The Predator review – a messy yet enjoyable movie

by | 12 Sep 2018

‘A young boy triggers the return of the universe’s most lethal hunters and only a motley group of ex-soldiers are on hand to stop them.’

Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger took on the character in the original Predator (1987), we’ve had over thirty years of these alien hunters invading our screens. Although not all bad, none of the movies that came after have ever surpassed that Eighties classic. Now, director and writer Shane Black takes a stab at reigniting this beloved franchise with The Predator. Promising to go back to the roots and spirit of what made that first film so great, will it succeed in delivering its equal.

After a mission is interrupted by an alien spaceship, sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is targeted by a deadly alien predator. Caught in-between this fearsome creature and a branch of the government who want to study it. He teams up with a ragtag group soldiers to protect him and his family.

If you haven’t seen the trailers, that’s as much as you need to know without spoiling the main story.

Unfortunately, even with Black’s skill as a writer and director. The Predator isn’t able to live up to John McTiernan’s effective creature feature that kicked off this franchise. You can see the care and the homage that’s gone into its making, including lots of nods and references to what came before. But, there are a few elements that hinder the movie from achieving the greatness of that first movie.

The main problem this film has is its over complicated plot, which feels really unnecessary. What made the 1987 original so good was the simplicity of its narrative. With barely any explanation to what was going on, it was a straightforward movie about a group of mercenaries being hunted in the jungle by an otherworldly foe. No big universe was being built out, and it stood on its own.

‘Whether pressured by the studio or not, Black on the other hand, does a lot of world-building.’

Including a blatant set-up for a sequel. It’s as if he’s burdened to create a whole new mythology so the franchise has a reason to continue after this instalment. Weighing the movie down considerably, it results in a lot of wasted time dumping heavy exposition throughout the runtime. What’s more, it kills any tension the story had when you’re constantly sucking all the mystery out of these deadly visitors.

Another aspect that keeps it from excelling is the watered down violence when compared to those earlier movies. There’s gore and blood. But with quick edits and a lot of scenes shrouded in darkness it still feels very tame. Dismembered limbs and removed spinal cords are part of the Predator franchise’s DNA. If you make it too mild for sensitive eyes and a bigger audience you take out a big chunk of what make these films work. Less inhibition and an 18 certificate would have gone a long way of aligning this more to the standard of the original.

Regardless of those flaws, this isn’t a bad movie by a long stretch.

It’s actually an enjoyable watch with a number of features that help raise the quality to a solid film. One of those features being Black’s script and character dialogue. Unlike all the other instalments, he infuses his with a very obvious sense of humour. Most of that humour coming from the back and forth between the unhinged soldiers who help McKenna. They have a funny chemistry and each have their own quirk, like Thomas Jane’s PTSD suffering veteran or Trevante Rhodes’ suicidal marine.

Not written with a lot of depth, they are however given some witty one-liners. All the actors look like they’re having a lot of fun and they bring an entertaining energy. That goes for Stirling K. Brown’s agent Traeger, who equally gets his moments to shine. Olivia Munn plays an evolutionary biologist who aids the reluctant heroes. Even though she feels like a plot device. She’s certainly no damsel in distress, getting to fight alongside the soldiers and be part of the action from the get-go.

Actually, when considering those set pieces, this is a facet that is likewise executed very well. From the opening scene everything moves pretty quickly, with plenty of predator carnage on display to keep things exciting. There seems to be a lot of practical effects as well, bringing a lot of believability to these sequences. This also goes for the predator design and costume, that looks really good interacting with a physical world. Sadly, it does descend into a more CGI heavy third act, but otherwise, it does its job of bringing that fun factor.

‘Despite Black’s involvement and all the promises that came from its production, The Predator doesn’t hold a torch to that sweaty, testosterone-fuelled original. When it comes to his own creations like The Nice Guys (2016), that free reign allows Black to make some excellent movies. Here, he’s constrained too much by working with an established property and all the baggage that comes with it. Nevertheless, it’s not without merit. With great predator action and a funny script, there is still a lot of fun to be had.’

Film Details

15 · 1h 47m · 2018.

Genre

Action · Adventure · Horror · Sci-Fi · Thriller.

Cast

Boyd Holbrook · Brian Prince · Jacob Tremblay · Olivia Munn · Trevante Rhodes.

Director

Shane Black.

Writers

Fred Dekker · Shane Black.

Based on the characters created by

Jim Thomas · John Thomas. 

Cinematography

Larry Fong.

Editing

Harry B. Miller III.

Music

Henry Jackman.

Contains

gory images · language · strong bloody violence.

David Axcell

Film Critic

David has quite a broad taste in film which includes big budget blockbusters and small indie films; including International and Arthouse cinema. As long as it’s good in that particular genre, he’ll watch anything.

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