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The Predator Review

September 14, 2018 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
The Predator
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The Predator Review  

Directed By: Shane Black
Written By: Fred Dekker and Shane Black
Runtime: 107 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, and crude sexual references

Boyd Holbrook – Quinn McKenna
Olivia Munn – Casey Bracket
Jacob Tremblay – Rory McKenna
Sterling K. Brown – Traeger
Trevante Rhodes – Nebraska Williams
Keegan-Michael Key – Coyle
Thomas Jane – Baxley
Augusto Aguilera – Nettles
Alfie Allen – Lynch
Yvonne Strahovski – Emily
Jake Busey – Keyes
Predator – Brian Prince

The Predator movie franchise is the latest iconic movie franchise to get another modern revival with the rather aptly titled, The Predator. Eight years since the last time the franchise failed at a revival attempt with Predators, this time writer-director Shane Black, who actually costarred in the original 1987 movie, gives it a go and tries to concoct a winning formula. Instead, Black has only created what is easily the worst installment the fim series has ever seen. The Predator is the franchise’s worst film in cinematic history, and it’s even more awful than the greatly maligned Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.

It’s almost hard to believe a talented storyteller such as Shane Black, who worked on the classic original Predator, would create something this awful, but the proof is in the proverbial pudding. The Predator has taken one of cinema’s most classic, cunning and scariest movie monsters and turned it into a ridiculous joke.

In a new sequel that appears to ignore everything but the first two Predator films, one of the members of the alien Predator race has gone rogue and crash-lands on Earth. Unfortunately, that crash landing runs smack dab into a wetwork op led by Army Ranger sniper Captain Quinn McKenna (Holbrook). McKenna’s whole crew is wiped out by the Predator, but he manages to escape by the skin of his teeth and acquires some of the creature’s gear before the spooks of the US government’s Operation Stargazer, led by the wisecracking Traeger (Brown), move in to capture the Predator and perform cleanup on the area. McKenna mails the Predator’s mask and gauntlet he purloined from the crash site as an insurance policy. Because McKenna is a blithering idiot and doesn’t pay his PO Box bills, the package with the stolen alien technology is forwarded to the home of his estranged wife, Emily (Strahovski), and his autistic son, Rory (Tremblay).

Unfortunately for Rory and Quinn, the secrets of the alien tech are not only desired by the spooks at Operation Stargazer, but an ultra uber-Predator creature called the Assassin who chased the Fugitive Predator to Earth. Quinn now has to team up with a group of incarcerated veteran soldiers called the “Loonies” suffering from varying forms of PTSD and a scientist, Casey Bracket (Munn), to get to his family and the tech before the thugs at Stargazer or the Predators do. Casey Bracket was brought on by Stargazer and Traeger to analyze the captured Predator, which goes about as well as expected, before Traeger randomly decides to make her persona non grata and have her murdered for no reason. That synopsis is about as simply as the premise of the plot can be explained because elaboration only makes the flimsy script co-written by Black and his friend Fred Dekker fall mercilessly apart.

It’s certainly one thing to tweak or alter the established lore of a franchise. It’s another to completely change it. Shane Black and Dekker have effectively altered the established lore and mythology of the franchise by basically throwing out the baby with the bathwater. All the attempts at explaining or expanding on the Predator race or backstory are asinine and nonsensical.

For example, there’s a really clumsy scene where Dr. Bracket provides a big exposition dump to McKenna’s character. They are having the conversation in an RV, and it’s this really casual scene, with cliché blocking, where the characters are relaxed and drinking beer. Bracket is reciting knowledge of the creatures as a person who has studied and has knowledge of the history of these creatures. Despite never having studied about the aliens before the events of this film, Bracket relays information about the creatures and purports to be a person who has knowledge of the creatures’ history. Well, she’s a scientist, so maybe that’s why she knows more. However, Quinn McKenna’s character also seems to have some odd prescience about the creatures, despite having only had brief contact with them for the first time, maybe only days beforehand.

Additionally, the clumsy exposition dump of this scene basically washes away all the established lore of these characters and changes it to something completely different. This is despite the fact that if this movie is in fact a chronological sequel to the first two Predator movies, the change in lore makes absolutely no sense. In short, without spoiling any of the major twists or reveals, the Predators are no longer dilettante hunters wanting trophies and to hunt the most dangerous game.

Even disregarding how the changes here spit in the face of all the previous films, Black and Dekker instead replace the existing mythology with newly established mythology that is not an improvement. In fact, what’s replaced for lore and world-building here is confusing and makes the highly advanced and technological race of the Predators look like absolute morons. What the Fugitive Predator does in the story runs contradictory to its supposed mission.

Black’s direction here is incompetent, disorganized, haphazard and slipshod. The editing is atrocious. Action scenes are confusingly blocked and thought out. There is a ton of action littered throughout The Predator, and not all of it looks bad. The action also tends into mix in a lot of dimwitted slapstick that’s at odds with the series and sucks out a lot of tension from the chaos and brutality.

Predators was far from perfect. Heck, it was far from great, but the action was much more competently shot and was built with way more tension and suspense than what’s on display in this movie. Part of the problem is that Black treats most of the movie like a goofy comedy, so much so that The Predator almost comes off like a parody of the franchise or the genre.

Shane Black helped create Martin Riggs, who is a fun iconic character for cinema. But in The Predator, it’s almost like Black is trying to make every character some sort of wisecracking, edgy type like Martin Riggs in the first Lethal Weapon, or Joe Hallenbeck in The Last Boy Scout. It doesn’t work. Attempts at cool one-liners in The Predator amount to Dr. Bracket, out of nowhere, saying to no one in particular, “Not my space alien.”

Additionally, the movie is filled with lots of jokes and humor, which are at odds with how previous franchise installments incorporated humor. It’s not necessarily wrong to try something different with an established franchise, especially one that has had its own fair of more misses than hits; but The Predator tries so hard to be goofy and comedic that it can’t be taken seriously. Secondly, none of the attempts at humor are really funny. Most of the jokes and humor come in the form of the “Loonies” group, who are led by Nebraska Williams (Rhodes). The group is made up of talented actors such as Keegan-Michael Key as Coyle, Thomas Jane as Baxley [whose character has Tourrette syndrome] and Alfie Allen as Lynch. They are constantly joking, bantering and goofing off.

These scenes of levity come off in that forced, cinematic improvised style akin to what doubles as dialogue and banter in the Michael Bay Transformers movies. Few of the sophomoric segments of humor are really funny or serve the narrative in endearing these characters to the audience. The Loonies are nothing more than obnoxious caricatures. Bracket and Traeger are not much better.

What little credit can be given to the movie is it’s unrepentantly bloody, gory and violent. Sometimes it becomes frustrating when Hollywood attempts to pander to the audience by making a previously R-rated franchise into a PG-13 one. The Predator does not skimp one inch on blood and gore. This is probably the bloodiest and goriest installment of the Predator franchise ever. On the other hand, a lot of the blood spatter and gore looks fake and computer generated. In fact, quite a few close-ups of the visual effects in this movie look more than a little jarring and awkward.

Also, credit where little credit is due, Henry Jackman’s score reuses large swaths of the themes and music created for the original film by Alan Silvestri. And he does it in a more satisfying way than how Danny Elfman recycled iconic themes for the Justice League movie. For the most part, the music in The Predator sounded well done. If only what was being displayed onscreen had as much effort as Jackman’s score.

The worst additions to The Predator are the Predator Hounds. No, these are not the menacing hellhounds that were introduced in Predators. Basically, Shane Black either didn’t see Predators or thought he could do better with his own version. Instead, he’s given the franchise its own version of the Hulk Dogs from the 2003 Hulk movie. Basically, Black stuck Predator heads onto large, alien quadruped bodies. They look ridiculous. One even befriends the heroes and becomes a big, cuddly pet like a scene out of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

To say bringing a little kid along for a franchise like this can never work is a misnomer. It can work. It simply has to be done really well. More often than not, it isn’t. Here in The Predator with Rory McKenna, it isn’t. First of all, Yvonne Strahovski is barely even a character as Rory’s neglectful, hipster painter mother, Emily, who seems to have no idea what her autistic son is doing at all any part of the day, lets him go out trick or treating alone, when he’s already worried about getting bullied by kids at school. Second of all, she threatens to cut him if he makes a mess around the house. The fact that Emily joking about cutting her son, but that she’s joking about cutting her emotionally stunted, socially awkward and autistic son that makes her such an off-putting character. What’s done with the Rory character is dumb nonsense and comes off like Black and Dekker are deliberately trying to pander to kids in an R-rated movie.

The movie’s runtime is incoherent. It seems everything was sacrificed in service of pacing, which is undoubtedly fast and very brisk, but as a result, there are some incredibly awkward and confusing scene transitions. In one sequence, McKenna is freely walking around, likely south of the border. The next time he’s seen, he’s imprisoned by government spooks in what’s likely a Southern Californian VA facility and being interrogated. In one scene, the Loonies are escaping on a bunch of motorcycle. In another they suddenly have a decked out RV and are loaded to the teeth with automatic weaponry. In one scene, Bracket is working for Stargazer and in pursuit to help them. In the next, Traeger is ordering her to be cleansed for no reason.

Many of the major turning points in the movie make no sense. Traeger’s presence as an antagonist is illogical, and his behavior is irrational. Perhaps there were some more scenes explaining his actions, but they never made it into the final cut.

The biggest offense of The Predator is that Black and Dekker have basically betrayed the spirit of the franchise. Maybe they wanted this to be Predator meets Monster Squad. Instead, it comes off more like, “How do we make Predator accessible to the MCU crowd? How can we make Predator compete with an audience raised on Marvel superhero films and Deadpool?” Basically, The Predator is probably appealing if you are a 12-15 year-old-male who just wants copious amounts of blood, violence and gore and doesn’t really care about strong plot, characters, dialogue, suspension, tension or atmosphere.

This doesn’t become clearer than with the movie’s ending that is tantamount to hot garbage and the biggest slap in the face to one of the greatest cinematic creations designed by James Cameron and the late, great Stan Winston. Alien vs. Predator was a mediocre movie, but it does not instill or inspire as much rage as the ending does for this movie.

One can only suspect that Shane Black’s true intention was not to revive the franchise, but to actually kill its desecrated, zombified corpse to try and make sure it never returns again. After the results of The Predator, hopefully Shane Black has succeeded where others have failed.

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The final score: review Extremely Horrendous
The 411
The Predator is the worst thing to come out of this franchise in cinematic history. It's worse than Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. One can only hope Shane Black's latest effort finally puts the nail in the coffin of this once great franchise. Based on The Predator's ending, nothing more for Black and Dekker's version should be allowed to come to fruition. Instead of expanding and fleshing out the mythology of the Predators, Black and Dekker have only added greater confusion and nonsense. There have been bad franchise revivals before, but at least there's a sense that those revivals have love for the original films they fail to emulate. The Predator comes off like Black secretly loathed Predator and resented its success and iconography for years.
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