Predator has been uniting action fanatics and horror fiends since 1987, with the titular character being one of the most recognizable monsters in all of film. In the 30 years since, the series has had solid entries but never to the level of the original. Expectations were sky-high with Shane Black returning to property, who starred in the first Predator movie, now as director of The Predator. With a familiar face in the chair, does The Predator return to the glory days of old? Hard to say, but I can tell you for a fact it’s infinitely less sweaty (..have you revisited The Predator lately? SO MUCH SWEAT).
The thing with The Predator is – it’s nothing you haven’t seen in a Predator movie, yet it’s all the good things you want from a Predator movie.. The Predator comes to earth, kills some people, the people kill back, scientist wants to study alien & technology, another predator shows up; it’s definitely a Predator movie. Now, following a formula isn’t a bad thing if it’s a winning one (just ask Disney). Shane Black successfully filled out the Predator movie Mad Libs, however he didn’t infuse as much originality as one would hope for. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of fun. However, die-hard fans might be tired of the same story and might find The Predator tiresome. Which I felt at first, until I realized I still got what I wanted out of the movie, despite its many flaws. So enough comparing it to the franchise, let’s dig further into this mixed bag as a standalone movie.
“Shane Black successfully filled out the Predator movie Mad Libs, however he didn’t infuse as much originality as one would hope for. “
I’m going to start with the bad, just because the biggest criticisms are pretty obvious. The story is cookie-cutter. It follows similar beats as a lot of other films in the genre, which would have been fine if the story even made sense. To get into it I have would enter spoiler territory, but just know the Predators’ motivation for coming to Earth is random and never fully explained. And then the plot gets worse with some of the dumbest scientists ever. While on the subject, Sterling K Brown’s character is one of the most grating and annoying antagonists I’ve seen in a minute. To be blunt, he’s an asshole. But not the funny kind, or the charismatic kind, just a guy who chews a lot of gum (because how would you know he’s an asshole otherwise). His quips were terrible, his motivations made no sense, and stooped to some new levels of low for the sake of…science? I’ve never rooted so hard for a Predator to kill a particular character, he really brought the movie down for me.
Traeger wasn’t only one name on a list of terrible characters whose name I would not remember by the end of The Predator. The large ensemble cast was incredibly hit-and-miss. Lynch and Nettles were practically ghosts until the plot needed something. Coyle and Baxely had a poorly written backstory, but were saved by solid performances by Keegan-Michael Key and Thomas Jane, respectively. Boyd Holbrook and Trevante Rhodes were easily the highlights of the film, letting their charisma leak out of their stereotyped characters. I’ve been high on Holbrook since Logan, so it’s nice watching him emerge as a leading man and action star. McKenna doesn’t get lot to express his personality too much, but has ample opportunities to show how much of a badass he is. Favorite Predator movie protagonist since the good ol’ Arnie Days.
One last gripe before getting to the goods – the cinematography isn’t the best. There is no clear tone or visual aesthetic for the movie and the lighting could have been better, which again can get tiresome. However, despite these glaring flaws, I still had a pretty good time watching this one.
The Predators, however, were fantastically designed, combining practical and digital effects seamlessly. The two Predators featured also had the most personality we’ve seen from the infamous hunters, and definitely the most Predator dialogue.
It’s in the trailer, so not a spoiler, but the Super Predator was freakin’ sweet. Ridiculously imposing, tricked out with new skills and weapons we’ve never seen before. Brought the Predator dogs back which made for some interesting moments. I enjoyed just about every scene involving a Predator, including a fun chase sequence and exciting final showdown. The action scenes are choreographed and shot decently, with a couple of scenes standing out above the rest. And the kills, oh my Paimon there was a lot of them. By both the Predators and soldiers, which leads me to an interesting theory about the themes of The Predator.
So in the end, we can sit around and complain about plot details and character arcs all we want, but when it comes to The Predator: why do we care so much? Wanna see some sweet kills? Got it. Wanna see humans get picked off one by one like back in the day? Gotcha covered there. Want a hero who is equal parts every-man and unstoppable warrior? The Predator has that, too. I hate judging movies on a sliding scale, but The Predator is a serviceable film for what it is. Not every action movie can be Mad Max: Fury Road or John Wick. But if you were flipping channels and saw this movie playing on FX at 11:00PM, you’re going to watch it and have a good time.
The Predator by no means is a perfect movie, not even a great movie. But it’s satisfactory, which has been lost in modern-day cinema: you either love something or hate it these days. There are a lot of problems and could have been much better with minor adjustments, but it also could have been much worse (cough, Alien vs Predator). I know not everyone goes into a movie hoping for ‘decent’ – especially a movie in one of the most beloved franchises in horror/action history. But at the end of the day, The Predator overcomes a lot of its pitfalls by delivering where it matters. Shane Black adds another entry to a franchise he obviously loves, bringing a faster pace and more blood & bullets than ever before. Given another chance, the Predator franchise could easily return to its glory days.