Written by: Cesar Perez, CC2K Staff Writer
When it was announced that Shane Black would direct The Predator, it was safe to assume the Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director was brought in to bring back some connection to the original 1987 Predator. Since John McTiernan started the series there have been two sequels and two crossover films with the Alien franchise which have all been critically panned while simultaneously straying further away from the elements that made the original a sci-fi action classic.
The franchise has gone off the rails and Shane Black, who played a small role in Predator, was supposed to be the man to get it back on track. With an incredibly talented ensemble cast and Black behind the camera equipped with his signature comedic wit, the stage was set for The Predator to return to the glory the franchise enjoyed in 1987. Sadly, The Predator is a bloated and cluttered action film more akin to the failed sequels than it is to Schwarzenegger’s original triumph.
The Predator follows a group of former United States soldiers led by Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) as they attempt to track down and kill an enhanced hybrid Predator terrorizing every human in its path. Meanwhile, government agent Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), has plans of his own as he races to capture the Predator to study and examine the extraterrestrial species with the help of biologist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn). Rounding out the cast is Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Jacob Tremblay, and Alfie Allen.
The vulgar back and forth banter between the former United States soldiers is a return to the franchise’s roots. The reputation Shane Black has for his clever writing and penchant for comedy leads you to believe this would be a strength. The quips come one after another with Black desperately hoping for them to land, but most of the time the jokes miss the mark.
What should have been a strength in The Predator ends ups being a detriment as Shane Black struggles to provide any real character development across the ensemble cast. Despite the depthless writing, Sterling K. Brown manages to standout as there is no denying his excellence. The same can be said about Trevante Rhodes, whose charm isn’t lost in the shuffle. Nevertheless, the cast doesn’t vibe well with one another and feels forcibly meshed together. Keegan-Michael Key who plays the wisecracking Coyle and Thomas Jane who plays Baxley, a man suffering from PTSD, notably feel out of place and their performances will either be praised or heavily criticized.
In terms of the special effects and character design, there is nothing new in The Predator that ever comes close to topping Stan Winston’s legendary Predator design seen in the original film. Following a scene where a sedated Predator escapes out of a lab where it’s being held captive, Shane Black does not let up on the action and The Predator proceeds to move a mile a minute. The flurry of action becomes overwhelming to a point where audiences become numb to the special effects, that are often hit or miss. The CGI of the Predator shines on occasion but is noticeably lackluster in some scenes. Even worse is the CGI for the Predator dogs, who are for the most part forgettable, even with their updated look.
In a sad attempt to improve on Winston’s design, the special effects team introduces a bigger Predator that is supposed to fall in line with the film’s tagline “The hunt has evolved.” There isn’t much innovation that makes this claim ring true. The supposedly enhanced Predator is a lazy novelty that becomes stale after two minutes on-screen. The awe of the character is clearly wearing off and is no longer the terrifying, calculated killing machine seen in the original film. In The Predator, the extraterrestrial isn’t the least bit stealthy and is just sloppy, losing all of its craftiness.
Black manages to deliver a Whoopi Goldberg Predator lookalike joke that I’m sure we;’ve all been waiting for. Although there is some summer blockbuster popcorn flick level enjoyment to be had in The Predator, it shares too many unfavorable qualities with the films that proceeded it. Ending with a hint at a possible sequel, which I’m sure we’ll be subjected to, it’s obvious the Predator needs to end its hunt and the franchise needs to be put to rest, for good.