Movie Review: The Predator (2018)

The Predator movies and I go way back.  I was really young when I saw the first one, probably way too young to be watching it, but my parents were always letting me watch hard-R type stuff with severed limbs and blood.  Naturally, I loved Predator.  One of my favorite memories of being a kid is asking my mom after the finish of the movie if there was a Predator 2, and she said yes, but it just finished filming and it wouldn’t come out for a long time.  I was disappointed, but I understood.  But then she said, “Just kidding!  It came out on video today and we’re watching it next!”

I go back and forth on how I feel about Predator 2.  I loved it when I was a kid, hated it as a teenager, felt like it was underrated when I rewatched it a couple years ago, but upon seeing it again just a few years ago I think my official conclusion is:   Ehhhhhhh… it’s okay.  It has some great scenes and character moments stuck in a shitty sequel.  I appreciate the movie’s decision to stand apart from its predecessor in just about every way, but its relentless cynicism works against it.  It’s just not smart enough to be so misanthropic.

Predators, the Robert Rodriguez-produced sequel, I remember being fine, totally forgettable, with a really stupid plot twist concerning one of the characters’ “true identity”.  I saw it once and that was fine.

The Alien VS Predator movies, I remember a Predator running in slow-motion, Baywatch style and that the second one, everyone said, was too dark and under-lit to tell what was going on.  People always say that kind of stuff, they hear a criticism and run away with it.  The way people told it, everyone who watched The Blair Witch Project for more than ten seconds projectile vomited from motion sickness.  But you know what?  AVP: Requiem is damn near impossible to tell what’s going on.  There’s also a really bad movie in there somewhere, but you’d never tell.

So, finally comes this year’s sequel, The Predator (because it’s 2018, sequels have to just basically have the title of the original film, sometimes adding or removing a “the” if needed), which everyone was hoping would break the trend of just about every follow-up to the original being at the very least disappointing.  Shane Black, the director, after all, was in the first movie and has a pretty decent track record as a writer and a director.

Setting aside for a moment the controversy of Shane Black hiring his friend, a convicted sex offender, and not telling anyone about it, and then everyone being an asshole to Olivia Munn for calling this the bullshit that it was, the movie is also not very good.  It has its moments.  It works better in its comedic bits than it does in actual story, because the story itself makes not a damned lick of sense.  The alien visitor in this outing, it seems, has a mission to save humanity from bigger, badder, meaner Predators, but I guess because it can’t speak English, things go awry and… I don’t fucking know.  He kills a lot of people who stand in his way, which makes sense, sort of, because the film begins with its spacecraft crashing and it being captured, so it perceives these people as a threat and has to kill to complete its mission, but why the hell did it skin and string up a victim like a trophy?  The plot doesn’t hold up well under scrutiny.

Due to an needlessly convoluted story, a plucky group of ragtags must ban together to fight the massive, genetically engineered Super Predator.  The leader of these ragtags, called “The Loonies”, disgraced soldiers who have been deemed unfit for duty for varied reasons, is Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), a decorated sniper.  Olivia Munn plays Casey Bracket, the scientist, who can look at slime under a microscope and espouse exposition by way of huge leaps in logic and conclusion.  Sterling K. Brown plays Traeger, the pencil-pushing, bureaucratic villain of the film.  The rest of the Loonies are played by Keegan-Michael Key, the jokester of the group, Thomas Jane, who has Tourette’s, because that’s funny, I guess, Trevante Rhodes, from Moonlight, and some other guys.  The kid from Room and the evil lady from The Handmaid’s Tale are in the movie somewhere too.

The problem, I think, is that The Predator wants to do too much and instead becomes muddled.  There are about three movies smooshed into one, and these three different movies are all at odds with each other.  You have your more traditional Predator movie with brawny men having to battle this invisible, terrifying monster, and fight for their lives.  Then there’s a movie that plays with the lore of the alien, that goes into its planet’s internal politics and its reasons for coming to Earth as often as it does.  Then there’s a story about the kid, played by Jacob Tremblay, who’s good at computers and has Asperger’s.

Watching The Predator made me appreciate the original all the more.  It’s a simple story, simply told, that relishes its tense moments.  It knows how to balance goofy dad jokes with genuine tension and horror, and some brilliant action sequences.  The Predator doesn’t do much in the way of tension.  It has a lot of opportunity for it, but decides to skip the set-up and jump straight into long, rapidly-edited action sequences that are unintelligible.  An important death of a major character occurs and if you blink, you’ll miss it, and it’s never brought up again.

So I’ve spent a lot of time complaining about the movie, but there were things I liked about it.  For the most part, I liked most of the characters.  I thought the movie was at its best when these guys were just hanging out, swapping jokes and stories.  It’s just that when it came down to actually telling its story, that story was dumb as hell.  I liked the prevalence of practical effects.  There is a ton of CGI in the movie, a lot of which isn’t good, but the Predator, the guy in a costume, looks great and there are some sequences where it is legitimately terrifying in all its power and brute force.

The Predator would probably be a good movie to watch in a hotel room on a business trip or something.