Shane Black’s Predator sequel is now in theaters, and if you have been a big fan of the franchise since the 80’s, I’m sure you’re intrigued by what this film adds to the series. It definitely adds something to it, I’m just not sure what.
Quite frankly, The Predator comes off as a silly B-movie complete with over-the-top gore and a few genuinely hilarious dialogue exchanges, but it never really feels like it achieves any sort of concrete storytelling. The plot premise is pretty simple, but you still never feel like enough exposition takes place to support some of the broad jumps in storytelling.
Basically, a rogue Predator heads to Earth and he’s on the run from another more advanced Predator. Upon crash landing he runs into Boyd Holbrook’s Quinn McKenna, who is the de facto Arnold-lite leader soldier figure for this film, and Boyd manages to knock him out and jack some of his alien gear. A shady government agency shows up and takes the Predator in for testing, but it’s revealed they’ve known about the aliens since Predator 1, so they confirm their shadiness. This agency wants to keep this knowledge on the down low, so they commit Quinn to a group of psychologically troubled soldiers who call themselves the “loonies.”
They also call in Olivia Munn’s Casey Brackett, because apparently she knows about evolution, so she magically figures out that the rogue Predator has human DNA and that Predators in general have been harvesting spinal fluid from around the galaxy to upgrade themselves into the massive hunter Predator looking for the rogue Predator. Naturally, all hell breaks loose once the big Predator finds the smaller one, and through a series of events, Munn’s character ends up with the Loonies and they go on the hunt for the Predator because he’s going after Quinn’s kid because he sent him the gear he jacked from him at the start of the film.
So that’s the opening 15-20 minutes of the movie, and yes it is a lot to take in, but that’s my point about this movie taking very broad jumps with its storytelling. Main characters, side characters, plot threads, etc. all play out too quickly without enough exposition to fully setup the motivations of the characters, and the overall main plot that the audience should be caring about.
This is most evident in the motivations of the film’s two Predators. The audience is given very convenient and basic explanations as to why the galaxy’s most fearsome hunters have come to Earth for a third recorded time, but the film never goes any deeper than the surface of these general explanations. I would have loved to have had a few scenes from the perspectives of the Predators, which would have helped to flesh out why one of them was being hunted as a traitor by a new more advanced breed of Predator.
Again, the base motivations for both of these Predators’ actions are explained, but only briefly and matter of factly. You don’t really get to dive into the inner workings of either Predator’s intentions, so you’re left to just buy into the cheap explain away option that the film delivers. Trust me, some pretty far reaching assumptions are made about the Predators, humans, and Earth, so it would have been much more informative and thought provoking if the story revealed more of the Predators’ backstory.
If you’ve made it this far in the review you’re probably thinking that I hated The Predator, but that’s not the case at all. I actually enjoyed it, but it’s not the typical enjoyment one would express over seeing a life changing movie. I mostly enjoyed it for its silliness and gore, because again the story and characters really don’t give you anything, or anyone to care about. There’s definitely no Dutch character that can carry the movie on his muscly back, so you’re left watching the silliness play out, albeit with a few genuinely awesome moments sprinkled in between.
Like I mentioned I loved the hard R-rating Shane Black went for, and he took advantage of it in terms of the gore and language. The gore is absolutely fantastic, and it easily makes The Predator the most violent movie in the franchise. I mean we’re talking decapitations, bodies cut in half, limbs cleaved off, intestines getting ripped out, and humans being turned into piles of giblets. The violence alone is worth a viewing in my opinion, but I’m kind of demented like that. I just like ridiculous gore, and The Predator is full of it.
It’s also a much funnier film than I expected. Hell, at times I wondered if I was watching a R-rated adventure comedy versus a dark sci-fi action flick. Most of the humor comes from the Loonies and their interactions with each other, because some of the dialogue is what you’d expect in an early Kevin Smith film. There are more than a few genuinely funny lines, and some will even catch you off guard because they approach a few areas that the PC police have gotten really strict about over the past few years. This also leads to a few awkward scenes due to the rough dialogue, but overall, I wasn’t expecting this movie and some of its characters to be as funny as they are.
What really prevented this movie from being excellent though is its extremely rough edit. We’re talking hatchet jobs in a few areas, because it’ll literally jump between main narratives every 30-second or so, while other times it’ll feel like an entire scene was cut to just progress the plot at the expense of needed exposition. Munn’s character in particular suffers from this style of editing, because like the Predators, her backstory is glossed over, and outside of one scene early on in which her character is brought in for some science stuff, you never really get to know what drives her. Before you know it she’s going all Rambo and holding her own with the Loonies as if she’s also a trained soldier. Her character just never felt like anything more than a check box to have a girl in the film. She’s not even the damsel in distress type either, she’s just a person who gets mixed up in the action, yet somehow performs more capably than trained warriors.
The Predator is just one of those silly but fun-to-watch sci-fi B-movies. It’s not bad by any means, but it’s also not great. It’s serviceable, and at times quite enjoyable. I would have liked for a cleaner edit, and much more exposition on the Predators and their motivations. It just felt like this movie questioned if it should go for a more serious tone with a deeper story to tie the franchise together, or if it should be more of a fun R-rated action comedy, because it ends up being a hybrid of the two, which in turn robs it of being a fully coherent film. Oddly enough, I do still recommend seeing it in theaters, especially if you love the franchise, or dig sci-fi flicks in general. It also excels at over-the-top violence, so if you’re into that I’d also say it’s worth seeing. Just don’t expect to be blown away by the narrative it weaves, and if you do go, don’t stay for a post-credit scene, there isn’t one. Although, the ending definitely hints at the direction Black wants the sequel to go, so with enough ticket sales, this franchise may indeed continue.
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