The Predators have finally returned to theaters to start a new hunt. The series has long been plagued by terrible crossovers and less than stellar sequels. With “The Predator” Shane Black returns to the series after appearing in the original “Predator” movie, but this time as a writer and director. Will his return finally usher in a good “Predator” sequel or will the series be doomed to repeat itself?
In “The Predator” Ranger sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) witnesses an alien ship crash landing in Mexico. Investigating the ship, McKenna discovers that the vessel belongs to a race of aliens known as Predators. Mckenna manages to smuggle a few items from the Predator ship out of Mexico and into the US before he is apprehended by rogue government operatives who wish to keep McKenna quiet about what he found. Unfortunately, the smuggled items wind up in the care of McKenna’s son and when a new Predator arrives on the scene to collect the stolen items McKenna is forced to team up with a ragtag group of dysfunctional soldiers to save his kid.
The film takes the pretty simple concept of a badass alien monster killing soldiers and decides to make it a tad more convoluted by throwing in some weird narrative hooks. In the film they reveal that the Predators have been making hybrid versions of themselves to try and evolve their race. This leads to conflict within the Predator race and brings into question the motivation for Predators visiting Earth. It’s not an offensive twist to the story, but ultimately feels kind of needless and doesn’t really add a whole lot to the story other than sowing the seeds for a potential sequel.
Another problem I had with the story is that McKenna’s son, played by Jacob Tremblay, has asperger’s syndrome and he gets the stereotypical treatment these kind of characters get in most movies. They make him into some sort of uber genius and then frequently mention throughout the movie that people like McKenna’s kid represent the next stage of human evolution. It comes off feeling super disingenuous and like a fetishitic view of the disability.
Now here’s where the movie is going to be most divisive among people. For being a Predator movie, the film has a hell of a lot of comedy. The first “Predator” definitely had its share of humor, but I would say it was all within the first 15-20 minutes of the movie. Here I’d say 70% of the movie feels like a comedy. In the film McKenna teams up with a group of soldiers who all have some sort of issue and this leads to them being a quirky bunch. The group consists of Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, and Augusto Aguilera. Personally, I thought each of them owned their character and did an amazing job with the comedic bits. Black fills the movie with plenty of the snappy one liners and zingers that’s he known for and the actors take to his style of dialog pretty well. Even outside of the quirky heroes we have an unhinged human villain in the form of Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) and he delivers some of the best moments in the film. Brown really hams it up in the best way and completely owns how psychotic his character is.
Personally, I loved all the side characters, but Black’s style of humor can definitely wear people down as he tends to overplay a joke or devolve into potty humor pretty quickly. But the part that will probably piss a lot of people off is that he even gets the Predator in on some of the slapstick. It’s not a consistent thing, as it happens one or two times in the movie, but it is extremely jarring to witness regardless.
It’s also unfortunate that while Black has created all of these memorable and quirky characters, he put the most bland character in the front and center. Boyd Holbrook does well with what he’s got, but he ultimately comes off as just a generic angry soldier out to kick ass. It’s fine, but he just feels so lifeless when everyone else in the movie is dripping with character.
Also, while we’re talking about characters, Jake Busey is in this movie and he was originally billed as playing the son of Gary Busey’s character from “Predator 2.” I was really excited to see what they would do with that revelation and instead Jake is on screen for like two minutes and his connection to Gary’s character is never mentioned.
Now if there’s one thing that’s important to the Predator series it’s the action and violence. In that regard I think this movie does a mostly fine job. Most of the gore is in the back half of the movie, but when it shows up there are plenty of decapitations, disembowlings, dismemberments, and just general mayhem. Unfortunately, the climax of the movie gets really chaotic and it’s hard to tell what’s going on. The editing gets really choppy and the film gets absurdly dark, so it’s easy to miss when important characters just suddenly die. This is also when the CGI starts to fall apart for the massive Predator. In most scenes he looks pretty damn good and I couldn’t tell if he was a man in a suit or CGI, but by the end the CGI is distractingly noticeable. There’s also some weirdly noticeable CGI sprinkled in other scenes. I distinctly remember a tree falling over and noticing straight away that it was CG.
Also, this movie features one of the dumbest endings I’ve ever seen in a movie that features the Predators. Yes, dumber than anything in “Alien vs Predator.” Dumber than that moment where it looked like the Predator and the human girl might kiss. It’s a really dumb ending, trust me.
Overall, I really enjoyed this movie and had fun with how absurd and weird it got. It definitely does not live up to the original “Predator” and doesn’t feel like a proper sequel. In that regard I feel like the 2010 “Predators” movie did a superior job. But I still enjoyed it. The humor hit me in the right way and the action was visceral enough to be entertaining. If you’re a Predator diehard this will be a let down, but if you’re in the mood for an action comedy that has Predators in it as a bonus, I would recommend it.