REVIEW: The Predator (2018)

Theatrical Release Poster – 20th Century Fox

The following is a review of The Predator — Directed by Shane Black.

I’ve always been more of an Alien-fan than a Predator-fan. I don’t think of the original Predator-film as a classic, I don’t have a particularly favorable opinion about the sequels. In fact, the spin-off film Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is one of the films that I dislike the most.

With that having been said, I know these films fairly well, I do enjoy the design of the alien creature that we call the ‘Predator,’ and I like many of the films that director Shane Black has worked on in the past. So, I was hopeful about The Predator. Unfortunately, this new film does not manage to do what it set out to accomplish.

Not to be confused with Predator or Predators (or Predator 2, for that matter), Shane Black’s The Predator follows Quinn McKenna (played by Boyd Holbrook), who is a sniper that lost his entire team when a Predator crash-landed on Earth. But McKenna somehow made it out alive, and he then took its alien armor with him.

Just before the government — led by Will Traeger (played by Sterling K. Brown) — captured and interrogated him, McKenna inadvertently sent the armor to his home address, where his son, Rory (played by Jacob Tremblay), toyed with it and somehow activated it, which made its location known to another type of Predator that was now on its way to Earth.

“You wanna know if someone fucked an alien?”

While I can’t really recommend this film, there are some good things about The Predator that will appeal to some moviegoers. It has some really cool moments. I enjoyed the start to the film, I had fun with some of the jokes (some people will love the self-referential humor), and there definitely is some fun to be had with the amount of pointless, gory violence in this less than stellar action film.

It also has a pretty charismatic cast playing characters with traits that a lot of people will have fun with. I particularly enjoyed seeing Boyd Holbrook and Trevante Rhodes in this film, and Keegan-Michael Key also did what he could to make his scenes work.

This is the kind of film that I can imagine you would enjoy watching with a friend on the couch while you pick it apart and laugh at the film’s bro-ey jokes. Two guys a couple of rows behind me certainly did enjoy doing that, albeit a little bit too loudly for my liking.

“You know Whoopi Goldberg? It’s like an alien Whoopi Goldberg.”

But this was, to me, a bit of a disappointment. I thought the overreliance on accidental activations of alien gear was ridiculous, and I really don’t like what the film does with Tremblay’s character. I think Tremblay is talented, and I don’t hate it when Shane Black gives significant roles to child actors.

I thought it worked well in Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys, but, with The Predator, it became too much. The film presents this idea that his character’s autism somehow makes him able to understand the alien technology and, I think, even some of the language towards the end.

In general, there are some issues with the film’s logic. It may be that the film is too convoluted, but I think the biggest problem is what they left on the cutting room floor and changed during the reshoots. There are throwaway shots left in the final film, and I thought it seemed like there were even scenes missing at times. I thought it was a true, noticeable problem with the film.

Sterling K. Brown, who I genuinely think is one of the best actors on television and who I really want to see in a big role that does his talent justice, didn’t work for me. I don’t know if it’s the direction or an overreliance on a scripted trait, but I thought his many laughs were distracting. He chews the scenery as a laughing untrustworthy government agent, but I wish he had had more to work with.

There are also just characters that disappear from the film — either due to meaninglessly violent character deaths or due to them simply not being returned to during the runtime — seemingly because the film didn’t know what to do with them.

My biggest problem with the film, though, is how much of its humor fell flat. I thought many of its weirdly comedic scenes were jarring and cringeworthy. Many of the scenes basically just show guys one-upping each other thinking they are hilarious.

One scene that really did not work for me was the one in which soldiers, pilots, and other veterans act as if they’ve never been in the same room with a woman before. We literally see them standing at the foot of Olivia Munn’s character’s bed waiting for her to wake up, while they stare at her awkwardly. I don’t like how much they make fun of one character’s Tourette’s syndrome. Also, the CGI creatures don’t look very good, with the original Predator being the one exception.

Here towards the end of my review, I want to talk about what I think is the biggest and most unfortunate dropped and ignored line of dialogue in the film. Because in my opinion, this film presented a great idea for why Predators are on Earth. In The Predator, the characters bring up the notion that the Predators think of our species as being endangered due to global warming. I think this was genuinely interesting, but the film doesn’t do enough with that idea.

Before I watched the film, I spoke to my father about the problems a Predator reboot might run into these days. I told him that I don’t think the majority of people my age have a lot of love for the film series (or the original film), and I didn’t think the people behind the film knew how to reinvent the franchise to make it palatable to a new generation.

I think I was right. Shane Black’s The Predator is an action film stuck in the past with jokes that don’t land well anymore and a central movie monster that isn’t presented in a way that conjures up much excitement from the audience. Instead, Shane Black’s The Predator is yet another half-baked, underdeveloped, and unflattering failed attempt to reinvent and revitalize a franchise.

5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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