Being a huge fan of both “Predator” and “Predator 2”, it was hard for me not to have some high expectations for “The Predator”. Not all films in the franchise are great. I was only modestly entertained by Nimród Antal’s “Predators” and pretty much hated both “Alien v. Predator” films. What had me amped up for the new film was the fact that Shane Black directed and co-wrote the film. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge fan of the writer-director. This is the guy who penned some of the best buddy-action films around. “Lethal Weapon”, “The Last Boy Scout”, “The Long Kiss Goodnight”, and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”. He knows how to write interesting characters in the genre and excels at witty banter.
Unfortunately, “The Predator” spends too much time on the banter between characters and much of it isn’t all that witty. For every element I liked about Shane Black’s “The Predator”, there was something I didn’t like. I loved that the studio decided to stick with the “R” rating, which means there is a solid amount of gore, present. On the other hand, a good chunk of that gore was CGI, therefore didn’t have the same impact as it would have if practical effects were used.
The casting is quite impressive here. I dug Boyd Holobrook in “Logan” and the role of military sniper, Quinn is one he fits in to quite nicely. Baxley (Thomas Jane), Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes) and Nettles (Augusto Aguilera) round out the crew of misfit military prisoners that help Quinn fight the alien hunter. As much as I like the cast, there is way too much juvenile banter between the characters and at a certain point is does get annoying. I did however dig the odd friendship between Coyle and Baxley.
Sterling K. Brown who I love in “This is Us” is just too difficult to take seriously here as the government jerk who cares about absolutely nothing other than getting what he wants, which is the Predator and its’ technology. Munn is an actress that has a great screen presence but the writing for her character makes little sense. She is a scientist, but she can fight just as well as the soldiers with no mention of any military experience. We also have Jaco Tremblay who plays Quinn’s son Rory. The young boy has Asperger’s Syndrome and because of this, he plays a ridiculous but important part in the narrative. One character that I was excited about was Jake Busey as Keyes. For those familiar with “Predator 2”, the role of Peter Keyes was played by Gary Busey and having his real-life son play his character’s son in the new film was a stroke of genius. I just wish it was a meatier role.
The biggest issue with “The Predator” is that most of the time it doesn’t feel like a “Predator” movie. There is little to no suspense. The first two films were set in the jungle and the urban jungle, with a small group of people against one skilled alien hunter. One of the lessons that should have been learned from the wretched AVP films is that putting humans in the middle of a fight between two aliens doesn’t make for an interesting story. Thankfully, that takes up a very small amount of screen time here, but Black has tried to make a much larger story in-order-to continue the franchise if this film is successful. The final moments in “The Predator” feel like something out of a Marvel Universe film. This also marks the feature film return for writer Fred Dekker who co-wrote “The Predator” with Black. This isn’t nearly as bad as his “Robocop 3”, but he may want to stay clear of sci-fi franchises moving forward.
“The Predator” isn’t an awful film. Shane Black is way too talented of a writer/director to put out something unwatchable. I never found myself bored here and the film does have some fun moments throughout as well as some funny lines. Unfortunately, like all the films in the series after “Predator 2”, it is also quite forgettable.
By: Marc Ferman