- Directed and Co-Written by Shane Black
- September 6, 2018 (TIFF) / September 14, 2018 (US)
A group of PTSD-afflicted soldiers and a scientist must fight off an invading pair of Predators.
With a description like the one above, The Predator is a film that could have been very good or very bad. We could have had a good actioner where a group of emotionally damaged individuals reclaimed their dignity and themselves by taking on these dangerous aliens. Or we could get an actioner filled with jokes and stock characters. We got the latter.
We encounter the characters, and they grow nothing beyond their two-dimensional first look presentation. Admittedly the original Predator wasn’t huge on character growth but for the most part the characters began and ended their portion of the film at relatively different points. The individuals in here not so much.
Add to that they are interchangeable and rather disposable. Lines spoken by one could have easily been said by another. By the end of the film most of them are completely wiped out in virtually meaningless deaths. Not every character death has to have meaning but if you’re going to kill someone it should have some impact. You either need an emotional impact or just general shock and we get neither here. You do not care about them and to the story they really do not matter.
The Predators are clearly sports hunters. That is how they’ve been presented from their first moments on screen up until the closing moments of the preceding film. Here they’re framed as genetic harvesters trying to get all the best traits from across the galaxy and plug them into their own DNA. Then why do they need to return more than once to Earth? A DNA sequence that they’re injecting into themselves could be copied and then replicated across their entire species.
I know the message for this part was to shine a positive light on a disability but what we get shown here is Hollywood autism and not a realistic presentation of it. It is that movie trope where there’s something different about the person and then the big shocking moment when they reveal they have autism (or something else). It’s one of those lazy things to drive home emotion. There is nothing really different about this kid other than he hates really loud noises. And from my childhood all the way into adulthood I’ve known plenty of people who were not autistic who hated loud noises.
Another cliché used here is the individual with no apparent indication in their initial presented background that suddenly becomes a competent fighter. In this case it’s Olivia Munn as sexy scientist Casey Brackett. Her character is, well, a touch on the Mary Sue side. Throughout the film she appears all capable and always right.
There is a lack of logic in The Predator. For example you have a secure government facility where you are housing quite possibly the most unique creature on the planet and your security is utter shit. The Predator bursts out of its restraints, slaughters the facility’s total of four security guards that come after it as well as everyone else in the lab. And along the way the Predator coincidentally frees the heroes of the film.
And this is all from the good Predator! It has brought to Earth a battle suit so that humans can adequately fight against other Predators. Interesting idea so why does he go on a killing spree against everyone at the lab? These would be the type of people that he should be talking too. I’m guessing the gift of Predator suit was an afterthought to do something different in a proposed direct sequel which clearly did not happen. And why not technology to fight the environmental devastation which is what is causing the Predators to make a made scramble to harvest DNA?
The Predator also suffers from bigger is better. Bigger is not always better. In this case their idea of bigger-is-better is an 11-foot-tall Predator the diminutive in comparison Quinn (Boyd Holbrook) has to take on. There is no way scrawny Quinn is taking on an 11-foot super strong genetically enhanced being. That ain’t happening.
In total female characters ultimately are inconsequential to the story. The estranged wife of Quinn (Yvonne Strahovski), disappears from the narrative once Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) figures out where the crashed Predator ship that he and the rest of the nefarious government agents are working for is. How did they figure out where it was you ask? Quinn had mailed a chunk of Predator technology to his autistic son so that he would have proof of what he saw and the kid immediately figured out how this alien technology worked and saw the map and he’s been drawing it ever since. Convenient!
The second to disappear is Casey Brackett. Her character is such an expert on theoretical ET life that they call her in just in time for the lab escape. She really contributes nothing to the whole finale-at least nothing worthy. She should’ve at least been present in the closing scenes as part of handling the gifted technology but doesn’t show up at all. And speaking of the ending, I laughed when I saw Quinn in uniform. Even those that never served have looked serious in them. He looked like somebody going to a costume party in something ill-fitting.
Predators you got through because of the action. The Predator doesn’t even have that. Black focused on cool stuff rather than crafting good action scenes. And let’s not forget the unnecessarily heavy use of humor. Occasionally a joke by a character works well but too many jokes and you detract from any tension or actual excitement you’re trying to portray. And there are a lot of jokes in here.
The Predator is just a bad Predator film. While Requiem is the worst of them all, this gives that a run for his money. You can most certainly skip this.