After a close encounter in the jungle army sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is the last man standing. After a minor postal mishap his son, Rory (Jacob Tremblay), accidentally activates an intergalactic low jack and brings even more predators to Earth.
As I wrote earlier this month the Predator franchise has had a bit of a tough time. In fact to call it a franchise is perhaps over-egging that particular pudding, as there’s arguably been only one great Predator movie. When it was announced that Shane Black (who of course starred in the original) was going to be in charge of the latest attempt at a reboot, The Predator, I was hopeful. Was I right to be optimistic, or would the film just end up ripping my spine out?
I would say that The Predator is about 60% of a good film; sadly it is let down by the other 40%, which quite frankly is ludicrous, and not necessarily in a good way.
The film has a lot of the familiar elements that made the original so enjoyable. Our group of heroes is a ragtag bunch of misfits who are actually reasonably good fun; they’re far more likeable than the rogues gallery in Predators. That said I’m not convinced I actually got to know any of them at all – in fact, I’m struggling to name a single one of them beyond Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes). I could reel off their character quirks but not their names.
The Predator starts reasonably well and it feels like we’re going to be in for a vintage Predator performance. There’s an alien killing machine on the loose, there’s an odd-ball bunch of heroes of dubious morality, and there’s some of Shane Black’s trademark snappy dialogue. It’s all looking good…and then the plot starts to kick in and the wheels really came off for me.
First up is Rory, who is apparently on the autism spectrum. That in itself isn’t a problem but the portrayal is – it’s a very lazy, stereotyped performance. It’s almost as is Shane Black just watched Rain Man and said, “That’s it, perfect! Jacob, just give me some of that and we’re done… don’t forget you’re great at maths and shit”. I would hope that we’re beyond such a half-arsed attempt at this kind of thing.
Try as he might Boyd Holbrook is no Arnold Schwarzenegger – he’s likeable enough if he were a supporting character but for me, he doesn’t have the charisma to carry off the film on his own. I don’t think I even liked his character, let alone felt like I could root for him. He felt like a marginally more charismatic Jai Courtney.
The story itself is ridiculous: we’re talking Alien Resurrection-levels of nonsense here. In fact, there was more than one occasion in the cinema where I found myself actually shaking my head and muttering “oh, come on” (inaudibly though, I’m not a monster). Not only is the plot ridiculous but it suffers from Star Wars Prequel Syndrome (SWPS, as nobody calls it). The Predator seems intent on providing backstory where it’s not needed. Part of the great thing about the original movie (and the early Alien films for that matter) is that they didn’t explain everything. The mythos and the impact were much greater when we were left to fill in the blanks. Did you want to know the real reason why the Predators rip people’s spines out? No? Well, tough shit, Shane Black is going to force feed you that guff whether you want it or not.
I like Shane Black’s writing, I really do. I love Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang; it is genuinely one of my favourite films. He did a great job with Iron Man 3; he took an existing property and made it feel fresh and different. While The Nice Guys wasn’t perfect, the interplay between Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe was great and it felt smart and cool. For some reason Shane Black has decided to ground The Predator in the 1980s in every sense of the word. While this is a good thing for its action movie sensibilities it’s not so great for the dated sense of humour. A fairly sizeable percentage of the jokes just felt out of place in today’s world and above all else, they felt lazy.
Whereas the original Predator was essentially a slasher crossbred with an 80s action film The Predator leans heavily into the sci-fi side of things, with Fox Studios clearly keen on franchise building. As I’ve mentioned I was not really on board with the plot, but I thought there was going to be a twist at the end to pull me back in. Sadly, the “twist” at the end felt more like a shit in my Coke Zero.
I wanted so desperately to love The Predator – I’ve wanted a good sequel for years, but I guess it was never meant to be. At least I’ll always have Carl Weathers and Arnie shaking hands.