The Predator is a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be; it shifts tone, genre, and direction so unpredictably and inconsistently that the audience is left completely speechless, in a movie that seems like it was designed to be met with cheers and applause.
Shane Black makes his return to the franchise after his role as the wise-cracking Hawkins in the 1987 original, this time in the role of co-writer/director. Since the original, Black has made a name for himself as a sharp, witty action-comedy writer and a capable director, but while his signature style and sense of humour may work in his own brand of noir comedy, it falls decidedly flat in this universe. Whilst the jokes occasionally break through the action for some genuine light-hearted relief, for the most part they come across as incredibly juvenile and surprisingly mean-spirited. The humour is often poorly timed, tonally misplaced, and by no means high-brow; most of the film’s levity comes in the form of quips about the characters’ mothers, as well as a particularly problematic portrayal of Tourette’s syndrome.
The cast of one-dimensional characters seem to exist solely to get under each other’s (and the audience’s) skin, and while the interplay between the clashing personalities can be sporadically entertaining, the constant barrage of one-liners and quips eventually wears you down entirely. Sterling K. Brown appears to be having the time of his life as the film’s human foil, but while the straight-faced leads Boyd Holbrook and Olivia Munn turn in serviceable performances, they seem out of place and far too genuine for the film.
The predator himself, of course, makes a triumphant return, this time joined by an even bigger alien hunter, but that small twist on the formula does not prove interesting enough to differentiate or justify this entry in any way. The regular predator’s practical suit somehow appears more awkward and clunky than it did thirty years ago, and the bigger variant seems to be rendered entirely by rushed, incomplete-looking CGI that probably wouldn’t look too out of place in the 1987 original either. Both predators of course rack up a commendable body count throughout the film, but the action beyond that consists almost totally of an increasingly bored-looking cast firing hundreds of bullets at nothing.
Storywise, The Predator is a mess, with plot threads ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to climate change, to a troubling representation of autism used to drive the story from its promising opening all the way through to an ending that’ll make even the most die-hard of action fans roll their eyes. While it’s tonally inconsistent, chaotic in story structure, and morally problematic in several ways both in front and behind the camera, The Predator’s biggest sin might be that by the end, it’s just plain boring.
Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr