One ugly motherf*cker
The Predator is directed and co-written by Shane Black and stars Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, and Sterling K. Brown.
Shane Black starred as the supporting character Hawkins in the original 1987 Predator, and his previous directorial outing was 2016's The Nice Guys, one of my favorite movies to be released within the past couple years. If there is anyone out there, outside of John McTiernan (who seems content with staying on whatever deserted island he's been living on for the past ten, fifteen years), who can get the Predator franchise back on the right track, it is Shane Black. What more can you ask for when your director was there, living the experience of making the original Predator? Surely, that experience would pay dividends here in 2018 with the fourth installment in the Predator franchise. We may have had some rough sequels in the past, but this film, The Predator, right here and now, should mark the franchise's return to glory.
The Predator is bad. Like, really bad.
We do not get Nice Guys Shane Black here. Oh no, we get Iron Man 3 Shane Black here, and let me tell you what, Iron Man 3 Shane Black is about as desirable as a lowly Michael Bay or a standard, untalented Paul W.S. Anderson. The Predator is an example of Shane Black, the director, making almost every wrong decision imaginable, showing a total disregard for what made Predator so effective, and completely shirking on the promise that the Predator franchise had set for itself. Instead of getting what should have been the Predator franchise's best installment since the first film, we get one that somehow, someway, ends up being even worse than both Predator 2 and Predators, and OH BOY is that nothing short of a catastrophe.
The place that I naturally go to first when talking about a bad film is its story, and you can bet your ass that The Predator doesn't get much of anything right there. The film opens with a Predator ship crash landing on Earth, right in the midst of a hostage rescue mission being led by Army Ranger sniper Quinn McKenna (Holbrook). The Predator on the spacecraft attacks and kills several of McKenna's men, but McKenna is able to incapacitate the Predator and take possession of some of its armor. McKenna mails the armor parts before it can be obtained by government agent Will Traeger (Brown), who takes the Predator to a laboratory to be studied. McKenna mails the armor to the house of his estranged wife Emily (Yvonne Strahovski) and their autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), hoping it will be there when he arrives. McKenna, however, gets bussed off with a group of other government captives, but the group works together to escape. Speaking of escaping, the captive Predator escapes from the laboratory, and sets out to recover the stolen armor.
- Before I dig my teeth into all of this movie's egregious wrongs, there is one good thing that I can say about it: the pacing. Shane Black injects a heavy dose of energy into The Predator by upping the pace and making things very brisk, keeping the film immune to boredom. The movie transitions from scene to scene with a pure adrenaline rush and without a care in the world for long, "let's sit down and talk about our feelings" conversations. This is perhaps the only aspect of the original Predator that Shane Black comes even close to recapturing, as the characters are always trigger-happy and on their toes, ready to strike at a moment's notice.
- I really don't like that plot synopsis I gave earlier, because the plot details that I did mention (and I usually like to be minimal about plot details), don't seem like they stitch together very well. I can't really blame myself though; Shane Black and co-screenwriter Fred Dekker (the director and a co-writer of RoboCop 3, but we will say no more on that matter), have put together a story that heavily lacks coherence and is straight-up silly in some parts. The "McKenna sends the Predator parts through the mail" bit is completely ludicrous, but not as ludicrous as when Rory starts playing with the armor and actually goes as far as to use it for a Halloween costume. This causes some issues for the Predator(s) who are trying to get the armor parts, and it leads to Rory becoming a much more integral part to the story than he has any right to be. I swear, it took me a full hour into the movie's run time for me to finally get a sense of what the story was about. I should mention, though, that not at all during the run time did I feel convinced that anything about the story made much sense. For goodness sake, Shane Black, who cares if the story isn't all that deep? Just give us something that makes a wee bit of sense!
- The absolute worst thing about The Predator though, is Shane Black's inexplicable decision to treat the film as much like a comedy as possible, with McKenna and his "bus-mates" cracking joke after joke, and making it totally obvious that no one is taking anything seriously, as if the sight of an advanced alien life form was like a day out at the ballpark. There were funny lines in the original film, but lines from Predator like, "you're one ugly motherfucker" were funny because they were highly appropriate for the given situation. The Predator, on the other hand, just has characters like Keegan Michael-Key's character tell "your mama" jokes and other insulting statements purely for the sake of being vulgar. I would be a little more forgiving if the joke were funny, but hardly any of them are, and a film that features bad comedy is usually quite painful to watch.
I don't want to say it, but I have to: I was disgusted with The Predator. This is easily one of the worst experiences that I've had at a movie theater in a long long time. I don't have the time to go out and see every single new release, but the new releases that I do see are those that I assume I will at least get some enjoyment out of. Enjoyment was something I did not at all get with The Predator. Shane Black makes almost every wrong choice imaginable: the choice to treat the film like a comedy, when not one other Predator film even entertained the thought of treating itself as a comedy, the choice to go with a story that barely makes a lick of sense, and the choice to have its character exchange in witless banter, in an idiotic attempt at recapturing the manliness of the crew from the original film. Instead of revitalizing the Predator franchise and setting it up for a promising future, Shane Black sends the franchise further down the rabbit hole, and essentially killing all hope that this franchise may have of escaping the clutches of disappointment. The ending scene of this movie so badly wants a sequel, and whether that sequel happens or not, I can guarantee that I will not be there at the theater to see it.
Screw you, Shane Black. The Predator should have given you a more gruesome death in the first film.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: