Film Review: ‘The Predator’

Shane Black takes the reigns for the newest addition to the ‘Predator’ franchise…

 

The Predator

One of cinema’s most lethal creations returns in ‘The Predator’ (image credit: 20th Century Fox, used for illustrative purposes only).

Spoiler-free review

Starring:  Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane

Directed by:  Shane Black / written by:  Shane Black & Fred Dekker/ 107 minutes

What’s it about?

The crash-landing of an alien spacecraft leads to a fight for survival as a rag-tag group of ex-military personnel find themselves being hunted by a dangerous and lethal extra-terrestrial…

In review

Along with the Alien and Terminator series, Predator is another franchise that refuses to die despite diminishing returns.  Having said that, Predator 2 and Predators are actually pretty good so far as sequels go but a pair of underwhelming Alien vs Predator films sullies the overall quality.

Enlisting Iron Man Three director Shane Black to helm a new Predator instalment would surely give it instant potential, then?  Sadly, The Predator proves more of a low point for the franchise than a triumphant return, a promising set-up and an interesting creative approach let down by a weak script and messy final act.

Boyd Holbrook (Logan) and Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse) are capable leads, the former as sniper Quinn McKenna – bringing the requisite dose of gruff alpha male – and the latter, convincingly, as biologist Dr. Casey Brackett.  Joining them is a group of kooky military misfits, amongst them Thomas Jane’s Tourette’s-inflicted Baxley, the endlessly profane Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key) and the surprisingly stable ‘Nebraska’ Williams (Trevante Rhodes).  Adding a touch of villainy is Black Panther’s Sterling K. Brown as Traeger, an oddly comical government agent with special interest in the mysterious Predators.

By giving us a set of oddball characters, The Predator seeks to draw the audience in and have viewers become emotionally invested and to a degree it works, proving most effective with an endearing performance by Jacob Tremblay as McKenna’s autistic son, Rory, who may hold the key to defeating their enemy.

There’s some misjudged (though perhaps necessary at this point) attempts to broaden the mythology of the Predators themselves which some may be receptive to and others may not as it removes some of the mystique surrounding the iconic alien hunters.  Disappointingly, the ‘Super’ Predator seen in the pre-release trailers is nothing more than an oversized version of the original creature, although it does raise the stakes as the film progresses toward its denouement.

Making full use of its ‘R’ rating (certified ’15’ in the U.K.), The Predator is fairly bloody at times and its language littered with profanity which fans of the franchise would rightly expect.  The film’s action is satisfying in places but, bar one or two moments, there’s a lack of tension – especially during the rushed finale that feels generic, choppy and uninventive.

It all feels like a bit of a missed opportunity and a genuine shame given Black’s history with the franchise, having played the part of Hawkins in the classic 1987 original as well as providing uncredited contributions to the script.  The screenplay for The Predator, co-written by Black with Fred Dekker (RoboCop 3) is a little clichéd, with some embarrassing and dumb dialogue and an overreliance on humour – some of which provide genuine laughs but too much of which feels stilted.

The direction is fairly competent and it’s commendable that a slightly different approach for The Predator was sought, but ultimately the fusion of action, horror and humour doesn’t quite gel as successfully as it could have with stronger writing and better editing.  As a result, The Predator is best watched more as a straight forward, slightly cheap action horror flick than a notable and essential continuation of the franchise.

The bottom line:  A flawed sequel to a beloved classic, there’s some fun to be had with The Predator but its creative potential is squandered by some weak execution.

The Predator is in cinemas now.

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10 thoughts on “Film Review: ‘The Predator’

  1. Excellent thoughts here which sum up my own thoughts on the film.

    Overall, it felt tired and by the numbers which is surprising given that it’s been a while since we had a Predator film. They could not come up with a better script?

    Still it has some good moments so it’s not a disaster. Just disappointing.

    • It’s also hard to escape the controversy now spilling out from it as well. It looks like it’s going to crash at the box office so may be a long time before another Predator is attempted. Probably for the best and at least we can still return to the classic original!

      • It is probably for the best. The series needs to return to its core essence: Man vs. an unearthly and intimidating creature. What made the previous films so powerful was that the Predator was a force that could easily take out special military forces. In this film, the alien looked just like some actor wearing a costume. Oh well.

  2. I do love these negative reviews from you. Eloquent and still highly respectful. The marketing, the trailers and the reception all made me think this would flop in my books and it sounds like it was pretty much a disappointing return for the Predator. Guess this one is going to go on my list of movies to watch when I need to turn off my brain! Again, great review, Chris. What’s your next most anticipated movie release (one that you plan on checking out in theaters)? Venom? 😀

      • Brethren! I have completed my Predator run and saw Predators and The Predator. As you’ve brilliantly predicted the other day. I loathe this *****! I have no idea how they could do such a movie. It literally felt like a typical, brainless Holywoodian script that tries to stick to the wall on which it was thrown at but never succeeds. The amount of CGI was insane for these Predators… And what they did with everything mental health-related is almost blasphemous! To identify autism as the next step in evolution… It almost felt like they were making a joke of it all! And Preda-puppies… Chris… They need to reboot this franchise because I reeeaaallly REALLY hope that ending with the Anti-Predator was the last time I’ll ever hear about that contraption! 😮 😮 😮

        I’ll need to rewatch AVP and then finally watch AVP 2 before completing the saga. I think I’m going to take a break though, before jumping into those though hahah

      • Well, The Predator actually makes the AvP films a more favourable watch – they’re not great but have a certain schlock-y B-movie appeal to them.

        It pains me how things went awry with the Predator, there are some interesting ideas/approaches but it just doesn’t work – the humour is an ill fit, the hulking CGI super-Predator and more so the Predator-puppies (ha! Love that!) are unfortunate. Likewise, I fully agree with you on the depiction of the mentally challenged, especially when it’s played for cheap laughs. Oh and that final scene…oh dear…

        Maybe my forthcoming retrospective of Predator 2 will help alleviate the disappointment…

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