After eight long years we finally have another Predator film. Directed by one of the original films cast members no less; Shane Black. It’s been quite the wait (Especially for this writer), but after all this time, and hype, and (lackluster) marketing, is it worth it? In truth, the answer is it depends. And I hate saying that. I want to tell people to rush out and watch a bloody good time. But I can’t. And it’s all because it depends on you as the viewer and how much you’re willing to forgive. The Predator is helluva time for two-thirds of the film, but sadly that comes with the sacrifice of a rather jumbled third act.
For starters, The Predator opens with two spaceships in hot pursuit of one another, where after a fatal blow to one of its engines, one of the ships crash in the middle of a mission headed by Quinn Mckenna (Boyd Holbrook of Logan fame). After engaging the creature, he ships off some of the alien gear he finds before being apprehended by the authorities. What follows is three separate stories that slowly come together in the hopes of saving humanity from our favorite interstellar dreadlocked hunter. The first story is Mckenna as he is grouped up with a bunch of “loonies” the government wants to get rid of. Nebraska Williams (Played by Trevante Rhodes of Moonlight fame) is the suicidal leader of the group, followed by Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key from Key & Peele), a man with so many “Yo mama” it’s insane, Baxley (Thomas Jane), a soldier with Tourette’s syndrome that apparently has no idea how to begin or end a sentence without a flurry of curses, Nettles (Augusto Aguilera), an end of times nut, and Lynch (Alfie Allen of Game of Thrones fame, who for once doesn’t play a complete coward).
The second follows Olivia Munn’s Dr. Casey Bracket, a scientist recruited by Project Stargazer, a clandestine organization that studies the space faring hunter. Headed by the sinister chuckling government agent; Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), and his top scientist Sean Keyes (the son of the same character from Predator 2 [Who by the by is a pointless Easter Egg]), together they have captured the same Predator that attacked McKenna early on. But it doesn’t mean shit when our fugitive breaks free of his restraints and starts mercilessly slaughtering his way through the base. And all of that is because Mckenna’s autism-stricken kid-Rory (Jacob Tremblay-has gotten a hold of his father’s stolen alien merchandise and accidentally activated a beacon that summons a much bigger Predator, leading to a six-way collision course between the “loonies”, the government agents, Dr. Brackett, Rory and both Predators.
This is a Predator film, so if you’re coming in expecting a semblance of a story, then you only need look above, because that’s it (Save for a late game reveal for one the Predators themselves). What one should expect however is a gluttony of bullets, blood, and laughs. And goddamn does it deliver. While this isn’t the original where they are tearing through enemy encampments and dense jungles with a small army’s worth of munitions, The Predator has its fair share of shootouts and bodies to go with it. But seeing how this is a Predator film, a very large amount of those bodies goes to the titular creature(s) themselves. Men are ripped to shreds, decapitated and frankly disemboweled plenty of times to satisfy a gore hounds bloodlust. If there’s a single way to describe what kind of movie you’ll step into, it’s the one where a hanging teammate’s disemboweled entrails leak blood to reveal a cloaked predator. And honestly if that doesn’t sell you then I don’t know what will.
It helps that like the original, the film is also funny as Hell. Many of the zingers come from Keegan-Michael Key and, whether they be jokes or just his reactions to the events going on around him. In a way I found it funny myself, as I had no idea how someone like Key was going to be handled into a role like this. Thankfully they lean into his comedy side quite a bit, and it works. But surprisingly, the eponymy’s creature himself gets a fair share of laughs in. Granted it’s only a few scenes, but the Predator is not only more agile than it’s ever been, but also pretty damn funny in certain moments, such as waving a removed arm to indicate the all clear. And with that I want to take a side note on the two Predators we have here. Both can be seen as representatives of the film as a whole, as the first Predator we get for the majority of the film (The man in the suit), is clearly the one with not only more of a presence, but also a character. For the first time since Wolf in AvP: R (Who himself gets the title of the most badass Predator put to screen-fight me!), there is a Predator that is able to communicate who he is and what he wants without saying a word. Everything he does is in his actions, and the (My) audience responded to it. He had personality, and I hope that if more of these are to be made, then this carries through, because like the first half of the film, this really worked and I had a blast every time he was on screen.
Unfortunately, like the back half of the film, the second (The Upgrade) Predator has some issues. Now let it be known, I actually didn’t think as a CGI creation he was half bad. In fact, he looked really good, but he lacked anything other than being a bigger, badder Predator than ever before (Which isn’t even true when one looks at 2010’s Predators [Who for the most part seemed far better at being worse than the ‘Classic Predator’]). If anything, I’m surprised it took this long for a fully CGI Predator to come to screen, and for the most part he works. But if his only trait is being a relentless…eh…predator, well that’s been seen before and not at all interesting. Which is even more unfortunate when you factor in that his arrival starts the third act, and is where the film starts to fall apart. You see if one was somewhat following the production of The Predator, even loosely, they would know that originally there was a sequence in which a chase ensued with our characters in APC’s while on the run from supposedly multiple hybrid Predators. And in tow with them was in fact a group of friendly Predators out to do some good. But this was changed. Deemed “too cheap” and probably overambitious, the much maligned third act reshoots dramatically changed the climatic fight. What we have in theaters at the moment is a final act that feels rushed, in both editing, pace, and visuals. A spaceship fight above a forest is dangerously close to looking like a backlot green screen, character deaths are glossed over and so quick its blink and you’ll miss it. But mostly the why of it makes no sense, as the reasoning just gets lost so that we can have our heroes fight off The Upgrade. But even if that was forgivable (Which again, it may not be to some viewers), the last three minutes of the film are cringeworthy. It feels tacked on, like a Fox executive thought it should be post credit sting, but then quickly added it to the end so that the audience could see the MacGuffin. Which again wouldn’t be so bad if the CGI didn’t look like it came out of PS2 cutscene. It’s a damn eyesore, and its inclusion only begs the question of why Fox opted to spend so much money on reshoots, but didn’t bother to clean up the CGI to make it at least look good.
And so here we are at the end. Forty-eight hours ago, I saw The Predator, and I’m still thinking about it. But not because it’s bad, and not because it’s good. But because it exists somewhere in between. It has laughs, a scene stealing Sterling K. Brown (why the story didn’t follow him will haunt me for some time as Quinn is as dull as toast), and some great kills to boot. Hell, I didn’t even mention Henry Jackman’s score and how he used plenty of motifs from Silvestri’s original theme, while also adding his own unique spin on it that it still sounds like Jackman’s (Something Debney wasn’t really successful at in Predators) own baby. Or the fact that when certain characters die, you actually feel for them because for the most part (Well at least the “Loonies”) they are played with a sense of humanity by their respective actors. If anything, I wish the film had delved more into these men, and the cost of war on their psyches as they deal with the impeding doom that is the Predators. Unfortunately, the bad counteracts that in a lot of ways. From the terrible and cliched plot device that is “Autism is actually a secret form of evolution for humanity”, quick character deaths that bear little meaning, and the janky third act all weigh down an otherwise good time. But you know what? Maybe I need another showing. I’m sold on the film, I’m just not sure I have the right to tell others to be sold on it as well. The good far outweighs the bad, but then I’m not everyone else. It’ll take another viewing or two to see if its tops Predators as my second favorite Predator movie (Two-thirds of The Predator alone are better than most of what the previous entry had to offer, especially in it’s cast). In the end, I leave it up to you. But for now, if you take my word for it, go see The Predator. Make sure it’s a Saturday night, have some beer, take some friends, and get ready to have a (Mostly) good time.