of them the Swarzeneger model (Adrian Brody, pumped up just enough to remove him from the emaciated image in "The Pianist"), the first to realize what's happened: "This planet is a game preserve. And we're the game." That's it, folks, the entire set-up, which extends the troop (as they expire in a variety of manners, one at a time) into the formula plot - here dressed up in updated special effects - killer plants, dribbling creatures who are concealed behind light shields and utilize laser beams to search out their victims, plenty of colorful explosions, light flashes, etc.
The eight find safety in numbers, but are for the most part safe only as long as they stick with our tough, grim leader. They are a disparate group with one thing in common: they have a fondness for the f-word which is (as in so many other films using a lot of improvisation) what they rely on when there's nothing else to say. The rest of the dialog isn't much more original - tough talk: "Do you have a problem with that?" "Not at the moment." Followed by another handy insert, "Oh, sh.." But then, brilliant dialog is not the issue here. The main thing is to keep the suspense high with a roller coaster series of horrifying set pieces - into which we are guided by John Debny's mickey-mousing full orchestral score - which also telegraph's the approach of each next horror set.
It's a frightening, suspenseful film for the first half hour, when we are kept in the dark, but as the little hints are dropped, the familiarity of the format becomes all too evident - right down to the battle to the finish and the - possibly - safe pair that are left. (Am I giving anything away? When you are about 40-minutes into the film, you pretty much know who will be saved and who won't.)
The characters are thinly sketched; this is, after all, an action flick, not Shakespeare, and director Nimrod Antal, who obviously knows how to follow the formula set by the plot, sustains it well - until he gets into the set pieces. Then, whether it's digging out of a trap or battling with a critter, the pace is slowed down to a crawl. Perhaps the script, sketchy as it seems to have been, needed something to flesh out the story right to a 107-minute conclusion. Through all this, Gyuda Palles' cameras are right on, from sweat drenched close-ups to long shots of vast, foreign terrain.
While everyone fills a stereotypical bill, it is Brody who carries the lead role with more than sufficient ability - probably his best role since the original pianist.
Despite the gaping flaws - a barefoot man taking his leaps & bounds almost without effort, a man without his glasses doing amazingly well, all going for unknown number of days without food or water, etc. - the movie, if taken on the proposed formulaic level, and if not scrutinized too carefully - will serve. (Grade: C+)