The Predator (2018) Review

Time: 107 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual references & offensive language
Cast:
Boyd Holbrook as Quinn McKenna
Trevante Rhodes as Nebraska Williams
Jacob Tremblay as Rory McKenna
Olivia Munn as Casey Bracket
Sterling K. Brown as Will Traeger
Keegan-Michael Key as Coyle
Thomas Jane as Baxley
Alfie Allen as Lynch
Augusto Aguilera as Nettles
Yvonne Strahovski as Emily McKenna
Director: Shane Black

From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home. 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 boy (Jacob Tremblay) accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and an evolutionary biologist (Olivia Munn) can prevent the end of the human race.

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The Predator, the fourth film in the franchise, was on my most anticipated films of 2018 list. With a cast that included Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Thomas Jane and more, and on top of that, original Predator cast member Shane Black (who directed The Nice Guys, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3) being the writer and director of the movie, everything looked like it could be something great. With that said, I had some concerns in the lead up to its release. It looked way too comical, and I wasn’t really sure that would work for a Predator movie. The news about the large amount of reshoots and cuts didn’t make it any better (not to mention the controversy with a real predator originally being in the film, thankfully that was dealt with quickly). While I can understand a lot of the mixed reactions, I surprisingly found The Predator to be quite enjoyable. No, it’s not as good as the original, it’s not one of Shane Black’s best and yes it has some issues, but it also has some really good elements to it.

I should clarify that I’ve only seen the original Predator, so I can’t compare The Predator to the 2nd and 3rd movies (Predator 2 and Predators). However I didn’t feel lost so I feel like anyone who’s seen only the first movie could jump right into The Predator. Shane Black is a great writer, who wrote Lethal Weapon 1 and 2, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight as well as the films he’s directed (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys). Unfortunately his writing for The Predator is a very mixed bag. With regards to certain things like the dialogue, it feels like a B grade Shane Black was writing it and not Shane Black at the top of his game. You can definitely at times feel like it is his writing, but it’s not as strong. One thing I will say that Shane Black does do better with The Predator than the original Predator is that there is some attempt to have some emotional moments and depth with the characters. It almost always doesn’t work but I appreciate the genuine attempts. As good as the original Predator movie was, there was really nothing to these characters. On top of that, it does try some things different with the story, with a large amount of it being set in a suburbia (though we also get some sequences in the forest) and also being a much more comedic sort of movie. Now that doesn’t guarantee that the movie will be great but the best thing that each instalment can do is try different things. At the same time there are some problems with the movie. Some plot elements really don’t work well, such as Jacob Tremblay’s character who has Asperger’s and plays a big role in the movie, that plotline is a little too silly and doesn’t fit in with the movie. Shane Black has directed some very funny movies, his 3 previous movies all hit very hard whenever the comedy was present. With The Predator on the other hand, the comedy didn’t always work. It wasn’t painfully cringe worthy or anything like that, but a lot of it doesn’t work. I’m not sure if the comedic tone really works for the movie, but as I said before at least it is trying something different. There are some callbacks to the original Predator, and while I only picked up two, both of them were painful and hamfisted callbacks. To give an example of what I mean, one guy has a line “Get to the choppa” (that’s not a typo, he says choppa like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original movie). The Predator is yet another movie that has been the victim of studio interference and cuts (by Fox Studios of course). Now its nowhere like what they did with Fant4stic, but you can definitely feel that something is off about it. This is especially prevalent in the third act, which feels like a more conventional movie and seems to lack a lot of the Shane Black writing from the two acts and feels really simplified. Also the way it ends with the Predator in the end feels underwhelming. The last scene in particular is going to be very divisive especially to long time fans of the Predator lore. It is sort of sequel bait and it’s really weird and I’m not even sure what to think about it. It really has to be seen to be believed.

The cast generally do quite well. Boyd Holbrook is the lead of the movie and he does quite well in his role, however he’s a rather simple and conventional protagonist, really just a passable character. The group that Holbrook’s character teams up with, ‘The Loonies’, fair much better in comparison. They consist of Trevante Rhodes, Keegan Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen and Augusto Aguilera and they do well in their roles. Some are better than others, and you don’t necessarily care a great deal for the actual characters. but they all play off each other really well. Trevante Rhodes stands out as being particularly great. Olivia Munn works well in the movie for the most part (the scientist part to her character is a little hard to buy). Sterling K. Brown plays a 2 dimensional human villain and thankfully he plays up the role to being borderline cartoonish because the character is really generic and doesn’t have much to it. There were a lot of problems with Jacob Tremblay’s character but he plays his role well enough. Yvonne Strahovski really does play a really minor role, and really isn’t used to a fifth of her potential, her character could’ve been played by literally anyone and it wouldn’t have mattered.

Shane Black’s overall direction is pretty good. Larry Fong’s cinematography as always looks good. The action was for the most part was really good and entertaining, I like how it fully embraced its R rating and goes all out with violence. The effects for the most part worked really well, but other times it can look not so good. The CGI blood in particular looks absolutely terrible. I liked how they portrayed the Predators in this movie, being really big, intimidating and threatening. However the second Predator, much bigger than the first one, uses a lot of visual effects, and at times it can look really fake, particularly in the last act. The score by Henry Jackman is very reminiscent of the original Predator and it actually really worked for the movie.

The Predator clearly has some issues. It is a little disappointing and it doesn’t live up to the talent of the involvement of Shane Black, the cast and the name of the Predator franchise. Some of the weak humour, story points and other elements does hold back the movie from being anywhere close to being at the same level of the original. Still, there is some good stuff to be found in the movie. Some of Shane Black’s additions were good (even if it felt like B grade Shane Black most of the time), the cast worked well in their roles and it was quite entertaining generally. If you liked the original Predator, check it out knowing that it is filled with a lot of silly things and go into it expecting a somewhat entertaining movie. Again, wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be but wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be.

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