September 11, 2018 The Predator (Movie Review)
The Predator franchise is one of several beloved Sci-Fi/Action series that have been in creative limbo for many years now. Not counting the Aliens vs Predator films, the last proper entry in the series was 2010’s Predators, which was met with mixed reviews and failed to capture the spirit of the original. Looking to get the franchise back on track, Director, and original film cast member, Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang 2005, Iron Man 3 2013) brings us The Predator. Arriving in theaters on Friday, September 14, 2018 through 20th Century Fox, while it has some flaws, it is an entertaining ride that delivers great action, droll comedy, and a good foundation to keep the series going.
First thing potential viewers should know is that this is not a reboot or a remake, but is, refreshingly, a direct sequel to the first three films. This is a good thing because it allows the film to hit the ground running, which it does spectacularly in Mexico, site of a hostage rescue mission led by Army Sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook: The Host 2013, Gone Girl 2014). This also happens to be the spot where a predator spacecraft crash lands, and in the ensuing chaos, Quinn manages to escape with a predator helmet and gauntlet. Being the only member of his team to survive the encounter, the government sets him up as a patsy and intends to send him to a psychiatric unit while they cover up the alien activity.
The other protagonist is Dr Casey Becket (Olivia Munn: Magic Mike 2012, X-Men: Apocalypse), a biologist recruited by the government to study the predator that landed in Mexico, which they have captured. Quinn is at the same facility, herded onto a bus with a crew of mentally unstable soldiers including Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight 2016, 12 Strong 2018), Thomas Jane (The Mist 2007, The Punisher 2004), and Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele show, Fargo series). When the predator makes his inevitable escape, Becket joins with the soldiers and forms the core group of heroes for the film.
The script does a good job of throwing in the right amounts of nostalgia without using it as a crutch, as well as some genuinely funny moments. Furthermore, it delves deeper into some of the predator race culture than the other films ever did. It has excellent action scenes with a hefty amount of graphic violence; this is without a doubt the most violent entry in the franchise.
The performances are good overall, but the standout is certainly human antagonist, government agent Will Taeger (Sterling K. Brown: The People vs O.J. Simpson 2016, This is Us series). One can’t help but like a villain who truly enjoys being as big a problem as possible for everyone while still being charming and funny. Munn is very good as well, probably her best film role yet. Her character is smart, brave, and plenty capable of taking care of herself alongside the guys.
Gone are the days of hyper-masculine Action stars like in 1987’s original film Predator, but the crew here have their own sense of exuberance and camaraderie that makes them memorable. There are no throw away good guys here, much like in the first film, and so it matters when one of them dies. They have good chemistry and the comedy works for the most part, though perhaps Jane’s character might ruffle some feathers because he has tourettes and it is played for some jokes.
As for the negatives, the biggest is the last act of The Predator. The movie went through late reshoots, including the ending, and it shows. The first two acts feel a lot more cohesive compared to the last, and it’s obvious that most if not all the reshoots where here. It feels like the film ran a good race but stumbled at the finish line. The ending also feels tacked on.
Additionally, Holbrook is not a very compelling lead. He is not bad, but Munn is better, as is Brown. There is also a subplot with his son, who is “on the spectrum” and has an incredible knack for figuring out alien technology and language. Like Jane’s character’s tourettes, this will surely be the target of criticism and debate over whether they are helpful portrayals of mental illness, but hopefully that will not dominate the talk of the film.
Overall, The Predator is arguably the best sequel the series has seen so far. It is not perfect, and it lacks the stranded tension of the original, but it pushes the franchise into new territory while staying true to the spirit of what audiences loved thirty years ago. Good performances, fantastic action and violence, and a script that balances more than it should, should be able to make this film well worth the time of any Predator fan. For these reasons, Crypticrock gives The Predator 3.5 out of 5 stars.