The Predator has nostalgic action fun in its sights, but misses entirely.
Yep, they’re still dragging this one on.
The Predator franchise, which started with 1987’s Schwarzenegger vehicle Predator, and was later followed by new entries in 1990’s Predator 2 and 2010’s Predators (as well as the Alien vs. Predator franchise, but we do not talk about that) has only ever really delivered one good film, in the original’s Apocalypse Now-aping gore fest. The new entry, directed by acclaimed action director Shane Black, aims to recreate the feel of that flick, and to that end, goes out of its way to recreate shots of flayed men, sweltering jungle canopies and alien technology porn. To put it nicely, it tries waaaay too hard, and sadly, lets itself down on almost all fronts.
The biggest problem the film has lies with its cast. Boyd Holbrook plays leading action man Quinn McKenna, but he struggles to match the charisma of Arnie, or even Danny Glover (he is better than Adrian Brody though, so there’s that). He’s joined by what can only be described as one of the most obnoxious, aggressively-masculine group of soldier characters ever seen onscreen. I’d talk a bit about them, but I can’t actually remember any of their names and the only personalities they really have are outlined in an early scene where each man spills on his ‘damage.’ I get that they are meant to have PTSD but that’s no excuse for the way they act, fist-bumping as they incessantly harass the only major female character, Casey Bracket – played decently enough by an incredibly out of place Olivia Munn. If the film intended for us to care about these guys and (spoiler alert) grieve when they get brutally dispatched, it failed miserably, because I was nearly cheering out loud in the cinema when Alfie Allen and Thomas Jane’s insufferable soldiers were slaughtered.
To the film’s credit, they try to take the story somewhere new-ish, with McKenna’s autistic son Rory being handpicked by the Predators as the next phase in the evolutionary line, but the whole plot is just riddled with plot holes larger than machine gun bullets. Why does McKenna, upon discovering unknown and dangerous alien technology, send it back home to his family? Why does he swallow a stealth camouflage ball thingy when he has no idea how it works? WHY DO THEY KEEP THE PREDATOR ALIVE WHEN THEY’RE STUDYING IT? The characters in this film may as well be walking around wearing ‘cannon fodder’ on the backs of their shirts, because it’s painfully predictable who is going to live and who is going to die. However, I have to admit to laughing out loud when Tremblay’s character goes out trick-or-treating wearing the deadly Predator helmet, which promptly obliterates some drunken guy’s house. However, many of the film’s other jokes are painfully-unfunny, often revolving around misogyny and psychological trauma. The whole film has a really nasty undertone to it, and at times I felt like I was watching a big screen glorification of 1980s-style toxic masculinity. I think Shane Black actually thinks that this is what people saw in the original Predator, and that’s sad.
A few decent action sequences aside, The Predator just kind of trots along, and ends with a sequel hook, but it will perform well enough to get one. This latest instalment in a seemingly-endless and unwanted series just doesn’t warrant any interest from me, and I feel like the franchise itself needs to get to the chopping block.
The Predator, directed by Shane black, is distributed in UK cinemas by Twentieth Century Fox, certificate 15.