I feel like it shouldn’t be this hard to figure this franchise out.
A pseudo-sequel to the original pair of Predator films released way back in the late 80s and early 90s, The Predator finds Earth yet again under siege by an alien hunter hell bent on maiming and dismembering any human that happens to cross its path. After an unexpected crash landing out in a – you guessed it – jungle somewhere, the titular monster quickly finds itself incapacitated by our protagonist, Army Ranger sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook). Before the government arrives to survey the scene, McKenna disarms the Predator and mails its mask and gauntlet back home, accidentally setting off a chain of events that sees McKenna’s estranged wife Emily (Yvonne Strahovski), autistic son Rory (Jacob Trmblay), evolutionary biologist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), and a ragtag group of crazy ex-Marines get swept up in a brutal battle between a Predator and the monster that has been sent to hunt it down. Blood flows, guts fly, and people die; all is well in the world of the Predator, and now the hunt is on to see who can survive the night, Predator and human alike.
Let’s address the elephant in the room first: this film is a comedy…well, more or less. If I had to put a label on it, it skews more towards an action/comedy film with large spells of bloody violence broken up by a full-on comedic undertone and marked by characters that are vague caricatures of anything remotely resembling a real person. And guess what? It kind of worked! Maybe….I think…if I squint real hard…
Coming from someone who loves this franchise and only wants to see it flourish in this new age of Hollywood, I can’t say whether or not the decision to rely so heavily on the comedic elements of the script as well as casting a group of actors to fit that tone is a good thing. I don’t want to say that the comedy didn’t work – because it most certainly did from time to time – but I don’t want to say it was a highlight of the film either. I guess the best way to put it is that I appreciated the comedy, was entertained by it but didn’t always think it worked to benefit the film as a whole because make no mistake, the entire experience most definitely suffers from the indecision of it all. It almost feels like this film were made in the 80s, for the 80s, by the 80s, especially with the final cut coated from head to toe with a big, nostalgic sounding score by Henry Jackman, who really hammers home that old 80s feel in nearly every scene. So I guess for what the filmmakers were striving for – director Shane Black in particular I’m sure – A+, but for someone like myself who can’t fully grasp the change in tone nor understand the need for it, I’m firmly planted on the fence with this one, as I expect many fans of the franchise to be as well.
And I have to be honest here, the second I heard about the casting surrounding this one, my default position became sitting on that afore mentioned fence and refusing to budge. With Keegan-Michael Key and Olivia Munn raising the most questions in my head as to what type of film Shane Black was going for, by the time the first act was over I completely understood the reasoning for these castings, but still couldn’t get fully on board with it. The banter and general relationships between the main group of Marines, McKenna and Bracket is actually quite good, and in any other movie might have worked flawlessly, but as it stands, and with the tone swinging wildly from serious to humorous depending on the needs of each scene, I can’t condone it. All that being said, the scripting of many of the comedic scenes were highly enjoyable and it’s here that the cast truly does shine. Delivering quippy lines and reacting to the ridiculous circumstances surrounding them was always fun to see played out, and the chemistry amongst the group is quite strong when it wants to be to a point that it’s almost enough to approve of the new shift in tone…almost.
Odd casting and a tonal shift aside, the biggest problem with this film became such a sore thumb as the nonexistent story progressed that I wish this new element of Predator mythology never existed: the Super Predator. More so stepping into the spotlight as the terrible third act begins to roll, this hyped up alpha hunter is not only rendered with completely laughable and unacceptable computer graphics, but in terms of the look, animation and “feel” of the new baddie, it was a huge disappointment all across the board. I would have rather had an entire Predator strike force replace this giant, hulking dumb dumb than have seen this half-assed attempt at making something new and cool with what is essentially just a taller, less clothed version of the original Predator. And don’t get me started on its pet dogs of war that look like freakish piranha fish mixed with a set of alien dreads that was then booted down the canine evolutionary tree, hitting every bad gene branch on the way down. *Le sigh*
Entertaining and enjoyable in a cheesy, 80s B-movie kind of way, but utterly incompetent when it comes to the scripting, story and most of the acting, The Predator is a ballsy change for a franchise that really needed to prove itself this time around as a permanent Hollywood staple worth remembering, but ends up falling well short of the mark. And while I don’t outright hate the added humor or the large focus on the human characters, I expected more from a film that had a decent amount of interesting elements going for it before the ridiculous final act nearly drove everything into the ground. Couple that with a tone that might be the norm for the franchise moving forward and we have a film that might have looked great on paper, but just simply didn’t have enough going for it by the time it made it to the silver screen to be considered a true success. Fans should take a peek, but everyone else might feel this one lacking.