Movie Review: The Predator.
A few rousing action scenes can’t save this profoundly disappointing flick from a grisly demise.
The wait for the next good Predator movie continues. Hopes were sky-high about Shane Black returning to the franchise…which honestly was a tad ridiculous. His character in the first movie was the most obnoxious and his contributions to the dialogue were crass and unfunny. It should not be a surprise, then, that his take on the Predator is often crass and obnoxious. The Predator manages some exciting action sequences, but bogs down with a lousy script, terrible dialogue and offensive stereotypes.
The Predator (2018)
The alien hunters known as the Predators are visiting Earth to take human trophies in increasingly frequent intervals. When one Predator crash lands, a special branch of the military uses this opportunity to capture one of the creatures, but not before a special forces sniper (Boyd Holbrook) swipes some of its gear. He stashes the hi tech doodads with his estranged family before being locked up in the military’s psych ward. When the creature breaks free, he organizes a squad of fellow mentally unstable vets to track the creature before it can find the gear – and his family.
Wrong on So Many Levels.
The Predator is such a fundamentally broken movie, it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s make a list, shall we?
- The squad of vets are crass stereotypes, both of soldiers and of people suffering from mental illness. The sniper’s son (Jacob Tremblay) is also a thin caricature of a kid with autism who amounts to a cynical plot device. I can’t believe anybody thought it was going to turn out great to use autism and traumatized veterans as plot gimmicks.
- The dialogue wants to be snappy and edgy, but is mostly tin-eared and offensive. I have a hard time recalling such widespread crudity in a wide release film. Donald Trump would blush at how casually offensive this film’s dialogue is.
- The plot is a ragged pastiche of three movies welded together by sudden lurches in setting and tone. It starts as a sci-fi “military versus escaped alien” flick a la Species. It then tries to be a 1980’s small town horror film as the monster stalks Jacob Tremblay and his dad races to save him. From there it gives up any semblance of coherence in order to get a “soldiers versus monster in the jungle film”…you know, the first Predator movie.
- The editing is atrocious. Rough cuts abound, as well as many continuity errors. It feels like many connecting scenes were axed at the last minute…or maybe never filmed at all. The final action sequence is so riddled with these jumps in continuity and logic that it guts the battle of any real impact.
- Plot points are introduced and dropped egregiously. Stuff that was “extremely important” is just forgotten in an instant. The worst instance is when Boyd Holbrook swears to have a confrontation with the merc who has been tailing him all film long (Sterling K. Brown) and it never happens. They actually have a decent rivalry and Brown plays a suitably menacing villain but nothing comes of it. I literally cannot recall if Brown’s character dies or how it happens. It certainly wasn’t in a cool mano a mano showdown!
- There must have been a sale at the MacGuffin store because unexplained plot devices pop in and out of existence by the dozen. Several items exist just to move the story and then vanish until suddenly they are needed again. They’re like Yor’s magic axe: you clearly see them being left behind or lost, only for our hero to magically be in possession of them in the next scene with no explanation.
- The science in this sci fi flick is boneheaded and muddled. I know these types of creature feature flicks aren’t concerned with accuracy, but the film goes out of its way to try to sound smart about climate change, genetics, autism and evolution. It winds up falling on its face in each category. You’d get a more nuanced take on these issues from a drunk sophomore waxing philosophical at a keg party.
There are a few instances where The Predator goes from just bad to good bad, and they are all action sequences. The escape from the military base is clever and well choreographed, as is a later scene where Boyd Holbrook and Olivia Munn‘s characters escape Sterling K. Brown’s mercenary squad. The fights against the Predator and Super Predator are pretty good, except you quickly learn which characters are wearing plot armor.
It robs the film of any tension when the invincible killing machine who wiped out everyone in seconds decides to repeatedly throw the good guys around harmlessly. You can also see where the plot armor is going to wear off a mile away: as soon as they get to the jungle the shielding around 9/10ths of the characters disappears so that the film can ape the first Predator movie by picking off named characters. Some of those deaths almost rise to the level of interesting, but a movie-worth of squandered character building prevents that from happening.
…I guess that’s as close to a nice thing as I could think to say for this movie.
Shane Black’s The Predator is a thorough disappointment. As a big dumb action flick, it can’t even keep from falling all over itself. As a horror or science fiction thriller, it is a laughable failure. As for laughs, there are precisely zero to be had, despite Keegan-Michael Key trying to make the offensive jokes in the script play. Actually, I did laugh once: the film ends with the most ludicrous and brazen sequel bait I’ve ever seen and I laughed out loud at the thought this film would get a successor.
After having re-watched the other Predator movies, I was prepared for a routine but enjoyable “man versus monster” flick. This film never came close to even the worst films in the franchise. As the affair came to a ridiculous conclusion, I could hear the digital ping of a count-down timer – all that remains is to watch the studio blow this film up and retcon it out of existence.