Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Shane Black
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Larry Fong
WRITERS: Fred Dekker, Shane Black
MUSIC: Henry Jackman
Shane Black’s “The Predator” has a lot more problems than terrible casting decisions that have plagued the film’s recent pre-release buzz. The original “Predator” in 1987 was a product of its time. It was an action/horror film that was more or less an action vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Every sequel that has come since has tried to recapture what made the first film work and while the previous sequels had some varying degrees of success, “The Predator” fails to update this aging franchise.
Black and co-writer Fred Dekker do try to update the story and add to the mythos of the film’s titular aliens and that is commendable. Unfortunately, the film pretty much falls apart by the third act and there are also lame jokes, forced references and mediocre acting involved. Also, the film commits the ultimate franchise sin of trying too hard to set up another sequel with a lame cliffhanger.
In this film, a Predator crash lands on Earth and it is revealed that he is a traitor to his people. He is captured fairly quickly in the film and studied by the same people who Gary Busey apparently worked for in the second film, with Jake Busey making a cameo as the son of his father’s character. The only other person who saw the Predator is Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook).
The organization that wants to keep the Predator’s existence under wraps has McKenna declared insane and he is jailed with other crazy veterans. Eventually, McKenna convinces his fellow veterans and scientist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) to help him find his son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), a kid that has gotten hold of the technology that the Predator is looking for.
When McKenna and his people have to face off with the traditional Predator, the film actually works for the most part. It is when the newer, supposedly badder Predator shows up that things begin to go too far. First off, the new Predator is so huge that it is a terrible CGI character and the effects are not that great.
Also, the new Predator has Predator dogs… I’m not joking and yes, they are as dumb as they sound. The other problem with this film is that it tries too hard at times to be funny. The film attempts a lot of one-liners almost as if the writers were challenging themselves to see which ones would stick the landing.
Finally, there is the mediocre acting and a total lack of chemistry from the film’s two leads, Holbrook and Munn. I actually liked Holbrook in “Logan” but with this film, he proves that he may not be ready to be a leading man just yet. As far as Munn is concerned, I’ve never seen her in anything where the film was actually made better by her presence, so this film is just more of the same that I’ve seen from her in other films.
I had more fun with the other veterans such as Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key) and Baxley (Thomas Jane), two friends who are equally as crazy yet entertaining to watch. Sterling K. Brown is also good as the film’s human antagonist Will Traeger, though the script can’t seem to find a balance between the character being humorous or menacing.
Up until the third act, I was admittedly on the cusp of at least recommending the film for fans of the other “Predator” films. Sadly, the third act and the film’s other problems are just too much. “The Predator” fails to update the series for modern audiences and proves that maybe this series just needs to hit the self-destruct already.