The Predator series is one that hasn’t exactly lived up to its potential. The first film was a terrific film, and my personal favourite Arnold Schwarzenegger film. It’s a simple premise, done with the best possible execution. It works on many levels, as an action film, a horror film, a satire – but it succeeds most at being entertaining. Following this was the dull and at times unpleasant, but entirely respectably made Predator 2; the tonnes of fun, but little else Predators and two failed Alien Vs Predator films. Much like the Jurassic Park and Die Hard series, the best we could get from the sequels was just a bit of fun. None coming anywhere close. But this time, things look promising.
The Predator is directed by Shane Black, an acclaimed writer and director (whose last film was the excellent The Nice Guys) who even starred in the first Predator as Hawkins. Helping out with the script is Fred Dekker, writer/director of Monster Squad among others. The cast is all-stars who have gained enough acclaim throughout their careers, including Boyd Holbrooke, Olivia Munn, Sterling K Brown, Thomas Jane and Keegan-Michael Kay. Topping it off with the producers of the original film, this looked to be a hit. What could go wrong? Or should I say, what did go wrong?
Normally I’d dedicate a paragraph or so to describing the film’s plot. But I won’t here, simply because I have no idea what happened in this film. It’s completely nonsensical! Yes, Annihilation was more complex and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was possibly stupider – but I understood what was going on in both of them. This is a special kind of bad story-telling. I’ve complained about films being too overly complicated a lot these past years, but it’s not often that over eight major stories are playing at once. Come the end, when people are slaughtered left, right and centre, it doesn’t feel like people dying. It feels like plot threads being cut off.
What baffles me the most about this whole film is not just that it was bad. Very bad, truth be told. It’s that despite all the talent behind and in front of the camera, I’m inclined to call the film making incompetent. I’m now used to seeing the films I love being cashed-in, and usually in poor or just bland films that nobody remembers (I think the world forgot Robocop as soon as they left the cinema). But I’ll give them credit, they’re not usually this bad! The script is awful, banking too much on references and swearing to the point where even a “potty-mouth” like me wanted them to stop it. The directing is pedestrian, again surprisingly so considering who’s directing it. The effects are, for the most part, garbage too. Honestly, it’s a laughably bad film for the most part. Being fair, that is what kept me from leaving the cinema.
On the topic of being fair, there are thing’s the film gets right. The acting, while hampered by the words they are speaking, is very good. The actors are mostly charming and charismatic. Thomas Jane stood out to me, even though his character is insultingly used throughout the film. Before the big predator arrives, in its fully poorly rendered CG glory, the smaller one we are given is a man in a very convincing suit. I was wowed by it, something that hasn’t happened much lately. There’s some fun action and gore, particularly towards the beginning. That’s it though, the rest I hated.
In defence of the comedic take, I can see why they did it. To make this a parody of older action films is welcomed (the first Predator being a subversion of said films itself). The problem is that they failed miserably at it. Not only are the jokes not funny, they can rub you the wrong way. Disability isn’t treaded kindly, or even accurately in this film. Tourette syndrome and autism being the main (and cheapest) jabs. I heard that the entire third act (which is the worst part of the film) was almost entirely reshot. That’s nothing new in films and happens more than you’d think, even to some of the best films you’ve seen. But this time it does feel like the studio tried to save the film from something awful, and made it worse. On a related note, when I have to look up if a character actually died, because his death scene lasted less than a second, then something has definitely gone wrong somewhere.
The Predator feels like the accumulation of the issues that plague the studio films these days. It’s soulless, thoughtless and attempting to set up sequels that I hope never see the light of day. It’s also poorly constructed, executed and best of luck trying to figure out what’s going on. It’s easily the worst of the stand alone Predator films, and I’d even go as far to call it worse than the first AVP film. Between this and Alien Covenant (which was a better film, I’ll add), I think I’ve reached my limit with these series. If you really enjoy films that are hilariously bad, if you actively seek out something to laugh at and not with, then there is something here for you. Otherwise I promise, you’ll be begging for the simplicity of Arnie fighting an alien in the jungle after the first scene.
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