The Predator (2018)
Director: Shane Black
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay
Synopsis: When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe's most lethal hunters' return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Horror
MPAA Rating: R (for strong bloody violence, language throughout, and crude sexual references)
Release Date: September 14, 2018
The Predator franchise, like its Alien counterpart, has seen ups and downs throughout the many years spanning its existence. Both original films Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979) and Predator (John McTiernan, 1987) are regarded as science-fiction classics, with Alien redefining the sci-fi horror genre and Predator a unique sci-fi flick that boasts sharp action sequences and slow-building suspense, along with several now iconic lines and moments--most of which come the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger. With the exception of James Cameron's Oscar-winning Aliens (1986), no sequel in either series has been able to live up to the boldness and freshness of the originals, yet every few years we are presented with another attempt to restore these once heavily-revered franchises to their old glory.
The Predator begins with a Predator ship crash-landing on Earth near an Army Ranger sniper on duty. After investigating the crash and managing to immobilize the Predator (the only one on the ship), he steals its armor and mails it off to his ex-wife and son, hoping to keep it out of the hands of the government. Without giving away too much of the plot, it's revealed there is a newer, stronger breed of Predators and the humans are tasked with determining their motives while attempting to protect themselves from the coming onslaught from the alien creatures.
One of the principal reasons Predator (1987) was successful was its isolating setting in the jungles of Guatemala--away from all human contact and in the "home turf" of the Predator. The Predator immediately takes that positive trait out of the equation by having the Predators come here--on our home ground and in the 21st century, where modern technology allows open communication and plenty of places to run and hide. Due to this, the film lacks the suspense and terror from the original, and while there are plenty of bloody action sequences, none are surprising or terrifying--it's purely action and no suspense.
The characters are another significant problem--none are noteworthy or multi-dimensional. Instead we are handed dull cutouts with virtually no likability and no connection with the audience. The best character is Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) who's admirably trying to protect his son and recover the alien armor he stole from the Predator in the beginning of the film. While we can follow him to a certain degree, his story is muddied by the characters surrounding him--the team of outcast ex-soldiers who are meant to draw comparison to the team that traveled to LV-426 in Aliens. These soldiers, while providing a few humorous moments, are vastly vulgar, unlikable, and disposable, even though they are written to generate audience reactions when their fates are revealed.
The film also suffers from a convoluted and weak story that features plot points that at times don't make sense and deserve further explanation, which we as the audience never get. Previous successful Predator films like the original and Predators (2010) had simple stories that were still action-packed and suspenseful. A more complex Predator film is still welcome, but it has to be one that explains its ideas and makes sense, all the while delivering emotionally involving characters.
While the story and characters are weak, The Predator still offers entertaining (albeit suspense-free) action sequences, even though there is an overstuffed feel to some of the scenes and the climax is painfully over-the-top at times. Perhaps the best news is the practical effects that have been used for the Predators throughout the three decades of the series thankfully continue to be used and look stronger than ever, providing a clear tangible feeling rather than artificial-looking CGI characters (which could've easily been the go-to option).
Though The Predator's effects are impressive, it's not nearly enough to overcome its shallow characters and weak, convoluted story. Though the film's ending sets up a possibly intriguing sequel idea, one has to wonder if that sequel will ever arrive.
Written by Anthony Watkins, September 18, 2018