Gosh, this is a scatterbrained movie.
Gosh, this is a scatterbrained movie.
No, I didn’t say that twice. It was on account of the echo, speaking as we are in the vast gulf of fondness felt for Predator movies – from John McTiernan’s flawed but fine original to its uneven sequel, the please-let-them-be-bad-dreams Aliens Vs Predator flicks, the kind-of OK Predators, and now this one.
After Special Forces types to LAPD’s finest to an assortment of killers including yakuza (come on, Predators’ sword vs blade fight in the tall grass was one of the series’ coolest moments), the franchise has now decided to pelt the Predators with what it believes to be a surefire opponent: cartoon characters.
And by that I don’t mean animated peeps from Adventure Time or Powerpuff Girls, but caricatures of characters from an assortment of genres.
Leading them all is Army sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook, the baddy from Logan and Run All Night), who has an up-close encounter with a Predator at the start of the movie.
From there, it’s one wild ride for this “ultimate badass killer” and his posse: an assortment of ex-military types with various mental disorders, a biologist (Olivia Munn) working with the secretive government agency from Predator 2, and McKenna’s own little boy Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who has a developmental disorder but is able to do amazing things like unlock the secrets of Predator technology.
Against them: not just Predators, but sinister black ops types led by Sterling K. Brown’s Agent Traeger, not so much a caricature but a smoothie blended from the bad/annoying habit of every sinister government goon who ever lurked his way through a conspiracy theory flick.
However, if all you are here for is to watch the Predators unleash insane amounts of carnage on hapless humans, The Predator certainly won’t disappoint.
Expect a deluge of not only crimson but luminous phosphor-green because writer-director Shane Black (who played Hawkins in the original Predator) and his co-scripter 1980s B-movie meister Fred Dekker have come up with some startling and icky dismembering and disembowelment of both human and xenomorph.
But the film hits another speed bump when it goes beyond the franchise’s stock-in-trade and tries shedding some light on the Predators’ motives and goals.
It’s like Black and Dekker tooled this part of the script from a bunch of well-worn sci-fi tropes and themes, picking something from column A and a bit from column B, completely omitting column C, for common sense, but taking more than they should have from column D, for duh.
This leads to moments where supposedly smart people put a tranquillised Predator in restraints that look less sturdy than fur-lined bondage cuffs, and alien dogs bred to hunt and kill suddenly switch allegiances and learn how to play fetch after getting a bullet in the eye, and gift-bearing emissaries don’t seem to know the first thing about making friendly overtures.
One of the filmmakers’ main aims is to generate plenty of guffaws between the shock and awe, and sometimes the comic relief does work – when it does not go overboard by making light of debilitating disorders with foul-mouthed abandon.
Or am I just being too fussy?
After all, Black is known for his subversive style, and it worked fine when – for example – he chose to explore the iron within the man rather than the iron without, in Iron Man 3.
Here, though, that drive to unsettle works less in the film’s favour and just succeeds in up-ending everything interesting that they tried to do with the franchise.
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Director: Shane Black
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Jacob Tremblay, Trevante Rhodes, Thomas Jane, Yvonne Strahovski, Keegan-Michael Key, Sterling K. Brown, Alfie Allen, Jake Busey (stunt casting alert!), Augusto Aguilera