The original Predator released in 1987 is somewhat of a classic. Lauded for its camp and ridiculousness, it works because it’s fun. The cheesy dialogue and violence make for fun memories and for a good representation of action movies from that era. Having a badass predator, just adds to the fun and to what makes the movie work. When it comes to action movies in 2018 we are in a very different time. Filmmaking has progressed and to an extent so have audiences. More than anything, the stakes have changed for these big budget action movies. There has to be a return on investment to make these movies worth the investment and that heightens the stakes. This makes it harder to make a campy sci-fi action movie because it is likely that it won’t be able to return its investment. All of this puts The Predator in a tough spot.
That tough spot was noticeable throughout the film. The Predator felt like a bunch of people who got together and couldn’t quite decide what they wanted to do, so they did everything. It’s a mismatch of a lot of plot, characters and bad ideas. In turn it ends up finding itself in an awful place. It’s more of a sequel than a reboot but it does a lot of what a reboot would do, so it feels like a hybrid of both. It has humor but not enough to be funny; it’s serious but not enough to actually take itself seriously. There is some camp but not enough to be campy and there is action but not as much as you would hope for or expect. The whole movie felt like a second guess and it lacked the commitment to make it any good.
Action movies are supposed to be fun and thrilling. The Predator is neither because of a bad story and bad characters. Everything starts with the script. Without a script there is no movie. Even in a mindless action movie there has to be a story there to hold everything together. This is where The Predator sees its biggest failure. The story in this movie is pretty bad. The problem with it harkens back to what I was saying before, too many ideas. There was way too much going on in this story. There is the rebel sniper who is being screwed over by his own government, the commentary about how poorly we treat veterans, the mischievous scientist working with the government to hide things from the people, the scientist who finds out and tries to overthrow this plot. There was also a soldier trying to save is his son while simultaneously trying to mend their relationship and friends trying to overcome past mistakes and trespasses. That is all without the actual plot of The Predator’s civil war because of some sort of Predator gene splicing which created super Predators from DNA of the species from other planets. That is way too much plot for this movie and it suffers because of it.
All of these plots makes for a bit of a confusing mess, which leads to the next problem, there was way too much exposition. A large portion of this movie is a character explaining things, which takes away from the reason everyone is in the theater and that is for the action. There were some decent action sequences but there weren’t enough of them. Every time it seemed as if the movie was gaining some momentum, we had to stop and listen to some characters talk about something. It made for a frustrating and disappointing experience because I don’t feel like I got the experience I was promised. The original Predator worked in part because of its simplicity, this one fails in part because of its lack of simplicity. A simple plot, with less exposition and more action would make The Predator a far better movie.
A better movie could have also been possible if there were better characters and better performances. Every character in this movie was pretty basic in it’s construction and lacked anything to make them interesting. They felt like archetypes that were easily identifiable, so there wasn’t any need for real development. This problem was compounded by the surprisingly bad performances by what is a mostly strong cast. Sterling K. Brown, Keegan Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Trevante Rhodes and Jacob Tremblay highlight the cast, and all have put out very good work in the past. Each gave underwhelming or forgettable performances that were tough to watch at times. Brown’s character, Trager, was full of interesting choices that fell flat. The character was so over the top that he might as well have been twirling his mustache the entire movie. He wasn’t helped much by the writing team because the character is very confusing in motivation and purpose. I don’t exactly know what he does or is trying to do and I’m not sure why I don’t like him other than his mustache twirling antics. Key finds himself in a similar situation with Coyle. It’s clear that he is the comic relief, which is much needed and welcomed, but it’s so over the top that it isn’t enjoyable. His character is also flawed on the page but Key’s performance doesn’t help at all. The worst character of them all is our hero, Quinn Mckenna (Boyd Holbrook). Holbrook struggles the entire film to make this rebellious military man real and interesting. There is a clear lack of charisma that holds the whole movie back. I’m not interested in him or what he is doing, and I am certainly not rooting for him. The lead character in this type of movie has to be someone we want to see succeed either by performance or screenplay. Neither is the case for Quinn McKenna. The entire cast struggles to make anything real out of what they were given, which wasn’t very much. Without interesting characters, there isn’t much to enjoy because there is no investment in any of the characters.
Overall The Predator just falls short. There is a path for this movie to be both good and successful. Predator was both and if this film would have closely followed that blueprint, then it could have found some of that success. Instead this is a movie that doesn’t really know what it is and therefore is tough to watch. The senseless violence and low bar humor (ex. a man with Tourette’s shouting vulgarities) was not enjoyable and felt like a teenager wrote it. There was too much going on to be invested in any one thing and there wasn’t enough action to save it. The Predator isn’t worth your time or money. If you want a campy sci-fi action movie, just watch the original. If you want a good mindless time at the theater, watch almost anything else.
1 out of 5 stars
Director: Shane Black Writers: Fred Dekker & Shane Black based on characters by Jim Thomas & John Thomas Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Thomas Jane, ALfie Allen & Augusto Aguilera Release Date: September 14th Rated: R Runtime: 1 hour and 47 minutes