THE PREDATOR

The Predator is probably the coolest movie monster ever made. Designed by the legendary Stan Winston and his company, it’s a marvel in prosthetic special effects and alien design. The dreadlocks, the armor, the “vagina mouth”. Everything about it oozes with disgusting creativity. It’s not just the design either, but their species and how they operate. Their specific code of honor and will to hunt, their amazing technology, and surprising intelligence. They’re just so damn cool. Like the Xenomorph, RoboCop, and the Terminator, the Predator is a sci-fi icon. We all know what happened to all of those other sci-fi icons down the road, though. Yeah, they were in terrible films.

In The Predator, a Predator ship crash lands on Earth, with the alien pilot killing all but one of a team of soldiers sent to investigate. The lone survivor Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) incapacitates the Predator, causing the government to take it in for research. Little do they know, the Predator doesn’t really like being kept cooped up and quickly breaks out and into the city. It doesn’t just want to hunt, though. It also wants something else. So, of course, it’s up to a ragtag team of misfit heroes to stop it.

While I don’t love the original Predator film as much other people do (please, don’t hurt me), I do understand its impact and appreciate the high-quality action filmmaking of its time. For a 30+ year old film, it surprisingly doesn’t feel dated and clunky like a lot of action films do from that era. Where that film represents the best of everything from the action genre of that time period, The Predator (talking about the new one now. Don’t get confused) represents the absolute worst of modern action filmmaking. The action sequences here are awful, completely incoherent with your typical modern symptoms of shaky cinematography, erratic cutting, and dark lighting. It’s not even just the action, but the entire film, where I was never sure where some characters were in relation to others. The forest, where a lot of the action takes place, is apparently right outside the neighborhood where our main characters live, and also where a massive government facility is located. With so much going on and the film jumping all over the place, I never really knew what to really care about.

Another area where Predator strived was its simple, stripped down nature. It’s literally just guys in a jungle being hunted by an alien. With The Predator, the plot is needlessly complicated, with way too many moving parts and characters. Since there are too many people and there being absolutely no attempt to tell a story of any kind, I couldn’t bear to care about any of them. I just wanted some gory Predator action, which while often amusing and creative, was all too few and far between. Everything else is just these people bantering with each other, all of their character traits being more annoying than endearing. Black surely has a fundamental misunderstanding of how both Tourette’s and autism work, as they’re used as embarrassing vehicles for comedy and drama. Poor Jacob Tremblay is supposed to be the emotional core of the film, but his excellent acting chops are shafted by awful writing. That happens with every actor, who who are held back by terrible, dated writing that’s right out of an 80’s movie, and not in a good way. Most of these characters are terrible people (being military convicts and all), so it’s hard to root for them, but the stars try the best they can, save for a totally miscast Keegan-Michael Key. I enjoyed seeing Thomas Jane and Trevante Rhodes, although they both deserve much better. Olivia Munn was surprisingly decent too. Better than much of the rest of the cast, I felt.

I will say, though, I appreciate the amount of creativity I saw here, as silly as much of it was. Predator dogs with dreadlocks, a Predator walking around like a marionette puppet and spraying a machine gun, a kid walking around on Halloween night with a real Predator mask. I was laughing quite a bit, but it was a classic case of not knowing whether I was laughing at it, or with it. The third act was apparently going to get quite silly with good guy Predators fighting alongside soldiers, but the studios scrapped that due to poor test screenings. I would have been fine with that, because with the reshot ending here, the film devolves into utter, confusing nonsense with people running around the woods, shooting and screaming at each other. I’ve seen the theory posited around that writer/director Shane Black made the ending as stupid as possible because the studio made him reshoot it. I’m also inclined to agree, because the last act is far more shlocky, silly, and incoherent than the rest of the film. 

It makes you wonder why these studios like 20th Century Fox hire filmmakers like Shane Black for stuff like this in the first place. He’s a guy with a distinct voice and style, known for subverting tropes and expectations. Why hire him if you’re just going change everything he does because he’s doing the job you hired him to do? It all results in a mess behind the scenes that clearly shows itself on screen. I’m not saying the original version of The Predator would have been much better than what we got here, but if you’re going to hire a guy like Black, let him do this thing. It may end up coming back to bite you in the long run.

3.5/10

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