As any self respecting film nerd I hold the original Predator in the highest esteem. It was a revolutionary film, and to this day is one of the best sci-fi/action films. Predator 2 is fine. Not good or bad. Just fine. Predators is my personal favourite of the franchise and I am a huge fan of how it subverted the usual Predator formula to make an intriguing and genuinely surprising film. The Topher Grace twist is excellent and Adrien Brody is superb as Royce. I could wax lyrical about how good Predators is all day but unfortunately we have to discuss The Predator, Shane Black’s sequel to the original 2 Predator films.
This film was so utterly disappointing to me as a Predator fan. The film sees US army sniper Quinn Mckenna encounter a Predator ship while on a mission. He steals some of their tech, and after a brief encounter with a Predator he is shipped off to a mental institution by the US army to avoid his disclosure of alien existence. The film started out promising, but quickly degraded into a mess of terribly cut scenes, ham fisted callbacks and enough franchise retcons to fill a secret Government base with. The performances overall were ok, but only a couple of actors stood out to me. Olivia Munn’s scientist lady and Sterling K Brown’s Traeger were the two best performances in this film. Brown’s Traeger is a Government official in charge of the Predator research, and is thoroughly a prick throughout the film. He seems to revel in his own douchebaggery, and Brown is clearly having fun in the role. Munn plays the spunky, no nonsense scientist brought in to advise about the captive predator, and from the outset is completely into the concept of aliens existing, and after a mere 10 minutes is already running about trying to shoot the escaped Predator. This leads her to meet with Mckenna and “The loonies”, the group of mentally distraught military vets that break out and hunt the Predator down. They were fine, but the constant quips and jokes they fired back and forth were irritating and this I feel is one of the film’s biggest flaws.
Shane Black’s style of comedy which works well in The Nice Guys does not work in this film. His comedy feels out of place and at odds with what this film should be. This film should have some jokes, but they shouldn’t consist of a man with Tourettes shouting random, scattergun jokes in a vain attempt at least one will stick, nor should they consist of a forced callbacks to the first film(“Get to the choppers” is said at one point which made me feel physically sick). The film has several other nods to the franchise as a whole, and not all are as tongue in cheek as that one. My favourite one was the inclusion of the Xenomorph tail spear from AVP in a glass case, seemingly recanonising the first film. At least I hope so.
The worst part of this film though, besides the spotty CGI of the 11ft upgrade predator, the glaring reshoots and the blatant disregard for quality is the fact that the Predators are hybridising themselves. This in itself is not bad. The direction it is taken in is. The Predator kidnaps Mckenna’s autistic son (played by Jacob Tremblay) as the Predators think that autism is the next step in human evolution. Not only is this absurd and really really dumb it also disregards the fact that this film established that Predators take human spines for the spinal fluid and DNA. If that is the case why do they need the boy alive? Why did he not just tear off his smug little head and take it back to Yautja Prime? This portrayal of autism that persists in film and tv is so off base it is as if no basic research is done at all before characters are written. Autism is portrayed in this film as if it just makes the kid real smart with the occasional downside of loud noises triggering a breakdown which is fairly consistent with the depiction in other media. Autism doesn’t just make somebody smart it affects people in different ways and is sometimes more debilitating than it is portrayed to be. Also I refuse to believe that one autistic pre-teen can decipher an alien language in seconds when the entire team of world class scientists were nonplussed by it. It just would not happen.
One of the film’s biggest problems though is the ending. The ending sees Mckenna defeat the Predator and become the leader of a Predator research division. They open a Predator artifact left behind on the Predator ship and it turns out to be a gauntlet which folds out into a metal predator killing suit. Mckenna makes a comment indicating that they are going to use the Iron Manesque suit to fight back against the Predators. Not only does the suit look so stupid, off balance and over the top, it also disregards the point of the preceding Predator films. The point of these films is to show that even when outclassed and outgunned, the human spirit and ingenuity will triumph. This brain over brawn ideal is why having a mountain of a man like Schwarzenegger be so thoroughly trounced until he starts to think tactically works so well in the first Predator. By having a suit which kills Predators for us we lose what makes us good enough to beat the Predators in the first place!
This film at times plays it too safe, but also sometimes goes too far. It is a common problem with sequels these days, with Terminator Genisys and Alien Covenant being prime examples of this at work. They struggle to expand the ideas of the franchise in an original way and so are confined to some middle ground where they neither lose nor triumph. A Predator film if took beyond its comfort zone could be truly awesome. Instead of this nonsense, I would have much preferred a period piece Predator, i.e the explanation of that flintlock pistol from Predator 2. Or just give me a Predators sequel with Adrien Brody as Royce again. Either way Hollywood try something new instead of shallow retreads of what once was popular.
VERDICT: Overall I would give The Predator a 4.5/10 for being so utterly disappointing and for being too scared of both nostalgia and new ideas.