Director: Shane Black
Writers: Fred Dekker, Shane Black
Stars: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay
I was looking forward to this one for a number of months. I’m a big fan of the original ‘Predator’, a film that was the gold standard for all 80s sci-fi horror. The second was decent enough, but not a patch on the original and since then we’ve seen ever diminishing returns from the franchise, akin to the travesty that is currently ‘RoboCop’. Step forward Shane Black, a man who’s still a relative newcomer in the directors chair. He made his name through the late 80s to early 90s as a writer and an average actor, before taking matters into his own hands with ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ back in 2005.
Since then he’s directed just five films in a thirteen year period, but despite all of that, he had me excited for a potential fresh take on this tired and ailing franchise. The aforementioned directorial debut was excellent, ‘Iron Man 3’ was solid and undeserving of the flak it received from some quarters and ‘The Nice Guys’ was one of my favourite films from 2016. The latter in particular blended brilliant humour, action, violence, snappy dialogue, interesting characters and the outright ridiculous to great effect. So for me, the question then effectively was, can he bring all of that to ‘The Predator’? The answer is yes and no.
The characters in the Nice Guys were distinctly different, the brawn of Jack, the wackiness of March, the brains of Holly and even the two antagonists were interesting enough without major development. I felt like Black tried this here again, got close in some parts, but couldn’t quite replicate the magic. It’s a totally different world and genre, in fairness, but the characters felt a little 2D in the main.
Quinn (Boyd Holbrook), was ok, but no powerful leading man in the vain of Arnie. Casey (Olivia Munn), was decent but underused for me and whilst I’m on the subject of interesting underused characters. Traeger (Sterling K Brown), had so much potential as the government official with insider knowledge on the Predators motives, with a real hint of ruthlessness. The ‘Loonies’ were like something out of the Dream Team sans the acting brilliance of Christopher Lloyd and Peter Boyle, though I did enjoy the banter amongst them, primarily from Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key). Finally, Rory (Jacob Tremblay), the son of Quinn, was arguably the standout, playing a shy, intelligent boy that comes out of his shell amongst the madness.
Now for the story, perhaps the biggest disappointment of the entire thing. I spoke about it on this weeks Box Office Chat and made the admission that I wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on a more grander scale, if Traeger hadn’t delivered a lengthy bit of exposition, around the beginning of the final act, letting everyone know exactly what was happening.
What was happening? Well, the first Predator they encounter had went rogue, coming to Earth in an attempt to help the indigenous populace stave off his conquering race of sport killing, spine ripping, blood thirsty, aggressive rascals. Armed with the knowledge of global warming’s risk to humanity, they had started mixing their DNA with the human genome to make the settling in process all the easier. How does he know this? Well, he’s part of a government agency that had been watching and studying the aliens come and go since their first encounter back in Arnie’s day. Which is all well and good, but doesn’t really explain the unadulterated aggression the first chap seemed to have for the humans he was supposedly helping.
Which brings me onto the next point nicely. You can slag this film off in the story department, in character development, the editing was a little off in the final act, even the CG went downhill towards the end too when the bigger Predator entered the fray. Hell, if you’re easy offended or PC gone mad, then there’s the Tourette’s suffering member of the Loonies that’s the butt of a few jokes. But you can’t criticise the action sequences. There’s some epic moments in there and none more so than when the regular joe Predator awoke in the lab and dished out a sustained ass whooping to everything in the room. It was sensational to watch and it showcased the power and ruthless nature that’s synonymous with these guys.