My experience with the Predator franchise is pretty minimal. I’ve seen bits of the first film and the first Alien vs Predator and the only Predator film I’ve seen all the way through prior to this one was Predators. This film though got my interest with Shane Black in the directors chair. Now, aside from hiring a sex offender to work on the film which is just awful, he shouldn’t have done it and it was right for Olivia Munn to call Black and 20th Century Fox out about that scene, I am a fan of Shane Black, I loved Iron Man 3 and Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang and whilst I wasn’t as big a fan of The Nice Guys as a lot of other people, it was still a great film. This though, just doesn’t feel like a Shane Black film, which is probably the biggest disappointment in a film filled with wasted potential.
The film follows Army sniper Quinn McKenna who, after an encounter with a Predator that kills the rest of his squad, is declared insane in order to cover up what he saw, with him joining a group of other Army veterans being sent to a psychiatric facility. However, before he was found, Quinn sent some of the Predator’s equipment to his son as evidence and when his son, who is on the Autism spectrum, gets it to work, he calls down a new, much more powerful Predator. At the same time as this biologist Casey Bracket is hired by Will Traeger to study the first Predator that landed, with her joining up with Quinn when the second Predator arrives to Earth. Now the whole film feels like a mess, like Shane Black had so many ideas for the film that, rather than do one well, he decides to do all of them. There are interesting ideas at play regarding the way the Army treats veterans with PTSD and other mental illnesses, the way people on the Autism spectrum are treated by society and the nature of hunting endangered species, but the way all these ideas come together means that none of them are given the time to really be explored. In some ways, the lack of screen time means that some of the stories are incredibly cliche, mainly the storyline focusing on Quinn’s son, which is just filled with every cliched representation of characters on the Autism spectrum that you can think of in films, and actually feels quite insulting to me (although I defer that to people actually on the Autism spectrum). The whole structure of the film is a mess as well, it being clear that the film was hacked to the bone and was the subject of extensive reshoots. The tone varies wildly throughout the film and you’re never really given any time to get to know the characters, which just makes it boring. The biggest problem with this though is that it doesn’t feel like a Shane Black film, aside from a few moments where Black makes a few self aware jokes regarding the nature of the Predator series, the whole film just feels like any generic sci-fi action film, this being especially true with the ending of the film, which feels almost identical to the endings of Independence Day: Resurgence and Pacific Rim: Uprising, there’s just nothing unique brought to the film. It doesn’t even have the quotable dialogue that you come to expect from Shane Black
The characters don’t fare much better, even with the decent performances given by some members. Boyd Holbrook as Quinn is fine, but his character is such a blank slate that he just comes across as bland, Trevante Rhodes gets some decent moments but isn’t given enough time to shine, Sterling K Brown is entertaining as Traeger, having a good villainous air and getting some good comedic moments, but he is fairly wasted. Olivia Munn as Casey gets the worst luck, she is clearly giving the role her all, but the character is written so badly that there’s nothing she can do to make the character interesting. It also doesn’t help that her character doesn’t get an introduction in the film, she just shows up (although I’m guessing her introduction scene was the scene where Black cast a convicted sex offender so yeah, that scene needed to go). Keegan Michael-Key is actually quite annoying here, which is something I never thought I’d think about him, even in other bad films he’s usually the best part of them, whilst Thomas Jane, whilst getting some decent moments to explore his character having Tourette Syndrome, is just a walking stereotype of characters with Tourette’s. Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera and Yvonne Stahovski are just there, not getting any interesting moments, and Jacob Tremblay gives a great performance, but again, his character is just a walking cliche of every character in film on the Autism spectrum.
On a technical level, the film is a mixed bag. The action scenes are okay, even if the final scene is clearly a studio mandate to make the film feel more like the first Predator film, the music is fine and the CG effects are hit or miss (mainly for the second Predator). When we see physical props and the full costume for the Predator, those effects are excellent, even if they are shown off too much, meaning that the stealth element of the Predator is gone (and in some ways, the actions scenes for the first Predator contradict what we later find out about the Predator dynamics). The editing though is shockingly bad. The way the film is edited makes it abundantly clear how extensive the reshoots were and how much Fox didn’t like about Black’s original cut, but in trying to fix it, they made the problems so much worse. Characters seem to disappear at points, there’s no clear sense of scene geography, this being made worse by how dark the film is meaning that it is hard to see what is happening. At one point, something pretty significant happens to one of the characters and I had no idea what it was, the way the film was edited means that what happened is blink and you’ll miss it, and you’ll still probably miss it because of how dark the scene is and how badly it’s framed. I’m not spoiling it, but you’ll know it when you see it, with that moment being a microcosm of everything that doesn’t work about the film.
I really wanted The Predator to be a good film. The idea of a Shane Black Predator film, even to someone who isn’t that knowledgeable about Predator was exciting, but it’s clear that the film we got isn’t the film Shane Black wanted to make. The studio interference in the film is so blatant that it makes you wonder why Shane Black was hired in the first place (even with his connection to the first Predator film). Even without the deserved controversy surrounding the film, I still wouldn’t recommend it, the whole film is just a mess.
My Rating: 2/5