Director: Shane Black
Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera, Jake Busey
Runtime: 107 minutes
The Predator is the fourth movie in the Predator series (not counting the Alien vs. Predator films) following 2010’s Predators and was written and directed by Shane Black who played Rick Hawkins in the 1987 Predator. Because of this fact, long-time fans of the series were excited at the prospect of an original cast member returning to work on the newest project as they believed he would have the fans’ interest at heart. With his directorial background consisting of films like Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, however, it was fair to say that this movie would have a decidedly comedic tone blended into the action. While that in itself isn’t a bad thing, the problem with The Predator is it is unable to make up its mind on what kind of film it wants to be.
I wouldn’t call myself a die-hard fan of the Predator series, but I have watched all and enjoyed most of the movies in the franchise (still not counting the Alien vs. Predator films, because I don’t think anyone liked Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem). The series is strange in that, while it’s often associated with the horror genre because of its relation to the Alien movies and because of the horror elements in the first movie, as a whole it’s primarily a series of action sci-fi flicks with a drop of horror every now and then. The Predator, however, throws any semblance of horror away in favor of gratuitous scenes, excessive humor and dialogue, and a jumbled mess of a story that leaves viewers feeling mildly entertained but even more so confused.
The movie follows Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), an Army sniper “with an attitude” who has a run-in with one of the Predators after it wipes out his entire squad. After subduing the Predator and taking some of its gear “for evidence,” McKenna is picked up by government agent Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) who wants the Predator for his own agenda. After refusing to comply, McKenna is sent to “Group 2” with several mentally unstable ex-military men, including jokester Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), chain-smoker Nebraska Williams (Trevante Rhodes), and personal-space-invader Nettles (Augusto Aguilera). As this is happening, Traeger is also studying the Predator McKenna previously fought with, and biologist Dr. Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) is called in to help. Meanwhile, McKenna’s autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) has the Predator armor McKenna stole in his possession and is somehow able to decipher the alien language. All these players converge into one storyline, but because of all the different subplots and goals of the characters the resulting movie feels so jumbled and confused that half the time I really didn’t know why characters were doing what they were doing.
As I stated earlier, the movie has a very comedic overtone and I personally don’t see that as a terrible thing in theory. The original Predator and Predator 2 had a certain silliness to them despite the action and horror, and even Predators felt very campy at times. The problem with The Predator is it tries too hard to inject humorous dialogue into every scene no matter what else is occurring, and the dialogue is so constant that it’s nearly impossible to pick up everything that’s said. In that way, it feels very Deadpool-ian, but with the downside being it’s not nearly as funny. Having a cast of “insane” characters gives the director an excuse to have characters ramble on and on to create strange and humorous situations, but it’s so overbearing that it just comes off as annoying more often than not.
It’s hard to really get into the plot criticisms without outright spoiling the movie, but I will say that it’s difficult to tell some character’s motivations throughout the movie, and the plot gets more convoluted as more information is revealed until by the end you’re left thinking “wait, seriously?” McKenna’s story starts out as one of revenge, then a jailbreak, then a rescue mission, and then sort of loops back to revenge. Dr. Casey is a cool action female, but her actual character doesn’t really make a lot of sense and it’s never really explained why she’s able to run and gun just as well as the military-trained boys around her. There’s a certain element concerning Rory’s significance in the story that’s telegraphed pretty early on, but when it actually happens it doesn’t change just how ridiculous the whole thing is.
Despite these negatives, some positives I will give the movie are some of the character interactions and some of the character portrayals in general. While most of the dialogue consists of vulgar but unfunny jokes and crazy people shouting their trademark dialogue, Dr. Casey’s interaction with the crazy crew is genuinely funny at times and got more than one laugh-out-loud moment from me. Sterling K. Brown plays the most over-the-top and stereotypical corrupt government agent, but he’s having so much fun with the role you can’t help but love the portrayal. And while the crazies were for the most part just textbook insane people with different quirks I did find myself invested in their well-being, and when the bodies inevitably began to pile up I was legitimately sad for some of the characters. Also, props to Jacob Tremblay for his acting; they didn’t give him a ton of great dialogue, but he played his role incredibly well especially considering his age. On top of this, the movie does look good. The kills are brutal, but they’re exactly what you’d want to see from a Predator movie. And while some of the CG with the Predators can be distracting, the practical effects when used look awesome.
While I definitely didn’t hate The Predator, I also can’t in good conscience call it a good movie either. While I had fun with it, the beginning drags on with exposition that ultimately doesn’t even matter because of how convoluted the story becomes, and with a less-than-2-hour runtime, it still felt very long and that’s never a good thing. I wouldn’t recommend rushing out to see this one; once it’s out on home video and streaming, pick it up, grab some beer and watch it with friends. You’ll have a good time.
While I definitely didn’t hate The Predator, I also can’t in good conscience call it a good movie either. While I had fun with it, the beginning drags on with exposition that ultimately doesn’t even matter because of how convoluted the story becomes, and with a less-than-2-hour runtime, it still felt very long and that's never a good thing.