WHAT’S THE DEAL: The PREDATOR franchise gets an upgrade with a new adventure from writer-director Shane Black (co-penning with longtime THE MONSTER SQUAD pal Fred Dekker) in which a group of military rejects/nut jobs called “The Loonies” must tangle with the otherworldly hunter and the threat of an all-new “Ultimate Predator.”
WHY SEE IT: It’s been eight years since we last got a solo feature film devoted to the world of The Predator, an alien species of hunters that kill for sport and have tested their mettle with the likes of the ALIEN xenomorphs and Ah-nuld Schwarzenegger (in the first and best film of the franchise back in 1987). This time around, Black is keen on furthering the mythology of the ruthless title alien species (they’re looking to upgrade their DNA from other higher-order species) while amping up the action, chaos, and carnage.
If you’re looking for special-effects-driven fun with plenty of firepower and creative kills, this entry does not fail to deliver. There are also lots of laughs and snarky one-liners available every few minutes in an attempt to keep the atmosphere light despite the dark elements of the storyline. The supporting cast of motley-crew misfits are likably scruffy, and Olivia Munn is a welcome standout amid the alpha-male soldiers surrounding her, putting her “evolutionary biologist” brain to good use while also demonstrating an unexpected ability to stand toe-to-toe with trained killers during creature combat.
THE FLICK FLACK: The biggest problem with THE PREDATOR is its clunky narrative and uneven tone. Lots of promising ideas, characters and storylines converge in the first third of the film and quickly get lost in the shuffle halfway through, failing to compete with the deafening and redundant firefights between good humans and bad humans and The Predator and The Ultimate Predator and Predator Dogs and big explosions and fighter jets and hurtling spaceships and more deafening and redundant firefights.
Rather than follow through on a number of the refreshing concepts and storylines he introduces three decades into the franchise, for the most part it seems as if Black is more enamored with his band of Loonies and their quest to see who can best one-up the others with their fraternal behavior and “your mother” jokes — while failing to believably balance the more tender nature of a key subplot involving the film’s sniper protagonist (Boyd Holbrook) and his young son (Jacob Tremblay), who has special gifts that are crucial to the Predator itself. Tonally, the film simply lurches from ballistic set piece to ballistic set piece once it gains momentum and never really tries to establish a sense of actual jeopardy for Tremblay’s character — or anyone else for that matter. In the original PREDATOR, you feared for the life of every cast member. In THE PREDATOR, you fear about half-way through the running time that yet another chapter in this franchise has failed to properly deliver on a great premise set up 30-plus years ago.**
**Truth be told, I thought PREDATORS was pretty damn good and the only worthy successor to the 1987 original. See that one again. It holds up nicely.
NOTABLE NOTES: Shane Black starred in the original PREDATOR as a soldier of fortune alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, and was keen on steering the franchise mythology with his own irreverent touch after helming such memorably clever flicks as IRON MAN 3, THE NICE GUYS and KISS KISS BANG BANG. This entry makes the effort to give brief lip service to the first two PREDATOR films but chooses not to reference the two ALIEN VS. PREDATOR entries or anything having to do with PREDATORS. No great loss there.