The Predator Review: Campy Thrill Ride That Feels Awfully Familiar For Fox
R: Strong bloody violence, language throughout, and crude sexual references
20th Century Fox, TSG Entertainment
1 Hr and 48 Minutes
Dir: Shane Black | Writers: Shane Black, Fred Dekker
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Sterling K. Brown
From director Shane Black, the guy who starred in the original “Predator” while he started screenwriting (and long before he went into directing), is the first guy who attempts to rejuvenate a franchise that never had a chance to establish its own identity by delivering... a comedy??
From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home. Now, the universe's most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a young boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.
CGI has evolved since 1987, which means it’s only right to up the ante on the violence and gore. On a positive note, the CGI is sometimes decent, especially when it comes to people getting viciously (and often graphically) obliterated by this new and improved predator. The movie is ultra-violent and as gory as ever where people are killed in the most insane, if not creative, ways. The movie often takes glee in its gore and it works in that account. Some kills make you bop, weave, and scream “OOOOOOH!” It has all the elements that make for an effective crowd pleaser. Compared to the previous installments, it has a much more silly tone, but it always manages to be entertaining.
The entire cast is charismatic and seems to be having a ton of fun with their respective roles. One of the actors who is noticeably reveling in their own performance is Sterling K. Brown. He plays this evil militaristic scientist, but he has a great amount of charisma to him where he starts acting a bit like Sam Jackson while doing so. As this being his first leading role, Boyd Holbrook really holds his own and commands the scene with his presence. He is no Arnold and no other Predator movie will ever match up to the iconic Austrian actor but Holbrook does stand his own ground.
Jacob Tremblay’s character Rory is the one who kicks off the entire plot and is the central emotional core of the story. He is the primary motive of the film and you care for him and the characters who are out there trying to keep him safe. The movie is fast-paced and where the story goes is fun, for you do eventually care about some of the characters introduced.
There is a working formula to these “Predator” movies and this new film partially abides by it. You have these psychotic mercenaries who are assholes, yet they are the only people qualified to save the world. It hits the same narrative beats as the original while making callbacks to the O.G film. The opening sequence is almost a shot-for-shot tribute to the original. The predator has the same exact same abilities we are familiar with. Shoot, you even have a character scream out:
The movie treads on familiar territory throughout, but it also explores new creative concepts. One of the admirable aspects thrown in is how it establishes the other films’ existence, primarily the first two. It openly admits that this is a sequel. It’s odd that, as of now, each installment mentions the 1987 flick that started it all when you would expect them to just fully reboot the entire franchise. I appreciate the fact that it’s willing to admit that it is a sequel.
Director Shane Black does a decent job deviating from his usual tropes, such as having his film set during Christmas, but this time, our film is set on the night of Halloween. I’m a sucker for movies that take place in the span of one day and “The Predator” has the same format. It is very much a Shane Black movie in accounts of violence and character dynamics. This is the guy who made “Lethal Weapon” and he always find a way to incorporate a buddy angle in his stories. He does this with all of his movies, including “Iron Man 3”. Holbrook and Rhodes have a nice dynamic that feels authentic as the film progresses and the two get to know each other on a more personal level and they often bounce funny dialogue off each other.
If you think “Predator” was a silly action movie then “The Predator” is an ever sillier film, if not just downright fucking stupid. While all of the earlier installments were badass action movies that were violent, “The Predator” is more… campy. It’s still violent, but it inhabits a comedic core in its center. All of the supporting mercenaries have distinctive mental illnesses that are rooted from war PTSD, but the film uses their illnesses for laughs. There is a character who has turrets and the movie uses it for extended scenes of humor that fall flat on their face while being plain offensive. This concept applies to all of the characters. They’re not just crazy, but CRAAAAZY! Like, over-the-top crazy in the vein this guy used to be in his career:
A lot of the characters are written poorly and are just one note caricatures as opposed to being actual characters. Then, there’s also the fact that no one ever acts their age, especially the only kid in the movie.
Just saying, if you are a screenwriter over 40 and your story features a kid as one of your primary characters, go ask an actual kid around your character’s age how kids interact. I’m telling you, it’s more beneficial when you do so because if not, you wouldn’t have me complaining about how poorly Rory is written. This kid (who is around 12) never for a second speaks like he’s his age. Tremblay is given these lines where he sounds more mature than the people around him and that is off-putting. He is speaking more like an adult than a child throughout the entirety of the movie and you know it’s due to Black’s lack of knowledge about how kids speak that he sounds like this. Seriously, Rory’s only childlike quality (other than his physicality) is his aspergers that they even managed to fuckup in favor of a story element. Rory has aspergers and the only scene that shows his special ability before he’s able to perfectly use an Alien’s keyboard and decrypt their language is him cleaning up a fallen chess board and putting each piece back to its designated place. Because of that one little action, we are forced to believe that this kid has the power to use Alien weaponry without any issues whatsoever, but honestly it makes you go:
Ever since “Iron Man 3” Black has been really focused on writing adventure comedies. His previous film, “The Nice Guys” was an original buddy crime comedy. Some of it is risque and dark humor is present, but here’s the issue: not only is “The Predator” his most absurd film to date, but there is no valid reason for why this has to be a “Predator” movie. Instead, it bears the same tone as another R-rated franchise that does numbers for Fox.
Can you guess what it is?
Yeah. “Deadpool”. Since they own the highest-grossing R-rated action-comedy franchise of all time, it only seems right to tap into their other R-rated franchises and give it the same comedic treatment as their merc with a mouth. The biggest issue with “The Predator” is the fact that this franchise doesn’t seem to have a notable identity before going into comedic territory. It was only eight years ago when Robert Rodriguez’s “Predators” came out, which worked due its dark tone and violent nature and mysterious atmosphere. While being a solid movie, it also made up for the tragedies the Predator had to be associated with prior to that, most notably the “Alien vs. Predator” movies. “Predators” got the franchise on the right track and made it look cool again. Unfortunately, now we have this dark comedy that barely has any of the fun attributes of the previous films. You never see the Predator’s point of view where you see people being detected by heat signatures. “Predators” gave the series a sense of identity given the fact that it was tainted by the AVP films.
Now, you have this campy sci-fi comedy that has the same tone as a “Deadpool”/“Kingsman” movie when Fox already has “Deadpool” and “Kingsman” as their primary R-rated action franchises. It would be beneficial if this was its own alien movie because it would’ve been a dark comedy that happened to have aliens. But since this is already an established franchise, what you get instead is a dark comedy that happens to feature Predators in it. Even the Predator itself adds to the silliness. The alien does actions that are humorous which shows that they do exhibit a personality outside of just Killer.
It doesn’t even become a “Predator” movie until the climax. Though everything leading up to it is entertaining, you can only bear so many failed attempts at humor and lack of aliens on screen before you become resentful towards the movie for not delivering its initial promise: A DAMN PREDATOR MOVIE.
While it exhibits some of the traditional aspects of the franchise that manages to be entertaining, “The Predator” bears a campy tone that doesn’t work which disrupts the entirety of a franchise that has never found its footing.
Rating: 2.5/5 | 56%
Super Scene: Everyone V. Predator [in the FOREST!]