Published on September 13th, 2018 | by Harris Dang
The Predator – Film Review
Reviewed by Harris Dang the 13th of September 2018
20th Century Fox presents a film by Shane Black
Produced by John David
Written by Fred Dekker, Shane Black
Starring Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Sterling K. Brown, Augusto Aguilera, Jake Busey and Yvonne Strahovski
Edited by Harry B. Miller III and Billy Weber
Running Time: 107 minutes
Release Date: the 13th of September 2018
Director Shane Black is back! The Predator is a brand-spanking new film by renowned action-maestro himself. For those who don’t know, Shane Black is responsible for writing cult-classic films of the 1980s and 1990s, including Lethal Weapon (1987), The Monster Squad (1987), The Last Boy Scout (1991), Last Action Hero (1993) and The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996).
He knows his action films and all their tropes. He made his directorial debut in 2005 with the neo-noir buddy comedy, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It was this underrated gem that helped Robert Downey Jr. return to stardom with Iron Man (2008). Black also directed the underappreciated buddy-comedy The Nice Guys (2016), which showed Ryan Gosling as a comedic force and put Australian actress Angourie Rice into the spotlight.
When Black announced that he was going to make a new entry in the Predator franchise (he starred in the first film) with his collaborator Fred Dekker (with whom he worked with on Monster Squad), people started to go ape.
Then the bad news started with news reports of drastic reshoots of the third act due to test screenings. There was also the incredibly stupid decision of Black hiring his friend/actor, Steven Wilder Striegel, to star in his film, without disclosing to anyone that he was a registered sex offender. This resulted in Olivia Munn telling 20th Century Fox, who then swiftly cut out his scene with Munn, and Striegel was hired more than once!
With the up and down expectations, will the hard work from the cast and crew of The Predator shine through despite the baggage that its production has shouldered?
The film is about interstellar creatures called Predators, who are hunters that travel from planet to planet to attack. In this entry, they are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from the top species of each planet.
When a boy (Jacob Tremblay) accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag motley crew of ex-soldiers (Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Augusto Aguilera, Alfie Allen) and an evolutionary biologist (Olivia Munn) can prevent the end of mankind.
Wow! I am in total amazement of how this film was made. When it was said at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival that The Predator was a gory, R-rated version of Monster Squad, they were not kidding. The Predator is an absolute goof that will probably enrage purists, but thankfully, it is an entertaining, yet sloppily-told goof. Unfortunately, like Monster Squad, it has all the same problems.
The story is told incredibly fast and the exposition and drama are all free of fat and trimmed to the bone (thanks to editors Harry B. Miller III and Billy Weber). This is a positive though because it quickly cuts to the point where the Predators kill a huge amount of people, and lots of blood, gore and offal sprays all over the place. On that red note, The Predator succeeds.
The action is well-shot and well-lensed by cinematographer Larry Fong, and is thankfully free of detrimental quick-cutting and shaky cam. Unlike the lighting in the prior entry, Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007), you can see what the hell is going on!
As for the story itself, the mythology and the story ideas (which will not be described here in detail) are so bonkers that director Shane Black and co-writer Fred Dekker have had to treat all of it as a joke. There’s a scene in the film where Strahovski’s character provides a motivational speech (by going into detail on Holbrook’s character) for some of the characters due to their reticence. Black and Dekker (get it?) subvert the expectations of the audience so that it becomes funny.
The entire cast and crew are all in on the joke. Even the musical score by Henry Jackman has orchestral cues that convey wonder and childlike joy, as if it was meant for a children’s adventure film. The word ‘children’ is the best way to describe the characters (except Strahovski’s and Munn’s characters, who ground the film any time they can). They are all comparable to mischievous, rambunctious kids (they even call themselves The Loonies!).
As with the previous films that Black has written and directed, the characters are all acerbic and politically incorrect stereotypes (one’s autistic, one’s religious, one has PTSD, and one has Tourette’s etc.). However, the actors gnash their way into their roles, and, for the most part, they succeed.
Now we get to the problems of The Predator. There were news reports of third act reshoots earlier this year, and it shows when seeing the final product. The CGI/green-screen is quite sloppy, the action is dealt with so swiftly that it ends anti-climatically, and some of the resolutions of the characters are left unknown because Black never returns to them. The film’s swift pacing may exhaust some due to the sheer amount of action involved.
The stereotypes will offend some due to the cartoony and inaccurate portrayals of characters with serious afflictions. Admittedly, some of the jokes do land with a loud thud due to repetition or just come from unlikable character traits (e.g. the homophobia). Finally, the film is not scary in the slightest, as the stealthy moments, like in the earlier Predator films, are all gone and replaced with action, which will disappoint purists.
Considering that the previous five films have been doing the same thing, including the Alien vs. Predator films, it makes sense that Black and Dekker would change the franchise’s formula. Yet they’ve only succeeded intermittently. It’s quite fun if you can appreciate the silliness since it doesn’t take itself seriously, but unfortunately, the lack of seriousness is also its own detriment.
Summary: The Predator is quite fun if you can appreciate the silliness since it doesn't take itself seriously, but unfortunately, the lack of seriousness is also its own detriment.