Released: 13th September
Seen: 15th September (Advance Screening)
In 1987 the first Predator film was released to cinemas, starting a series that would have two crossovers with the Alien, a drug war in LA, a giant hunt for humans that took place on another planet and comic book crossovers with Tarzan, Superman, Batman, Judge Dredd and Archie. Let’s be brutally honest and just admit that this series was never meant to be taken seriously. The most famous line of dialogue from any of the films is easily “Get to the choppa”, a line that is only memorable because of the thick accent that Arnold Schwarzenegger has. So going into this film one shouldn’t be expecting anything too serious. This expectation is magnified by the fact that the movie is written and directed by Shane Black, a man who made his name writing films like Lethal Weapon, Last Action Hero and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, films that aren’t exactly remembered for being serious dramatic fair. If you come to The Predator, you come for a good fun popcorn film that’ll entertain you for its 107-minute runtime. You won’t get that, but it’s what you came for.
The Predator (Which is the 4th in this series with the poorly thought out titles) focusses on Quinn McKenna (Played by Boyd Holbrook), an army sniper who sees the Predator ship land while he is on a mission. He steals some stuff from the wreckage and runs off, only to eventually be captured by the army and deemed a risk to the army, or something like that. It doesn’t matter, they find an excuse to put him on a bus with a bunch of people who have PTSD or Tourettes or (Insert third random mental illness that we won’t properly research or portray right here). MEANWHILE, Quinn’s autistic son Rory McKenna (Played by Jacob Tremblay) is at home when the postman turns up to drop off things from his father’s PO box, even though his father and mother are separated and thus probably live at different addresses. In one of the items that have been inexplicably delivered to the house contains the items that Quinn stole from the wreckage, including a predator mask and gauntlet (Weapons that would’ve absolutely gone through customs without a single solitary hassle). Rory, being an autistic child which therefore means he’s a super genius who can hack into absolutely anything without even trying, ends up playing with the gauntlet and mask which alerts an even bigger predator of just where he is. MEANWHILE a science teacher named Casey Bracket (Played by Olivia Munn) is brought in to help the government understand The Predator that they just captured, and have officially named The Predator because they thought it sounded cool even though it isn’t technically a predator. She’s told by Will Traeger (Played by Sterling K. Brown) all the important backstory about the creature, including the multiple times it’s been to earth. He’s also kind of a bad guy, because he’s a government agent who chews gum all the time and those are always the bad guys. OH, and there’s an entire plotpoint about how the reason the Predators are here is because global warming is going to make us extinct so they keep coming here to take traits from the best and brightest among us as some kind of link in the evolutionary chain… because really, this franchise needed an environmentalism message thrown in there, I can’t wait till we see Na’vi VS Predator in 2025. In case it’s not obvious by my snark, I’m not exactly a big fan of this movie.
In general, Predator movies haven’t exactly had the best history when it comes to general quality in the sequels and this one is no exception. The film is chopped up so badly that there are so many moments where you sit there and wonder how the heck every character got to a certain point. We already know that there are some scenes that got cut because it was discovered that they hired a registered sex offender but that doesn’t explain just how badly this is put together. For the first half hour or more of the movie, you better be ready to ask “Wait, weren’t you driving an RV a minute ago?” at least a few times because this film doesn’t like making it easy for you to understand where everyone is and what they’re doing. It genuinely feels like each new location should just have a comic voiceover yelling “MEANWHILE!” because the transitions are so jarring that after a while I just got annoyed by it.
It’s hard to deny that the dialogue is actually pretty good, there are some really funny moments and they handle exposition well… for the most part. There are times when it feels like they just threw every joke at the wall to see what stuck and when a joke lands it’s actually good, but when it doesn’t land it’s painful. It’s helped that the actors delivering it are really good performers who know how to make their lines work, the downside is that they haven’t been given characters to play. It’s a list of tropes that gained sentience. Jacob Tremblay is an autistic child with a touch of savant syndrome who proves his mental ability using chess. Boyd Holbrook is a father torn away from his child because of work who has a issue with authority. Olivia Munn is the woman scientist who knows more than the boys who don’t take her seriously (And she also has a scene where she has no choice but to huddle naked in a shower to hide from the predator, because of course she does). Sterling K Brown is a federal agent who chews gum and cares only about the mission and nothing else. Keegan-Michael Key is the comic relief, an idea that’s hammered in when they explicitly state that he was in a friendly fire incident “And now he tells jokes”. Thomas Jane has tourettes, the kind that makes you tic randomly and spout swear words which obviously means his friends call him twitchy and we get a minute long scene where he says “Eat your pussy” to Olivia Munn’s character and everyone pretends he didn’t say that sentence because of comedy. I could literally do this for every character, but I choose not to because that implies that I care.
The predator in this looks fine, both the normal one that we are used to seeing at this point and the super-mecha predator that has been chasing him since the beginning. He gets a few decent action scenes, including a pretty good fight between two giant predators but he’s certainly not a good hunter. The original Predator was obscenely smart and spent most of the movie cloaked, hiding and sneaking around because he was hunting people. That’s why it’s mentioned, NUMEROUS TIMES, that calling him a predator is silly because he’s not hunting for prey but for sport. See, the movie is self-aware, that makes it OK for the Predator to be bad at the thing he’s known for. Oh, he does bring his Predator Dogs to this hunt but you know how you tame a predator dog? Shoot it point blank in the head, that’s how domestication works right? Yes, I’m stating that they take the predator dogs and make it into a Labrador… because it’s allegedly funny.
The problems with this movie go far beyond the director hiring a registered sex offender (Though let’s not forget that he did that, because that’s not something that should be considered OK anymore). The movie has issues that go right down to the bone. Issues that hinder what could’ve been a fun movie. This film was kneecapped early on with a lacklustre set of characters given hit-or-miss dialogue, a plot that is just stupid and relies completely on smart people behaving like idiots and a set of editing choices that are baffling, to say the least. It’s watchable, if you’re a die-hard predator fan who just goes to see how many people he’s going to take out you might get something out of this one but I’d wait until the DVD because it’s not really worth your time in a cinema. The best thing I can say about it is that it exists, it’s not so bad that it hurts, it’s not good, it’s average at best. Maybe in the inevitable sequel (Because of COURSE there’s sequel bait in this one) they’ll do a better job… and not hire a registered sex offender.