The Predator is a very odd film.
With the original considered one of the most iconic science fiction movies of the 80s, this is a series that has always taken itself quite seriously. Despite a certain level of camp, Predator films are typically quite dark and take themselves very seriously – even if the setting or cast feels at odds with the story’s stone. This is what makes The Predator such weird films because it’s the first core entry in this series to lean into the dark comedy and silliness of the entire franchise.
Directed by Shane Black, The Predator follows sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) who discovers a crashed Predator ship during a secret mission. After quickly being whisked away by the government, McKenna is set up to look like a soldier who has lost his mind and is put on a bus full of other mentally unstable soldiers.
However, before he is detained, McKenna manages to ship his estranged son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) and wife Emily (Yvonne Strahovski). At the same time biologist, Casey Bracket (Oliva Munn) is brought to a secret facility to examine the Predator from the crashed ship.
Of course, things don’t go according to plan as it turns out the crashed Predator is being hunted by an even larger and more imposing Predator. This leads to all of these plot threads converging into a chaotic second half that is equal parts silly, brutal, and entertaining. This is where your enjoyment of The Predator will be tested, as Black has taken multiple feature-length ideas and crammed them together. There’s a lot to cover and the movie’s story does an admirable job introducing the various characters.
Sadly, this is where The Predator also begins to fall apart. There’s simply not enough time to give us an in-depth look at the key players. The result in a mixed bag of protagonists and antagonists that range from compelling to downright forgettable. Sterling Brown’s evil government agent Traeger is the worst of the bunch. While Brown gives a decent performance, we just don’t know anything about this villain other than he’s bad for the sake of it. His character feels like a late addition because there wasn’t enough Predator in certain parts.
Munn’s Bracket gets off better and is perhaps the most intriguing character of the entire group. Having someone focusing on the study of this species’ biology is something we haven’t really had a chance to explore. This is an intriguing angle and Munn is clearly having fun in all of the action roles.
Yet, there always seems to be parts of this character that The Predator just doesn’t have time to explain. However, Bracket does have fantastic chemistry with the rest of the cast and she absolutely owns all of her action scenes.
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As for Holbrook, he’s a serviceable main character but there’s nothing really special about him. Almost every Predator film has featured a badass soldier protagonist, so it’s a bit disappointing that the film doesn’t do anything special with him. Yes, the whole “bus full of crazy soldiers” is a nice twist, but Holbrook is not actual unstable or nuts. He’s right and the movie goes to absurd lengths to make sure we know that he’s not like the others.
Which is especially odd because the group of mentally damage troops is the best part of the entire movie. The entire group is absolutely hilarious, yet you can feel the actual paranoia and weight these men carry. It’s a fascinating subversion of the original Predator’s comical macho-men and sets up some of The Predator’s most emotional moments.
Each of the men clearly realizes how absolutely absurd this entire movie is and embrace the crazy idea of the Predator as a being. Keegan-Michael Kay’s Coyle is the highlight as a PTSD afflicted man who uses comedy to hide his turmoil.
Of course, the main draw for many will be the Predator himself which is given about as much depth as previous films. This franchise has always had a strange aversion to actually focusing on the Predator’s side of the story – despite it being the most important part. There are a few things going on with the two Predators that we won’t spoil, but the big reveal near the beginning of the third act flounders due to a lack of context and explanation.
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Thankfully the action scenes make up for a lack of exposition, even with the shaky special effects. Black makes generous use of the R rating, giving fans a shower of blood, gore, and bone-crunching action. There are a few cool ideas on display, especially one involving a forcefield that has an especially wicked pay off. However, The Predator is also a very dark film – literally. Most of the action takes place at night and editing makes some of the conflicts difficult to follow.
Ultimately, The Predator is an odd, yet strangely entertaining flick. Even with its many problems, this is still a funny and action-packed movie. If you’re looking for another serious entry that tries its hardest to be scary this isn’t it. The Predator is a big, dumb, loud, and utterly nonsensical movie that has some genuinely great ideas. While this film won’t be remembered for anything special, it’s set up The Predator franchise to go in a truly fresh direction.