Published on September 17th, 2018 | by Dan Nicholls0
Shane Black’s new take on Predator is a dull, DOA train wreck. It seems that no one can really make a go of this franchise.
It’s been 31 years since Arnold Schwarzenegger told us to “get to tha choppa!” in 1987’s Predator. Sci-fi fans have been dreaming of a worthy follow-up ever since. We’re all gonna have to keep dreaming, because the dreadfully dull The Predator does for this series what the preceding three nonstarters did for it: absolutely nothing.
Coming at us courtesy of director/co-writer Shane Black, The Predator aims for campy thrills but leans far too hard on the camp and doesn’t concern itself with crafting a single thrill in its arsenal of blades and guns. The action does flow and hit some badass marks that make your testosterone spike but the over-reliance on jokes that just aren’t funny sinks this ship fast. A fair dose of humor is good, but an obnoxious clown show isn’t worth your time.
It’s so strikingly odd that The Predator itself has warranted now five films when only the first one was any good (and was financially successful). The DOA Predators from 2010 feels like a lifetime ago so one could reasonably expect another dip into the franchise waters, but why? With so many proven properties why does this failure endure? No justification is found here.
The cast is over-the-top grating on your nerves from the first scene. Remember Brent Spiner’s performance in Independence Day: Resurgence? Of course you don’t – no one does. But it feels like every performer in The Predator was given Spiner’s work as a high-water mark to reach. One can absolutely shift the blame to the director in this case and not harshly target the actors and actresses. Perhaps these performances could’ve actually fit the film nicely had everything else surrounding them also came together. But this whole movie is a clusterfuck of bad ideas poorly executed.
Even a brief description of its simple plot could bore you to sleep: The Predator crashes on Earth, a ragtag group of ex-soldiers (including Thomas Jane, Keegan Michael-Key, and Trevante Rhodes) encounter it and try to survive while the dreadlocked creature from space kills anything and everything around it. There’s some minor threads about some weapons being stolen and a kid with Asperger’s but they’re annoying distractions from the meat of the meal. Sadly, that meat is overcooked and the side dishes are rancid.
By the time the third act hits you, the movie kinda starts to turn around and become the picture it always should’ve been. But it’s too little too late. We don’t get invested in a single character, so their deaths – while gory and cool as hell – don’t land a single punch on your emotions. It is a really bad sign if we spent an entire film with these characters and we do not care if they live or die. Rhodes (amazing as the adult Chiron in Moonlight) is the most transcendent of the material and manages to strike the right balance of fun and serious while everyone else goes overboard. The protagonist is played by Boyd Holbrook with an assist from Olivia Munn as his pseudo-scientist-sidekick. Immediately after seeing the movie you’ll forget their characters’ names and say a prayer that Hollywood won’t judge them too harshly for getting trapped in this flaming house fire.
The fact that this botched creation came from director and co-writer Shane Black makes The Predator all the more disappointing. Black had started to become one of the most reliably sharp voices working in mainstream movies today thanks to hits like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Nice Guys, and Iron Man 3. He hits a cement wall here and if there’s a silver lining to this misstep it’s that the man will hopefully roar back to life with a vengeance with his next project. Black did stretch his meager acting chops as one of the early victims in 1987’s original Predator; even with the downtrodden results here he still fares better behind the camera than in front of it.
Die-hard fans of the Predator and newbies alike are going to walk out of theaters unsatisfied and pissed off (the latter feeling caused by a coda tacked on just to set up more sequels that will hopefully never see the light of day). It’s time for us to readjust our nostalgia for something that once worked so the worldwide interest is going back to this broke-ass franchise disappears. Like the Predator’s invisibility cloaking, this series is ready to disappear for good.