The Predator (2018)
Critic Consensus: The Predator has violence and quips to spare, but its chaotically hollow action adds up to another missed opportunity for a franchise increasingly defined by disappointment.
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as Rory McKenna
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Critic Reviews for The Predator
Yet another reminder that the strange alchemy of the progenitor probably can't be replicated. Hawkins is spinning in his jungle grave.
What's remarkable is that the results are so blockbuster-bland. It might've helped if Black had stuck to the band of misfits angle, pitting the Predator against a group of war-ravaged vets who have to find a way past their damage if they're gonna survive.
On the matter of action, Black knows the trade, and it shows: This is by far the best-looking and most pyrotechnic movie in the franchise, with an impressive array of vehicles and hacked-off limbs soaring lovingly through the frame.
Whatever its weaknesses, The Predator gets its titular aliens right, offering a sampler of violent, extraterrestrial skirmishing that works more often than it doesn't.
The Predator is a confused, sloppy mess of a film, overstuffed with zingy one-liners and lacking in coherence.
Audience Reviews for The Predator
Like the Alien franchise that it crossed over with, the Predator franchise has had a long series of disappointing sequels and misfires, including Predator 2 and both Alien vs. Predator films. The franchise's legacy continues to live on through the iconic alien that is featured throughout the films and the famous quotes that Arnie spouted in the 1987 original... "Get to the chopper!" Sadly, 2018's The Predator destroys the hope that 2010's Predators created in the potential for quality Predator sequels. One of the film's most notable missteps comes in the form of its cast and characters. Boyd Holbrook portrays Quinn McKenna, the Army Ranger and sniper in the center of the film's plot. Holbrook does his best to make McKenna compelling and likeable, a difficult task considering how poorly written the film is as a whole. He is joined by a large collection of forgettable supporting characters, the highlight of which is Keegan-Michael Key's Coyle, a wise-cracking ex-soldier who drops some memorable jokes and one-liners. The remainder of which - a group of quirky military criminals with annoying character traits, an evil government agent who order the deaths of people without much reason, and an evolutionary biologist who manages to survive every ridiculous near-death situation because of her pretty face - are all forgettable and thinly written. This makes the plot uninteresting, unfunny (I say this because the film attempts to make a LOT of ill-timed jokes), and void of tension. The issues with the characters in The Predator, however, are a result of a bigger problem that plagues the entire film: the writing. The Predator features some of the most scattershot, lazy, and brainless writing that I've seen in a film in some time. Granted, I don't make my way into subpar action films very often, so as far as I know, the writing could actually be thoughtful and well-crafted compared to other movies of the same caliber (although I doubt it). Throughout the film, characters make decisions that have no reason behind them. Things happen without any sort of explanation. Plot points are treated as important but are then completely ignored later. Major events occur without any sort of repercussion. Etc., etc., etc. The script seems to be constantly struggling to coherently lead the characters to the film's action scenes, filling the gaps in between those scenes with nonsense and half-assed references to the Predator franchise (its "homage" to Schwarzenegger's "Get to the chopper!" line is horrendous). And even when the action finally happens, it is underwhelming, bogged down by poor camerawork and hard-to-follow editing. The only redeeming qualities of The Predator come in the form of the things you expect out of this sort of movie: big menacing Predators sporting cool technology, neat visual effects, an explosive action-packed finale, and, most importantly, some satisfying Predator kills and good old-fashioned gore. These things prevent The Predator from being a total flop, but they by no means outweigh the film's many flaws. In summary, The Predator delivers some of the things that fans of the series want. Unfortunately, these things are overshadowed by a wealth of flaws, spearheaded by lazy writing and poor directing. I was fully expecting and hoping to walk out of the theater having disagreed with the low score posted on Rotten Tomatoes, but I was underwhelmed and disappointed. Maybe one day the film industry will give us another Predator film worth of the name created by the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic, but until then, we have The Predator, which I'm giving 1 1/2 out of 5 stars.
Shane Black helps to trash a franchise he himself had a part when creating it. A shameless, messy and unfunny self parody of an iconic character.
It's been 31 years since the first Predator strutted its camouflaged self onto the big screen and bedeviled Arnold Schwarzenegger and company. Since then the dreadlock-sporting intergalactic sportsman has become a familiar vaginal face to movie audiences around the world. One of those company deaths in the original movie was none other than Shane Black, years before the writer/director became a bankable Hollywood commodity. Black is going back home to revive the dormant franchise with The Predator, a big-budget sequel/reboot that aims for the stars and falls far, far too short. An alien spaceship belonging to a rogue Predator crashes on Earth, scattering important debris. Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is a black ops sniper and the only surviving member of his team who happened to be on site when the ship crashed. The government says he's crazy and transfers him onto a bus filled with other mentally disturbed military vets who call themselves "the Loonies" (Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera). A tough-talking government agent, Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), seeks out a biological specialist, Dr. Brackett (Olivia Munn), to examine their interstellar prize. At the secret lab, the Predator breaks free, Dr. Brackett chases after the specimen, and she teams up with the "Loonies" to track down the alien. After his initial Predator encounter, Quinn mailed the alien helmet and other evidence to his son, Rory McKenna (Jacob Tremblay), a young boy with autism who cracks the alien code and becomes the target of a Predator, a Super Predator, and the government. The Predator is a supremely messy movie, often feeling like two separate screenplays inelegantly stitched together, one a big bloody action thriller, the other a winky Shane Black vehicle with a cavalier, macabre sense of humor. It doesn't quite work because the movie can't fully settle on a tone, or a direction, and thus it keeps providing glimpses of the many versions of the kind of movie it could have been instead. I'll openly admit to being a Shane Black fan when he embraces his sly instincts, command of genre, and ribald wit (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a modern comic masterpiece; The Nice Guys is... pretty good), so the Black touches were my favorite part especially because they stood out the most. I enjoyed the characters entering into scene-breaking asides, like Dr. Brackett questioning why the alien would be named a "predator" given its behavior is more akin to a hunter or a fisherman, and Traeger shrugging, "Yeah, well, we took a vote and 'predator' was cooler. Right guys?" Or when a character is being held at tranquilizer gunpoint and mocks the danger, only to be tranqued point blank in the eye, killing him. Or a bully suddenly getting drilled by the defense mechanisms of the Predator helmet and murdered. It's these moments that kept me most entertained, demonstrating Black's unique voice that can take genre filmmaking within a studio sphere and turn it on its head with a devilish grin. If The Predator had been more a Shane Black vehicle than a Shane Black studio reboot, then perhaps the final product would have risen above the mediocrity that sinks it. Much of that mediocrity comes from the middling plotting, mostly after the first act. For a solid half hour, I think Black has something promising, having set up the various characters and gotten them to intersect and go on the run together as a merry band of outlaws and amateur alien hunters. Once the "Loonies" break free with Dr. Brackett is where the movie loses its sense of direction. The plot just stumbles from one set piece to another, rarely with good reason. One minute they're running away from a Predator creature and the next they run into an apparently unlocked high school building rather than flee in cars and RVs. Most of the plot movement follows little Rory, first reaching him before the bad men do, then rescuing him from Predator dogs, and Predator, and then he's kidnapped by the bad guys, then he's hunted by the Super Predator and I'm tired. This kid is a spectrum-walking, spectrum-talking plot device (more on that below). It feels decidedly odd to have a super sniper paired with a renegade group of mentally disturbed and dangerous military castoffs and instead of them primarily hunting and killing a space alien they are rescuing a little boy with special needs. It would be like having a Tarantino rouges gallery teaming up to teach a child how to read. It feels like a misapplication of the character dynamics onscreen, which again gets to my central criticism of the final film feeling too much like separate movies in conflict. The studio elements (supportive yet feisty ex-wife, autistic savant, Predator dogs) feel too obvious. The action is serviceable with a few dandy practical gore effects. There's a nasty, visceral quality of the action that proudly wears its R-rating as a badge of honor, as a PG-13 Predator movie would be a disservice to the universe's most fearsome hunter (the first Alien vs. Predator was PG-13; I suppose acid and florescent blood are less traumatic to be seen gushing from hacked limbs?). The action gets a lot more boring once the Super Predator is introduced, an eleven-foot all-CGI monstrosity that needed a bit more work. Beforehand the Predator is a combination of makeup and practical effects, allowing longer interaction with its environment. I enjoyed the Predator breaking out of the lab. I did not enjoy the team taking on the Super Predator at night in the middle of the woods because it decided to go... sporting. Seriously, the second-to-last action set piece has the flimsiest formation. Rather than accomplish its mission, the Super Predator invites all the humans to one more game, though the alien acknowledges that "McKenna" is their only true champion. It devolves to jump scares in the spooky woods, but hey, at least characters can start being eliminated (some of them so abruptly that it's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it exit). There are touches throughout the action that keep things lively before ultimately succumbing yet again to the freefall of the project's creative dissonance. The actors are enjoyable but I felt bad they weren't given more. Holbrook (Logan) is consistently upstaged by his eccentric band of compatriots, but only Jane, Key, and Rhodes get any personality. The other guys are just kind of there. I don't think I laughed once at Key's (Netflix's Friends from College) many, many wisecracks. The Tourette's syndrome tic given to Jane (TV's The Expanse) is rarely funny, and yet Black goes back to it again and again (the adolescent kid behind me in my theater thought every profanity was the funniest thing ever committed to film). The actors glide by on Black's signature macho, cocksure style, clinging to every new quip like a lifeline. Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse) has a few fun, feisty moments but is still basically featured as The Girl. Tremblay (Wonder) is making me rethink my evaluation of him after Room. The best actor in the movie, by far, is Brown (Black Panther) who has a malevolent charm that connects most fluidly with Black's sensibilities. Even his self-satisfied laughter made me laugh. We need to talk about the film's views on autism (there will be some spoilers in this paragraph, so skip ahead if desired). Rory McKenna is of that kind of Hollywood Autism, the kind we see on TV (The Good Doctor) or of classic movies (Rain Man). It's the designation of autism as a gateway to super powers (never mind that having savant abilities only impacts ten percent at best). Whatever, it's an unrealistic depiction in an age of better, more nuanced depictions of mental health and disabilities. Where The Predator gets crazy is when Dr. Brackett offers this nugget: "You know many people think autism is just the next step in human evolution." No. Nobody thinks this. As someone who has worked extensively with children with autism, this is not a thing. I'm not saying by any rationale that those with autism are lesser by any means but they're no more the next stage in human evolution than any other condition. Ask a person with autism if they feel like the next stage in human evolution, like an X-Men mutant. What makes matters worse is that Black confirms this strange notion when the Super Predator, surprise surprise, was most impressed with Rory McKenna and not his big bad dad. The Super Predator plans to take the kid back to, presumably, harvest his autism DNA so the future predators will... know how to fly their spaceships that they already know how to fly? I don't know. The Predator is part sequel, part reboot, part Shane Black genre riff, part muscular R-rated action movie, part chase movie, and part Hollywood mishmash. Apparently the film underwent extensive reshoots as well, retooling the entire third act, which seems obvious in hindsight and only magnifies the disconnect between the central story elements. Shane Black's signature elements are but glimmers of what could have been. It needed to be more of a genre send-up of 80s-action farce, or a more straight-up action movie, or something where the plot generally made sense and had characters we liked. Was Shane Black playing a joke on the studio? The Predator will probably be most known for editing out a real-life sexual predator, or from its dreadlocked alien dog being domesticated after getting shot in the head, or its depiction of autism, or anything that isn't really the entertainment level of a mediocre rehash. Check out Predators instead. Nate's Grade: C
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