Minor spoilers ahead.
It’s clear to see in this day and age how every one-great franchise will turn out. With the new and enhanced technology available, every popular movie series that began decades ago has seen a new look, for better or for worse. There have been plenty of examples of both of these, with sequels like Blade Runner 2049, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens proving to be a bigger critical success than the studios could have hoped for. But then there are those that are the exact opposite. The Predator, a 21st-century revamping of the iconic 1987 science-fiction film Predator, is not necessarily bad, but it certainly isn’t great either. Coming from director Shane Black (the director of Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys), it definitely had something going for it. I’ve never really been a big Predator fan, but even I was looking forward to this new entry in the long-running franchise. However, I’m sorry to say that it disappoints.
There are a few redeemable elements, but The Predator is not a good movie. There are a lot of issues that there’s no denying are there and are impossible to ignore. Easily the best part of this movie is the way it handles its new, revitalized plot in a way that other ones like it have tried to, but not fully been able to grasp. It comes in about halfway through the movie when you find out that the titular aliens are attempting to hybridize their own race with that of the humans’ (in addition to other planets’ inhabitants). This particular subplot has shown up in other movies recently, most notably this year’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but this is the most interesting it’s ever felt, and it’s the only time where it feels like there’s something to look forward to in that respect.
As far as action movies go, this one is pretty serviceable. From a critical perspective, none of it is really that great and in fact does get quite annoying. The pacing is extremely muddled in this sense, too, eventually reaching a point where a formula begins to take shape and makes the film increasingly more predictable because of it. Easily the best part of the action is the gore, which shows up right from the get-go. If you saw the trailers, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this entry and how ridiculously brutal it is. Spoiler alert: it’s awesome. The inconsistencies between the Predators (one being prosthetic and the other CGI) is quite ludicrous, but they, in themselves, prove to be the greatest part of a movie packed to the brim with so many characters that it becomes unreasonable.
It can be seen throughout the majority of the movie’s runtime that practically none of the characters have any emotional value at all. It’s filled with a plethora of really talented actors who are basically lessened with roles that feel meant for one of the older Predator films than the newer ones. There’s no reason for the majority of them to be thrown together forcefully with no reason to their team-up whatsoever. With that being said, there are some really decent performances that do suit this type of flick. Olivia Munn is surprisingly not reduced to a sex object, which is great. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see more of her in X-Men: Apocalypse but after this, it’s clear that she’s proving herself to be one of the best stars in the genre right now. Despite those two, there really isn’t that much reason to get behind any of the other roles.
Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight) shows up as a member of the main squad and he’s probably the most fun out of all of the members, despite being just another action-y dude who can shoot stuff and look cool while doing it. Keegan Michael Key is incredibly hilarious, but there’s no development behind his character Coyle and that’s what really matters. The lead (played by Boyd Holbrook) is perfectly fine but in the end, he’s pretty forgettable and just not really the hero this movie needed to propel it forward. Jacob Tremblay plays his son, who has a form of Autism. Tremblay is an amazing actor and when we’re first introduced to him in this movie, he shows promise in conveying the struggles of a child with a mental disability. Instead of going that route, though, the filmmakers decide to ditch it as soon as the plot demands it and throw away what could’ve been great material.
Even Sterling K. Brown is wasted here. Instead of giving the incredible actor an equally incredible role, the movie gives him a throwaway character diminished to some perfectly mediocre quips. This right here is the epitome of squandered talent. It’s a massive shame that Brown didn’t get to do something amazing with his role. In an age where even the dumbest of movies can still have some incredible performances, it’s saddening to see when one of the best actors working today is reduced to this garbage.
There are plenty of moments of pure joy and adrenaline, such as one phenomenally executed gag featuring a severed arm, but the majority of The Predator seems to be too hyper-focused on giving us what’s ultimately the same thing in a new, 21st-century package. The action sequences are a massive letdown, not exactly helped by the extremely sloppy editing and the film’s setting taking place at night the majority of the time. Other elements just feel muddled and thrown-together to create a Frankenstein’s Monster of a film, stitched together shoddily and made to feel like it’s more than it is. The Predator himself is always really cool to look at, but the drastic shift to a CG creature at the film’s midway point was a bad move and takes away the stakes and the tension.
For those who just want a giant combo of guns and gore, this movie is definitely for you. There’s no denying that it’s fun, and if you feel like seeing it for that reason alone, good for you, and more power to you. From a critical standpoint, however, The Predator is a mess. It sticks to a tone but unfortunately sticks to it too much and ends up coming off as the Thor: Ragnarok of the Predator franchise, just not as good as that one was. Littered with dumb decisions, poorly handled cinematography, weak characters, and disjointed pacing, this is one that you probably won’t remember much of. It’s not an insanely horrible movie or anything, but it certainly never reaches the heights of what it’s aspiring to be, despite an ending that might get it one more shot at a sequel.
The Predator stars Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera, Yvonne Strahovski, Jake Busey, Brian A. Prince. Directed by Shane Black.