Who would have thought a ‘Predator’ movie would be this hysterical?
When you think about it, with its suspenseful direction and a commanding (Commando?) performance from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Predator is up there with Alien as one of the classic examples of science fiction filmmaking. The same cannot be said for its lackluster sequels, and yes, I am including the Alien vs. Predator films. Now, a mere eight years after the last sequel, Predators, we have a new installment in the series, The Predator, co-written and directed by Shane Black, who had a small part in the first film (he was the first of Arnold’s team to be killed).
This time, another Predator has traveled to Earth to hunt for sport (as they all do), only to be ambushed by soldier Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook). After a brief altercation, McKenna takes possession of the Predator’s helmet and a piece of his armor, mailing them to his ex-wife’s house for proof that these creatures exist. What he doesn’t know is that his son (Jacob Tremblay), who has a form of autism, has opened the package and tinkered with the armor, which triggers the boy’s location to the creature. When McKenna discovers this, he, along with a ragtag group of ex-soldiers and a former science teacher (Olivia Munn) races to find and protect his son before the Predator catches him and takes his prize.
This is easily the best Predator sequel, at least in terms of entertainment value. While Predator 2 had great performances from both Danny Glover and María Conchita Alonso, most of the acting was over-the-top and goofy, and the scenes involving the Predator itself were underwhelming. The 2010 follow-up Predators had an incredible premise that was unfortunately bogged down by weak dialogue and uneven performances. The Predator, at first, feels like a combination of the previous three films, while also borrowing elements from films like Independence Day, Super 8, and Explorers: then it suddenly takes a sharp turn and morphs into the kind of film one would expect from Shane Black; an actioner filled with off-the-wall humor and pop-culture references.
One of the many charms of the original film is the ensemble cast brought together to take on the Predator, which included the likes of Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, and many more. Black seems to respect that, as he has put together a great cast including, but not limited to, Keegan Michael-Key, Thomas Jane, and Trevante Rhodes. Some of the characters in this cast have disorders such as PTSD and Tourettes, and most of their behaviors are played strictly for laughs (particularly anything done by Key and Jane). While many of their moments are admittedly funny, some scenes, such as Olivia Munn’s character waking up in a hotel room with all of these characters surrounding her bed, feel off-putting. I was not sure whether or not I should laugh at these parts.
Black must have figured that since we have already been introduced to the creature numerous times before, suspense is no longer a requirement in these films, and you might as well have a little fun with it. Unfortunately, this fun has taken higher priority over the plot, which, despite its easy flow, feels loosely thrown together and doesn’t generate any interest or stakes.
In addition, many parts of the film feel like fan service to the original Predator. Of course, the classic line “Get to the choppa” is spoken, and it is better referenced here than it was in Alien vs. Predator Requiem. However, the worst callback is the use of the Predator theme, composed by Alan Silvestri. While it is, and will always be, a great theme, the series has used it irresponsibly. In the original film, it plays after Arnold, the last mercenary alive, starts limping through the forest to find cover. It works perfectly in this scene because of the sense of urgency and threat. Every sequel since then has used that same theme in scenes that don’t fit, and this film unfortunately does the same.
Aside from these criticisms, The Predator is a perfectly fine and entertaining movie. While it lacks the suspense of the original Predator, it succeeds in bringing some decent laughs, even though I am not sure it was wise to use disorders as the source of humor. The story, while not the most interesting, moves along fluently, so you don’t even feel the length of the runtime, and the acting all-around is decent. If you want a reasonable time at the movies, this film will certainly entertain you. However, if you are looking for a great and worthwhile sequel to the original classic…how do I say it…
“Get to the choppa!”