“The Predator” (2018)
Running Time: 108 minutes
Written & directed by: Shane Black
Featuring: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, and Sterling K. Brown
Casey Bracket: “I think they’re attempting hybridization. They’re upgrading on every planet they visit.”
Was anyone really in need of another ‘Predator’ movie especially after the lacklustre hybrid genre pieces of “Alien vs. Predator” (2004) and “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem” (2007) as well as its own last sequel “Predators” (2010) which were all extremely underwhelming leaving the franchise in a very precarious position seemingly inert with little interest from anyone, as well as no ideas on how to move the story (if indeed there was one) forward in any way. Then along comes Shane Black fresh off his box office success on “Iron Man 3” (2013) as well as a seemingly rejuvenated career on top of the critical success of the underrated “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (2005) as well as “The Nice Guys” (2016) he wrote a script with the idea of directing, naturally peoples interest was piqued, as was mine as I am a big fan. It appeared that with Black’s success not only as a writer of action but within genre movies as well, including his knowledge of the ‘Predator’ franchise as an actor in the original, this might be the installment that audiences had not only been waiting on but that it might rival the original in terms of not only action but in the wry comedy that is present thought-out. There was some hope early on with some great casting as well as a plot that was forward looking, the budget was not huge but was enough that it lent itself towards a quality production from people who were used to such budgets, but unfortunately that it is where hope ended.
As with many genre movies especially from a major studio there were indicators that the movie Black had written as well as directed was not going to be the movie that ended up on the screen. There were reshoots galore as well as altering the entire third act of the movie, the cutting out of entire characters as well as the changing of the plot to make it more palatable for the studio which brings us to the movie itself which has not turned out as well as Black would have wanted. Not only that but it appears to not even be the best ‘Predator’ sequel to be produced which for me is a major letdown. This is a movie that makes little sense as well as not holding together very well in terms of the genre, the complete wasting of actors talents to give nonsensical performances in a narrative that does not link to a logical plot leaving audiences wondering what went wrong as well as what have they just watched. There are some bright points within the movie which really revolve around actors Olivia Munn and Yvonne Strahovski who seem to be in a different movie to everyone else which could be related to the uneven editing as well as the jigsaw that has been put together from the pieces that were left after filming had been completed which all leads to a bad movie.
There is no doubt that the driving force behind the movie is writer/director Shane Black who is a master at writing action movies which he has been doing successfully since “Lethal Weapon” (1987) as well as numerous others which came to an end with the underrated “The Long Kiss Goodnight” (1996) which was not critically welcomed at the time but has since been re-evaluated in terms of its importance featuring a female lead in Geena Davis as well as its unique premise. Black made his comeback as well as his directing debut with “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” which while not a huge financial success was one critically, it married a few of Black’s strengths into one film that also helped re-launch the career of Robert Downey Junior who repaid that with “Iron Man 3”. Black is a very good director who understands how to make a movie as well as giving actors time to shine with cracking dialogue that runs off the tongue in a seemingly natural way. He also knows how to construct scenes within narratives that sometimes can seemingly make little sense but come together in the third act, which has always been Black’s strengths in his writing. This is why it is so unusual that the narrative as well as the plot is the weakest of any Black scripted movie which is a real shame as this movie deserved better especially with the premise as well as the bult up anticipation of the movie by audiences.
The actual plot of “The Predator” begins when a predator ship crash-lands on Earth. Army Ranger sniper Quinn McKenna and his team are attacked by the predator on a hostage retrieval mission. McKenna incapacitates the Predator and has its armor mailed off before government agent Will Traeger captures him. Traeger also takes the Predator to a lab for experimentation and observation, recruiting evolutionary biologist Casey Bracket to study it. The Predator awakes, breaks out of its bonds, kills the lab workers, but spares Bracket before leaving. The movie moves on from here, it attempts to be funny as well as action oriented but it mostly comes off as confusing with jumps that make little sense with a final act that is as confusing as the rest of the movie.
“The Predator” was obviously something very different when it was written as can be seen by the calibre of the cast that was assembled, a big deep crew of character actors some who have carried their own genre movies, they are all very well known as well as exceptionally talented in knowing how to gauge their performances. The stand out actor in this movie is for my mind Olivia Munn who while not the lead is fantastic playing a full range of actions as well as emotions; she carries the movie making it bearable for the time she is in it. The only problem is that this is an ensemble piece so there are far too many characters getting too much time, which detracts from the overall idea of the movie. The lead of the movie, Boyd Holbrook attempts to do an admiral job but his performance is not only uneven but all over the place, this may not be his fault but could have something to do with the extensive reshoots as well as the tonal changes that were made prior to release which seem to have hampered the entire production. The other actor worth mentioning who again seems to have suffered from a mixed tone is the normally reliable Sterling K. Brown who is all over the place, Black does not seem to know what to do with his character which explains his fate in the movie which to me seems like an afterthought. The entire cast needed to be reduced from the beginning as did the plot, it is overly complicated with a narrative that is as confusing as anything seen in any genre movie. Not only that but none of the actors really shine or get their own arc which is an issue as an audience may find then amusing but will not care about their fate as they are just cyphers.
With all the time it has taken for this movie to be released as well as actually pushing back the original release date one would hope that the effects would be state of the art but there are many disappointments to be had in this area mostly with the overuse of CGI as well as the ropy nature of it within the movie, such as the predators themselves as well as the dogs that are deployed in two ways, one to terrify, the other to introduce some comedy, neither of which actually works very well at all. One of the many great aspects of the first movie was some excellent physical special effects that added to the mystery of the predators as well as the visceral nature of them when they encountered a human that could fight back, here they just seem like the CGI, on steroids which is a missed opportunity.
What could have been a sequel that would have refreshed a lost franchise ends up being just a disappointing sci-fi/horror romp that is not particularly engaging or memorable, wasting its many talents behind and in front of the camera which is a disservice to all involved. This is a movie that has been tinkered with by too many people, I cannot help but think of what the original vision was for this as Shane Black is too talented a person not to offer something more genre defying than this action movie in need of a plot. One wonder’s if original star Arnold Schwarzenegger should have been talked into making some kind of appearance as a nod to the original as well as opening up the story for audiences familiar with the franchise – who knows maybe next time, but they had better hurry.
“The Predator” is in cinemas now.