Rarely does a film leave your mouth agape as much as this entry in the Predator franchise. Sometimes bold, sometimes stupid, sometimes boldly stupid; The Predator is a helluva ride.
Director: Shane Black
Written by: Shane Black, Fred Dekker
Runtime: 107 minutes
US Release: September 14, 2018; 20th Century Fox
Co-written and directed by Shane Black (of original Predator fame), the 2018 installment radiates appreciation for the violence of the first film. It is clear from the get-go, that this movie will push the limits of blood, gore, and exploding body parts; while the ridiculousness of the violence works, it is disappointingly hampered by a reliance on CGI. Even the Predators themselves are often depicted by computer imagery, especially the larger of the species who has come to Earth hunting a renegade compatriot. CGI in and of itself is not an unwelcome technique. Two things conspire against its use in The Predator, however: it is not done well and sits in major contrast to other films in the franchise, which all revel in practical effects.
Just as divisive is the script and story. On one hand the dialogue rocks with genuinely hilarious banter from our gang of antiheroes including Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Keegan-Michael Key, and Sterling K. Brown. The Predator could be considered more comedic than horrific; it is a bold choice that may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The story, however, is more questionable. A central element concerns the Predators searching for a little boy with autism. Their reason is that the boy (Jacob Tremblay) represents the “next stage” in human evolution based on his gifted intelligence to decode languages. It is not necessarily an offensive idea, but Black and Dekker glibly treat ASD like a super-power; with no respect for the condition, the idea smacks of tactless indulgence. The same can be said for the stereotypical depiction of Tourrett Syndrome seen with Thomas Jane’s character. All of this is an example of stupid.
Where The Predator excels is in exploring the practical side of scientists studying a captured Predator. We are treated to a scene out of Independence Day, with giddy researchers waxing scientific over a prostate extraterrestrial; all the while waiting for the inevitable chaos to ensue. Where the movie veers into boldly stupid, however, includes the introduction of “predator dogs”. Not an inherently dumb choice (Predators did it well), but these four-legged beasts suffer from lazy CGI and directionless intent. They just weren’t used enough to justify their inclusion as anything more than a plot device.
Ultimately, The Predator, is a series of plot devices shakily tied together. It suffers from problematic portrayals of mental health and the crude execution of special effects. Those effects, however, are inspired and push the series into an interesting (some may say boldly stupid) direction. It may be a flawed film, but The Predator leans into its flaws harder than any other film out there.
by Vincent S. Hannam