There are few creatures more feared in the universe than The Predator. The ultimate murder machine that kills for sport has been a staple in action movies for decades and has seen sequels, reboots and franchise spin offs. It is really hard to find a more distinct and frankly, bad ass creature than the Predator, but the franchise could use some updating. This is why, when action movie guru Shane Black announced that he would be writing and directing a new installment in the franchise, fans around the globe lost their minds.
Black, if you did not already know has been a part of some of the biggest action movie franchises in the world. He wrote both Lethal Weapon and it's sequel, The Last Boy Scout and Last Action Hero as well as writing and directing the third Iron Man movie. Black was even in the original Predator in 1987, but the going rumor is that he was only brought in to help with the script and to keep an eye on rookie director, John McTiernan.
With Shane Black coming off The Nice Guys, far and away his best movie in my opinion, the hopes were high that we would be delivered a tight, bloody and viciously funny entry in the series. That dream has had it's spine ripped out and what we are left with is a bloody mess of a franchise.
As I write this, I am struggling mightily to figure out what to do next. I want to tell you a bit about the characters or the plot but it is very difficult. There are so many characters in this movie and the more I think about it the less I like any of them at all, or feel that their involvement in this movie in any way mattered other than to check of a box. The more I think of the plot the more my head hurts, filled with holes and lazy conflict resolution.
So I will instead give you my best version of a cliff notes version of these elements, the way this movie fully deserves.
We open with a rogue ship, hurtling towards earth, seemingly out of control. While it is crash landing we observe a U.S. Military sniper reading to kill a drug dealer or a human trafficker or something, when he sees the ship crash land in the woods not far from his location. He confirms the kill and investigates, finding only a pod containing a mask and one gauntlet, which he foolishly just throws on his arm. After a brief tussle with the interstellar being, the sniper escapes, leaving the creature awake and alive, but not fit enough to prevent it's imminent capture by the military.
The sniper is captured, but not before mailing the highly questionable space alien weapons to his estranged wife and child. Cut to...A lady scientist is scooped up by the military and brought to take a look at the alien because when she was a kid she said something about liking aliens. There, Sterling K. Brown shows her the creature and explains what it is, and why they incorrectly call it the Predator.
Meanwhile the sniper, after telling his outlandish story to the top brass, is transported along with other military wackadoos to the same area where the Predator is being kept for some reason (who has by the way broken free and torn everyone other than lady scientist to shreds) and thus begins their journey of frequent, ill-equipped and ill-prepared run in's with the greatest killing machine in the universe.
Don't get me wrong, I love a good dumb action movie as much as the next idiot. This movie is just. plain. dumb.
Before I make it seem like I hated everything about this movie, lets talk about some of the things it does well. Shane Black proved he can direct a movie well with The Nice Guys, while some may argue he showed that in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but I would argue that is not as well made as our memories like to believe.
Black really does a good job of shooting this thing. Action movies have a habit of throwing away cinematic value for big set pieces and and over abundance of CGI, and while there are large important parts of the movie that are riddled with both of these things, for the most part this is a pretty movie to look at.
This is especially evident in the scenes where the Predator is ripping people apart with reckless abandon and a disregard for getting blood all over everything. The problem here is that these moments are so few and far between that just these scenes alone cannot hold up an otherwise average movie.
The pacing is also pretty iffy, there are scenes that feel way too long and some that are way too short. There is a lot of ground covered but this also holds The Predator back more than it helps. There are so many characters in this movie and hardly any of them get properly fleshed out or given proper motivations. Everything seems to happen to further the plot or give a character a reason to do something later in the movie.
I really went into The Predator with high hopes. The cast is actually really great on paper and as has been mentioned ad nauseam, Shane Black gets my trust when it comes to campy action movies. In the theater I just could not help but struggle with how the character of The Predator was treated here, not to mention Thomas Jane who has tortures for some reason and is relegated to a background role that's sole purpose is for potty humor. The man was in Boogie Night for gods sake.
Even more, there is some incredibly egregious sequel baiting and a real disregard for what made that original movie great. The Predator is best used when you stick people on a proverbial island with it and let havoc come. The updated and expanded view is done with good intention but misses the mark for me. I have heard the script handled the end of the third act differently from what we ended up getting, but I don't know if that would have done much to save this movie.