Quinn McKenna makes a startling first encounter with a crashed alien ship in the riveting beginning of The Predator, the latest and meh-ist installment of the Predator franchise. This 2018 installment is the latest in a long line of attempts to keep the franchise alive, with films such as Predator 2(1990), Alien vs Predator(2004), and Predators(2010) also being released since the first film debuted. It seems that the franchise has lots of trouble staying afloat, and this latest episode reaffirms that sentiment. The film stars Boyd Holbrook, a sniper in the military named Quinn McKenna, as he and a ragtag group of crazy military members try to kill an alien that has landed on Earth, only to find out there is more than the one alien already there.
Before going into this film, I decided to watch the original Predator movie to see what I was going to get myself into. I had assumed at the time that the movies would be similar in nature with the almost identical names and same franchise. The original Predator movie is a very entertaining mesh of horror, action and sci-fi elements. The film’s plot is thin but straightforward and jammed with quotable lines and scenes. It’s a great popcorn flick, even if it is gruesome at times. I went into this new Predator movie expecting some of the same elements from the first movie. Reboots usually try to recapture the spirit of the original or most beloved films in the franchise to win audience nostalgia points. This film surprised me with the fact that, while there are a few references, the film feels entirely different than the original. They do shoehorn in the “get to the chopper” line of course, but beyond that and a few other references, the film feels disconnected from the original, even though it is explained in the film that both movies are set in the same universe. The tone and plot of The Predator is its weakest parts. Sadly these parts are the basic components that make up a film.
The movie’s tone is very messy. The movie does not have many tense or scary moments because the main group of characters do not take the situations seriously. The supporting cast of soldiers is always saying quippy one-liners because they’re all crazy military guys that have had traumatic experiences while in combat. Whenever they try to have serious emotional moments in the film, they all fall flat on their faces. There is no setup to these emotional moments, they come out of nowhere and they are gone before you blink. There is a moment where Keegan-Michael Keys character has a breakdown because he is having PTSD from a traumatic experience while in combat. This sounds like a really important emotional scene for his character, but it is brushed off in about 15 seconds, and then he is crazy and constantly joking again. These characters need to be fleshed out before they warrant emotional depth. With the final film released, there isn’t even enough character development for me to remember the names of most characters beyond the actors who played them. The soundtrack and sound design don’t improve things either. The music sounds about as generic as possible throughout the runtime of the film and the sound design bogs down the only few suspenseful scenes in the film with stock violin sounds. Moments of suspense are scarce for a movie called The Predator. One of the main powers Predator aliens have is camouflage that almost perfectly fits into the surrounding environment. This power was used in the original Predator for good scenes packed with suspense. Throughout The Predator, when the alien actually uses camouflage, it is neither scary or suspenseful. The movie tries to create suspense and humor in the same vein as Marvel films, but overcompensates on the humor and leaves scraps of time for other emotions.
The plot of the film left much to be desired. It is heavily rushed how the aliens came onto the planet, and it is only explained extremely late into the film why they came in the first place. There is no time to set up any character besides dialogue that reads like a wikipedia summary. There are alien dogs for some reason that just act like regular dogs. Government officials are extremely evil for no reason for no discernible reason. The hurried plot points jumble the story line into a confusing blob of a plot. The main glue that keeps the plot together is the autistic son of Quinn McKenna, Rory. Rory is extremely good at remembering things as trivial as map routes and chess games. Quinn mails his wife and Rory pieces of the alien suit that he obtained at the beginning of the movie. Rory then takes these pieces and is easily able to translate their language into English, and accidentally send signals for another larger and more evolved alien to land on Earth to destroy the “rogue” alien. Now if the last few sentences don’t make any sense, it’s because the plot is a jumping mess. The film starts off with four different plots that eventually converge into one mangled that doesn’t really fit together. This could be due to editing floor problems or controversies leading to cut scenes, but the end result is jumbled to say the least. The motivations of the alien’s change several times throughout the film. First the alien came because it wants to kill humans. Then it came because it was rogue. The second alien came at first because it needed to kill the rogue alien. Actually, it came because Rory used the Predator mask to signal other aliens that one alien was on Earth. Actually, it came because Rory is extremely smart and they need his DNA in order to evolve into a more intelligent species overall. The plot is extremely easy to poke holes into. The film ends with a “Predator suit” being discovered, and Quinn declaring that it’s his new suit. This sounds like the beginning of a supposed cinematic universe that I hope never sees the light of day. The plot of this film demonstrates that the ideas that can be done with Predator are already running dry.
There are some other good and bad elements of the film that I want to touch upon. The special effects are either pretty good or downright horrendous 90s cheese. I don’t know if they weren’t able to finish some effects, but some specific effects littered through the movie look unfinished. I’m not sure if it was a callback to the original, but if it was the rest of the effects should have fit with that style. Acting performances in the film were suitable but nothing to write home about. The action scenes themselves were pretty nice. Very clean with not too many cuts or camera shakes. Shane Black’s direction overall was very vanilla and did about what I expected seeing the tone of the movie. I wasn’t expecting some avant garde camera work on the fourth reboot to Predator.
Overall, the film almost reaches its average goals, but slips in too many categories to be nothing but another disappointment in the Predator series. The movies plot is scrambled and character motivations are weak. There’s no consistent tone and the humor held an overbearing amount of the movie length. The effects are cheesy but the action is good. If you want to turn your brain off and just see another action flick, I would recommend this. It’s a movie that is accessible and easy to watch, but its not a movie worth diving deeper into. There are some cool gruesome deaths and plenty of swearing, but it feels like an edgier low-tier Marvel movie. It’s trying to be a crowd pleaser, but is a little too cliche and disarranged to please the crowds that are already satisfied with movies in a similar genre. Maybe the fifth Predator reboot probably down the pipeline in 10 years can shake things up for the better.
What did you think of ‘The Predator’? Let us know in the comments below.