By Rafael Motamayor
Just like Halloween, The Predator is an iconic franchise beloved by many, but with a spotty track record. The original 1987 film not only gave us two US governors, but had great one liners, memorable characters, and cool and bloody action scenes. Having one of the co-stars of the original film make a sequel seemed like a neat idea, especially since Shane Black has become a prominent director in his own right. Unfortunately, he tries to create a modern take on the franchise while delivering the same feeling of a ’90s movie, and the mixture doesn’t quite work.
While introducing the world premiere of The Predator at the Toronto International Film Festival, writer/director Black talked about wanting to give the film the same feeling of watching the original, while updating it to 2018 and introducing a Dirty Dozen twist. Unfortunately, the two never mix as well as Black seems to think they could, and the final product is his first film that feels like it might have been made by a group of studio executives listing what they think the audience wants to see.
The most obvious evidence of this is the excessive use of gore and profanity–this movie really earns its R rating. Do you want to see some blood? Well, The Predator is catering to you, based on reports of reshoots that were made to enhance the action scenes. The first time we see the titular alien hunter on Earth, its camouflage is ruined by blood dropping from a bisected human hanging from a tree. It’s a promising start, though it only gets crazier from there.
From there the film becomes more complicated and bloody, as Black decides to divide the narrative into four separate storylines that clash together in the second half. Boyd Holbrook fails to be funny or charismatic in the role of Quinn, a sniper who runs into a stranded Predator. After a fight, he leaves with not only his life, but some sweet Predator tech. Then an alien-obsessed biologist named Casey (Olivia Munn) is hired to help the cartoonishly evil government scientist Traeger (Sterling K. Brown, having the time of his life). He quickly sweeps the scene of the spaceship crash under the rug and sends Quinn away with a group of “loonies” they want to keep quiet. When Quinn’s son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) accidentally activates the Predator tech his father mailed home, he attracts the attention of a genetically enhanced Predator chasing one of its own, who comes to wreak havoc on Anytown, USA. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is.
While each section of the story has the potential for a cool new revelation about the Predator universe, and the characters are for the most part likable, the different storylines feel too disjointed to really make an impact once they all merge for a mandatory big third act showdown with the Ultra Predator. To try and make the plot seem less complicated, Black and his co-writer Fred Dekker try to quicken the pace by inserting gory action sequences shortly after every dump of exposition. Those craving an R-rated The Predator will get their money’s worth, as spines get ripped out and every part of the human body is shredded to pieces at one point or another. However, it is hard not to notice the extensive reshoots, as quite a bit of the digital effects look unfinished, and the blood looks like someone decided to paint the walls red at the last moment.
In his attempt to recapture the feeling of the original film, Black sends a new group of former soldiers fighting against an alien hunter, only this time they are seriously funny. Without a doubt, the best part about The Predator is watching the banter between the side characters, especially Brown, Keegan-Michael Key, and Thomas Jane. The jokes are genuinely funny, and Black’s signature witty dialogue is at its best, though it quickly falls into dude-bro territory when it tries to copy the ’80s machismo and oiled muscles of the original. Worst is when the film tries to subvert the same machismo theme by plaguing the main group of soldiers with conditions ranging from Tourette’s to PTSD. Unfortunately, all of that goes away once every character becomes a trigger-happy maniac in the third act.
Predator movies don’t have a great track record when it comes to female characters–both the original and 2010’s Predators have exactly one female character each. The Predator has a whopping two. In 2018. While Munn’s character promises to be a smart badass that can go toe-to-toe with the male protagonists, she eventually becomes just another person shooting a gun. And Yvonne Strahovski as Quinn’s estranged wife is criminally underused and forgotten by the plot.
Nevertheless, those who are in it for the gore, the action, and the “your mom” jokes will have a blast despite the excessive 2-hour-plus runtime. There are cool Easter eggs and meta commentary on the franchise as a whole, but no matter how funny (it is seriously funny) the film is, and no matter how much the ending wants to sell a sequel, The Predator is hindered by unpolished visuals and the feeling that its violence and tone have been needlessly punched up.
|The Good||The Bad|
|Side characters steal the show||Overly complex story structure|
|Jokes are genuinely funny||CGI Looks unpolished|
|Cool Easter and meta series commentary||Conclusion is too open-ended, seemingly to leave room for a sequel|
|Gore and violence that fans will enjoy||Excessive gore feels needlessly punched up and might be too much for some viewers|