Friday, October 26, 2018

Film Review: The Predator

Sexuality/Nudity Mature
Violence Mature
Vulgarity Mature
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Mature

Much ado was made about how Shane Black, one of the writers of the original Predator was the writer/director for this sequel.  It should be remembered that Black was the one who put in a good deal of the humor and famous one-liners from the first film.  But that layer of wit was placed on top of a tight, tense script that was as strong as it was efficient.  For this sequel, The Predator, its as if they were able to abstract away all of that humor and superimpose it on a story noticeably inferior to the first.

The Predator takes place in the present day.  Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is an army sniper whose team runs across a Predator alien that has crashed onto our planet.  Quinn is the only survivor and he assumes that the government is going to try and cover up this incursion including killing him if necessary.  He turns out to be right on the money as Black Ops leader Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) arrives to collect the Predator and eliminate any witnesses.  Quinn mails what Predator artifacts he has to his wife (Yvvone Strahovski) and autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay).  Meanwhile Quinn is sent for psychiatric testing and ends up on a bus of mentally unstable military men:  The suicidal Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes), the wise-cracking Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), the turrets-afflicted Baxley (Thomas Jane), the ever-odd Lynch (Alfie Allen), and the religious Nettles (Augusto Aguilera).  Together this Dirty Half-Dozen have to survive their encounters with the Predator and the government agency that deals with Predators.  Along the way they encounter scientist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), who has discovered something very strange about this Predator.  Together they try to survive danger on all sides.

The movie fires on all cylinders when it allows the natural chemistry between the motley crew of soldiers to play out.  Think of the helicopter ride scene in the original film, but played out throughout the film.  These actors are likable and charismatic while at the same time being horribly flawed.  If these characters were dropped into a story that was as strong as the original Predator, Predator 2, or Predators, then this film would really fly.

Unfortunately, the movie bogged down in its own attempts to be cool and clever.  The cast of the original Predator did not need to show a lot of depth, but the connections between them seemed so real that you fell into their short-hand and felt attached to them.  This movie always makes you feel like a bit of an outsider.  They are interesting, but in no way memorable.  Holbrook has to hold the movie together as its center and he does a fair job, but he's no Schwartzenneger, Glover, or even a Brody.  There is an edge to him, but he feels less like a strong anti-hero and more like a red-neck Draco Malfoy.

The rest of the actors make the most of their screen time.  Thomas Jane is particularly funny and his interactions with Key are fun.  Munn is never terrible, but she lacks the gravitas this part needs.  Strahovski would have better served this role, but her scenes as Quinn's wife are too short.  Tremblay does a serviceable job, but I am quite tired of the precocious, gifted child cliche.  It feels horribly played out.  I did like Brown's portrayl of a character who is so doggedly amoral that he tries to clothe himself in a cool apathy.

The plot is fairly stupid.  The Predator that is captured at the beginning of the film is a fugitive from the larger type of Predators like we saw in the last film the series.  The smaller Predator has come to earth to give us a weapon to help defend us against his own race.  But throughout the film, this Predator viciously tears apart the very humans he came to protect.  Nothing about this makes sense.  Black is so interested in trying to add some new layers to the mythology that he doesn't keep his focus on the basic plot and character development.  The original doesn't need to spell out the monster's backstory in order to draw you in with an edge-or-your-seat story.  The special effects are fine but nothing spectacular.  The violence is high-octane gory, earning its R-Rating, with sprinklings of colorful language throughout. 

If you hadn't picked up on the consistent thread of this review its that The Predator is not a terrible film.  It is not a movie that ruins the franchise or sullies it.  But it also doesn't really add anything terribly good or interesting.  And when dealing with a property like this, mediocre just doesn't cut it.

image by Yasir72.multan

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