As with all review-caps, MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! You’ve been warned.
I’ve been looking forward to a Shane Black – helmed sequel to Predator for years. Even though the original is pretty far from chick-friendly, I love its stupidly macho humor – “I ain’t got time to bleed.” “Oh, okay…you got time to duck?” I mean, come on. That is classic. And that oiled-up, muscle-y man-shake between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers? One of the greatest shots of all time.
But besides all that, as an action flick, the original Predator is tight, man. Solid. Even though the story itself was no more involved than its logline and the characters were total cartoons, somehow it all came together in just the right way. It had Arnold. It had an alien that looked like nothing we had ever seen before in creature effects at the time. It was foul and shockingly violent, but it was also funny and scary as hell. And it was a fantastic ride.
So here we are now, two decades and several epic fails at sequels later (except for 2010’s Predators – I thought that one was actually a big improvement), and finally we get Shane Black’s story – huge sigh of relief. Not only was he in the original, but he’s also an experienced writer, director and a fellow geek who understands how beloved Predator is. So we’ll finally get the kick-ass action and a decent story again. Right?
Unfortunately, the answer is a big, fat, ugly NO. And I can’t even begin to tell you how bummed I am to have to say that. I mean, I went into the theater aware of the bad buzz – but even I couldn’t believe just how off-the-rails sloppy it was. It seems like all involved decided to just overwhelm the audience with noise and in-your-face visual chaos as a way to hide the underlying mess that is the story – and the sensory assault starts right from the jump, with the crash of a Predator ship in the Mexican jungle.
The idea this time is that the Predators are sweeping the galaxy for the finest specimens of all the races they encounter – and not just trophy hunting as we all thought, but also to harvest DNA (or whatever the alien equivalent would be) in order to combine it with their own and make Super-Predators, for lack of a better term (but somehow, in the search for all things superior they still end up on Earth an awful lot and still have two arms and two legs. Whatever.)
So this time they’re here to find – I cringe just typing it – a kid. Yeah. Now, when I saw those first cast photos last year and saw Jacob Tremblay in them, I was gobsmacked. Nothing against him at all, he’s an awesome actor – but more often than not when you put a kid in a story, you automatically weigh it down with unnecessary baggage. That goes double when you’re talking about a hard-R action flick. Being the excellent writer he is, I figured Shane Black would be of the same mindset – but no.
The rationalization is that Tremblay’s Rory is autistic (or something, they don’t say). He’s also a savant (of course) and can immediately figure out the Predator language and tech that gets dumped literally at his doorstep when his less-than-genius father, mercenary sniper McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) decides to mail the Predator’s helmet and gauntlet to his house after nicking it from the crashed ship, because that makes sense.
So then a Super-Predator – who’s on the trail of the Average-Predator – comes to Earth to retrieve tech the Average one stole. Super-Predator hones in on the kid’s location, and there you go. Hilarity ensues. But not really. There’s even a message in there somewhere about the next level of human evolution belonging to those we consider mentally disabled, but that just gets lost in all the noise and the silliness (and the Predator dogs. Yeah. They have dogs. Big, stupid-happy dogs who love to play fetch with people when they’re not eviscerating them).
Add to this already hot mess a scientist to provide the technobabble (Olivia Munn, who at least gets to kick some ass and talk as dirty as the guys do), a meanie government guy (Sterling K. Brown) and a ragtag bunch of Section-8 soldiers (Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera) to mimic the beloved crew from the original by firing out as much crude humor as they can manage to pack in, and voilà. Guaranteed hit. But not really.
Now you could say, hey y’know, it’s Predator – you shouldn’t expect more than big, loud and stupid. That’s as good as it gets, so don’t be one of those angry geeks. Quit whining and deal. Yeah, well, if big, loud and stupid is all you want from the flick, then congrats. You’ll love it. But even the original – as goofy as it was – had more going on than just big, loud and stupid. So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect better from Shane Black, who’s certainly capable of better – just as I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be disappointed by what we ended up with.
Directed by: Shane Black
Written by: Fred Dekker, Shane Black
Release Date: Sept. 14, 2018
Run Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox