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Film Review – The Predator (2018)

The Predator

After the first trailer of The Predator was released, a lot of devoted fans were surprisingly pessimistic. This continued even to the second trailer. The previews lacked genuine laughs or the overabundance of machismo that made the original such a hoot. The music choices were unimaginative to say the least. The giant predator creature that was introduced also received a mixed reception.

Since I’m a giant fan of the Predator series, ever since I watched it as an impressionable young lad, you could say I had enough evidence to be skeptical as well. But I had faith in the filmmaker behind it: Shane Black. Shane has never failed me before. He’s behind some of the greatest action-comedy buddy movies in cinema history. He wrote both Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout (as well as the underrated The Long Kiss Goodnight) and both wrote and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys.

Unfortunately the release of The Predator was marked with controversy. First there were the reported reshoots. The last act had been entirely reshot after a poor test results from a studio audience. A character played by the great Edward James Olmos was entirely omitted from the finished film — why anyone would omit an actor of his presence from the finished film is beyond me. Then there was the report of a registered sex-offender, Steven Wilder Striegel, appearing in the movie without the knowledge of the cast and the studio. After this was reported by co-star Olivia Munn, the studio quickly edited out the singular scene of which Striegel appeared in. Oliva Munn later reported feeling shunned by the cast and studio after her actions. 

Essentially, I feared the worst.

So did The Predator disappoint or was it the sequel all of us fans were waiting for?

Well… it’s complicated.

The following review will be spoiler free.

Synopsis

Directed By: Shane Black

Written By: Shane Black and Fred Dekker

Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Augusto Aguilera, Alfie Allen, Jacob Tremblay, Oliva Munn, Yvonne Strahovski with Sterling K. Brown and Brian A. Prince as Predator

Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), a former Army Ranger turned mercenary, is on a mission to take down members of the cartel when an alien-spaceship crash-lands on the scene. This alien is of course none other than the Predator. The Predator (Prince) quickly and deftly annihilates McKenna’s team but McKenna manages to wound and subdue the Predator himself. He flees the scene taking with him some of the alien-technology. Before McKenna’s is arrested by shadowy government agents led by Will Traeger (Brown), he sends some of the technology to his young son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) who suffers from a form of autism.

When Rory receives the package and begins playing around with the Predator technology, he unwittingly leads another Predator, a bigger and more fiercer race, towards him. Meanwhile, McKenna gets introduced to a group of neurotic soldiers and together with a dedicated biologist (Olivia Munn), they all must band together if they want to take down these predators.

You Really Care About Who Lives or Dies

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McKenna and The Loonies. Image via www.power104.fm

While the film certainly has its problems — as will be discussed later — this film does have the best cast of characters since the original Predator. The problem with Predator 2 was that you didn’t get to spend enough time with the characters as a group, it was mostly about Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) and his revenge against the Predator. The problem with Predators was that the majority of the characters never bond throughout the film. A lot of people forget that despite all the macho bluster of the first film, that there was a lot of heart too. This can be seen in the film’s most moving scene with Mac (Bill Duke) mourning his fallen comrade Blaine (Jesse Ventura).

In Predators, you might have a group of colorful characters but you never begin to really care for them. Each one of them are mostly in it to save themselves. They are strangers to each other when they start. In Predator, they are already a tight unit who went through many battles together. Black and Dekker made the smart choice of introducing a group of soldiers who, just like the original cast of the first one, have already grown to love each other. McKenna slowly becomes accepted to the group and as he’s the sanest and most stable of them all — he eventually becomes their commanding officer.

The group of soldiers refer to themselves as The Loonies, as each one of them has become an outcast from the military due to their mental instability originating either from various causes from PTSD, suicidal depression, or a traumatic brain injury. You have hardened Jesus-freak Nettles (Augusto Auguilera), suicidal Nebraska Williams (Trevante Rhodes), bomb-expert Lynch (Alfie Allen), PTSD-suffering Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key) and Tourette’s syndrome-suffering Baxley (Thomas Jane). All of them have great chemistry together and just like the crew from the first Predator, you wish you could see another movie with these guys.

This is something that Shane Black does so well: depicting male camaraderie, with just the right amount of grit and sentimentality.

It’s essentially the best thing about The Predator: you care about the characters, you care about who lives or dies. You don’t want to see them go. And even when some of the likable characters perish, they each get their little moment of heroics before the lights go out.

Shane Black’s Knack for Dialog

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Sterling K. Brown as Will Traeger. Image via GQ.

While the film doesn’t have the quotable dialog of the first one, there’s a lot of witty banter throughout the film. As expected most of it comes with the Loonies, but other characters also shine, especially from the villainous government stooge Traeger, who gets some of the film’s standout comic moments.

This is a stable of a Shane Black. You know you’ll at least get some of banter wit on screen. There’s even rumors that he did some dialog rewrites in the original Predator film, which shouldn’t surprise anyone.

The Predator Is at Times Gruesome and Gory (As It Should Be)

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The Predator (Brian A. Prince) doing what he does best. Image via www.theatlantic.com

Even though we had to endure a neutered PG-13 rated Predator in the first dreadful Aliens vs. Predator movie, all the other cinematic predator appearances were thankfully R-rated. And that’s how it should be. A Predator movie needs to be gruesomely violent. 

While kids might think the predator is cool — and he certainly is — the studio shouldn’t see this as motivation to market it for kids. It’s supposed to be for adults (and for kids who manage to convince their parents to soil their mind by watching this film).

In The Predator, we get all the necessary dismemberment, guts hanging out and decapitations that you could ask for. While some of it is unfortunately CGI — CGI blood always sucks — there’s enough to satisfy gorehounds out there. Though none of it comes close to the gory brilliance of a certain Puppet Master reboot

Boyd Holbrook as Quinn McKenna

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Boyd Holbrook as Quinn McKenna. Image via http://www.digitalspy.com

Boyd Holbrook as the lead does a good job. He’s likable throughout the movie. But I just can’t help but imagine what the original casting choice, Benicio Del Toro, could have done with the role. Del Toro couldn’t do the part because of a scheduling conflict. I hope we don’t have to blame Star Wars: The Last Jedi for this, since that film is already imbued heavily in the dark side.

Del Toro would have offered the character something more. He would have given the character the right amount of darkness and intelligence while also retaining the quippy wit from Black and Dekker’s script.

Olivia Munn’s One-Note Performance

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Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) protecting Rory McKenna (Jacob Tremblay) from the Predator. Image via hollywoodreporter.com

If you’re familiar with Olivia Munn, you know exactly what kind of performance she will give in this movie. She’s good at delivering exposition lines and quippy dialog. She has good timing and it shows in The Predator. Unfortunately her range doesn’t go much further than this. She’s not bad in the film, just one-note.

Just compare this to Yvonne Strahovski who gives much more range in the few scenes she’s in — especially when she’s standing up against two intrusive government agents.

Though Olivia doesn’t damage the overall film, a stronger actress would have made the character much more compelling.

Fox Did It Again

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The Predator does look pretty cool though. Image via Thrillist.

While the film is certainly not a disaster like the 2015’s Fantastic Four, which was completely butchered by the studio, The Predator does suffer a lot of the symptoms of the reshoot curse. This is none more evident in the often sloppy editing, especially in the last act.

There were quite a few times where I was taken out in a movie. A shot is shown, which makes you think will lead to somewhere, and then it doesn’t. In one instance, a dog is introduced, and then disappears. There are quite a few gaff’s like this which will aggravate the attentive viewer.

Things happen so fast at times that it’s hard to keep up. In one instance, a major character dies so quickly, that I didn’t even notice it at first. The original climax was supposed to have the main character band with two other predators against the Upgrade Predator. This idea sounds intriguing, I loved it when Royce (Adrien Brody) banded together with the Classic Predator (Derek Mears) against the Berserker Predator (Brian Steele) in Predators. The best part of that horrible Alien vs. Predator movie was When Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan) joined The Predator (Ian Whyte) on his Xenomorph hunt.

The idea of The Loonies making fun of their new Predator comrades sounds like comic gold. But due to some bad test-screenings, the studio demanded a completely different ending.

While Shane Black has made some excuses for the reshoots, it’s hard not to think how much greater the film would have been if it stayed more true to his and Dekker’s original vision.

Terrible CGI

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This is most apparent in the film’s climax — which unsurprisingly was part of the reshoots. Probably due to time limits, with the film’s release having already been delayed, they couldn’t finish many of the special effects.

It’s especially in one scene, involving a space-ship in the air, that we get one cringe-inducing green-screen effect. This is followed by a character’s demise that looked even worse, which also dampens the emotion you’re supposed to be feeling.

That Lame Ending

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The Predator agrees with me, the ending is seriously lame. Image via FilmBook.

Without spoiling the ending, I will say that the ending left me with a weirdly bad taste in my mouth. The ending opens the film up to sequels (as all films do these days), which is fine, but it feels tonally off. It doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the film. Though I can’t confirm this, it does feel like part of a reshoots. It feels like the studio wanted a Marvel-esque ending.

Again, it’s not as embarrassing as the final scene of 2015’s Fantastic Four, but it’s pretty damn lame. I seriously hope they ignore it if a sequel would ever come out.

Final Thoughts

The Predator is both the best and the worst sequel to the original classic. Shane Black does put his signature traits into this film, which means you are treated with great dialog and with characters you actually care about. It’s got the heart and soul that Predators especially was missing.

But the film does suffer from the studio-meddling, especially in the last act. The reshoots seriously damaged a film that could have been one of the most entertaining popcorn flicks of the year.

As it stands, it’s still good fun. It almost has everything a true Predator fan would want — except for good old Arnie. Here’s hoping that one day, we will get a film closer to Shane Black’s original vision.

Grade: B


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3 Responses

  1. This is an excellent review that contains some interesting and salient points.

    I thought The Predator was a tedious, tone deaf and persistently erratic revival of the B-movie franchise. You can find out more in my review below:

    https://sgsonfilm.net/2018/09/16/brief-consideration-the-predator-2018/

    If you find the piece to your liking, then please comment and follow.

  2. I saw this movie on Friday and I was kind of let down. I enjoyed the ation ​part to it but I think they tried to follow suit with the Marvel movies and made it too funny. I was hoping for the serious thriller style that the previous predator movies had.

  3. Nick Kush says:

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