At the start of 2018, The Predator was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. The original Predator remains one of the best action films ever produced. And yes, I am an unabashed fan of the 2010 Predators. Early marketing material for Shane Black’s sequel/soft reboot was absolutely stellar. When reviews starting pouring in on Rotten Tomatoes, I was admittedly a little heartbroken. But people complained about Predators, too, and I loved that movie so how bad could it be?
Army sniper Quinn McKenna has a run-in with a rogue Predator in Mexico that leaves his entire unit dead. To prove that his encounter did indeed happen, McKenna ships some of the Predator’s armor home. When his autistic son, Rory, inadvertently finds the package, he triggers a signal that awakens the detained Predator and a much larger hybrid Predator. Detained by a government agent, McKenna escapes with a scientist and crew of military psychiatric patients to save his son.
Charismatic Cast Has Fun With Razor-Sharp Dialogue
Without a doubt, Shane Black is a gifted filmmaker and writer. Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang and The Nice Guys are two of my favourite action-comedy movies of all time. If The Predator excels in any area, it’s undoubtedly its charismatic cast and Black’s razor-sharp dialogue. Like James Cameron’s Aliens, The Predator benefits from an eclectic cast that Boyd Holbrook capably headlines. Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Keegan-Michael Key, and Thomas Jane all stand out, bringing a fun energy to their roles. As expected, Black and Fred Dekker’s screenplay offers zippy and instantly quotable lines that give the movie an almost breezy feel.
Convoluted and Lackadaisical Story Leave The Predator Unfocused
While the dialogue and performances are sharp, The Predator’s story just feels unfocused. Past Shane Black movies have always benefited from economical and tight storytelling. In contrast, The Predator abandons its own simple mythology around humanity’s inherent capacity for violence for convoluted add-on’s. Now the interstellar warriors aren’t just ‘trophy hunters’, but galactic evolutionary biologists looking to hybridize in an effort to re-populate new worlds. Some expository dialogue about climate change and global warning is tossed around. None of this adds any meaningful subtext to the movie. And that sharp, fun dialogue doesn’t always mesh well with the movie’s action-horror elements.
The Predator Looks Shockingly Cheap
Perhaps The Predator’s biggest surprise emerges from its special effects. Not surprisingly, like most modern blockbusters, The Predator leans heavily on CGI-rendered effects. What is surprising is just how cheap some of the movie’s effects look on screen. To be fair, we’re not talking about SyFy-level movie effects like what the Sharknado franchise has thrived on over several sequels. But for a trademark franchise, The Predator often looks underwhelming. Yes, blood and guts are spilled in giddy doses, but it’s clearly CGI-rendered. Even the special effects in 1990’s Predator 2 hold up better.
Certainly, Black doesn’t skimp on the R-rated blood and guts. In fact, The Predator goes for the jugular with lots of limb-ripping and intestine-dripping action.
Following along these weaknesses, The Predator’s action sequences also come up short more often than not. Certainly, Black doesn’t skimp on the R-rated blood and guts. In fact, The Predator goes for the jugular with lots of limb-ripping and intestine-dripping action. In this regard, Black has delivered a fast, fun action-horror hybrid. Yet many of these action sequences feel clumsily staged. A scene with the CGI-Predator hell-hounds, for example, is more awkward than thrilling. A few call-backs to scenes from past Predator movies only serve to remind you that this latest sequel is a lesser effort.
The Predator Offers Some Fun, But Still A Missed Opportunity
I really wanted to love The Predator. I did. It’s a franchise I’ve always enjoyed, and one that still offers so much potential. In spite of The Predator’s lacklustre effects and tonal inconsistencies, I’d love to see Shane Black back behind the camera for another kick at the can. But this sequel just didn’t feel like a Predator movie. Even the score felt like a hollow imitation.