I love the original Predator movie, and most of the other movies in the series – for a concise summation, check my review here: http://jwardadventures.blogspot.com/2015/03/retro-movie-review-predator-r-107.html .
This new version, which is a sequel/reboot type thing is from Shane Black, who was one of the cast members of the original Predator in 1987. The story begins with one Predator (v1) barely escaping capture from another Predator (v2) and then crashing on earth. He happens to crash right in the middle of American military sniper Quinn McKenna’s assignment. McKenna seems to get his target, but immediately after, he has a run in with Predator v1 and steals his mask and wrist gauntlet, mailing them home, thinking he’ll need evidence. The Predator, other crash evidence, and eventually McKenna are all collected by a suspicious paramilitary dude named Traeger, even though they miss the ship.
Traeger and company interrogate McKenna to find out what he saw while they also collect Dr. Casey Bracket, who seems to be on the short list of doctors to call if an alien crash lands. They bring her back to their lab so that she can examine the creature and it’s biomedical-ness. Meanwhile, McKenna gets loaded on a bus full of “Loonies” (their description, not mine) of military prisoners who are in psychological lock down and group therapy. The bus head back to the lab, because Traeger and co. realize that they are missing pieces of gear (they have gear they’ve collected from other Predators from other movies, so they realize the mask is missing) and they want to ask Traeger about it. Well, the Predator wakes up, gets angry – and promptly escapes, but not before getting furious about the fact that his mask and gauntlet are not in the lab with him.
The loonies finally believe McKenna’s alien story when they see the Predator escape, and help him escape – collect Bracket, and head to McKenna’s ex-wife’s house to pick up the mask and gauntlet. At this point, McKenna’s autistic son has taken the mask and gauntlet to wear as a Halloween costume, so he’s out and about with them. And, because he’s autistic, he seems to have figured out some of the technology. McKenna and co. find the kid, get the stuff, but then get found by Predator v1, who insists on getting his stuff back. Of course, he then gets attacked by Predator v2, who is 11 feet tall, and all kinds of bioengineered bigger and better. And yes, brought two space dogs with him to hunt.
From that point on, McKenna and co. have to evade Traeger and co. as well as Predator v2, who actually just wants to find the ship from Predator v1 so he can destroy it because….sigh…. they are apparently waiting for our planet to heat up so they can have it, and Predator v1 wanted to give us a weapon to help fight back against the rest of the Predators.
Shane Black has not directed many movies, he’s actually more of a writer, but I loved Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Iron Man 3 was not bad. However, this is not great. It’s not as bad as I was fearing, and there is the framework present of what could have been a great movie, but several missteps lead to it being a struggle.
Let’s start with the positives.
- · I really enjoyed the first few minutes. Seeing McKenna square off with Predator v1 in the jungle was great, really cool.
- · I liked the idea of the lab, and the fact that Traeger’s crew (including Jake Busey – who was awesome) has been collecting items left behind and studying them for some time.
- · I also liked the Predator lab-escape sequence, and how clearly upset the Predator was that his mask and gauntlet were missing. One of the major strengths of Predator movies is casting a great creature actor who can make it perfectly clear what the Predator is thinking without dialogue. This species is more advanced than us in just about every way, we should be able to tell what they are thinking. Also – this is the first time we’ve seen a Predator use that crazy-ass mouth to bite somebody.
- · I liked the ‘she’s-weaponless-so-I-won’t-kill-her-bit’, but found it frustrating that Bracket had to be naked for that.
- · I enjoyed Sterling K. Brown’s performance as Traeger, he was a great scene-chewing villain.
- · I enjoyed the “loonies” – to a point. I did not like that the mental illnesses were played for jokes. It’s 2018, we’re well beyond that, but I did like all the actors, I thought they did what they could with what they had. They were a fun group, and I like how they eventually fell into helping McKenna.
- · At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about the Predator v2, once finding the ship, using Traeger’s translation software to communicate with the humans, but then I remembered they are way more intelligent than us, and of course he was arrogant enough to take the opportunity to tell the humans he was going to eliminate the ship and then eliminate them. Not sure this counts as a positive – maybe a neutral?
Okay – let’s talk about what I didn’t like.
- · McKenna’s son is immediately introduced with autism as some school bullies pull a fire alarm and he sits rocking and holding his ears. Then the bullies dump a bunch of chess boards and he puts them all back perfectly. All we needed was the chess bit – we don’t need bullies picking on a autistic kid – again, it’s 2018, that was unnecessary. I could have done without the kid entirely, but his autism is explained as the way he can work the Predator technology, which leads to them finding the ship, etc. When the kid wears the mask out for Halloween he straight up kills a random dude because the mask blows him up while the kid is again attempting to evade the bullies. And that is never mentioned again – he did murder a guy.
- · While I enjoyed the stuff in the lab, I really hated that Bracket had to be naked for the ‘decontamination’ sequence, she could have been in underclothes – one more time, it is 2018 – get with it.
- · And, as much as I enjoyed the ‘loonies’, they were together because they all had mental health issues that were played for laughs – which is not just unnecessary at this point, it’s inexcusable. Baxley has Tourette’s in a way that is played exclusively for laughs – it was insulting. These are fine actors, let them just be a group of vets in a military prison bus – the added mental issues was ridiculous, painful, insulting, and shortsighted.
- · I am not sure how I felt about Predator v2 – it’s 11 feet tall and all CGI. I love the real prosthetics of the Predator v1 outfit and the creature acting inside them. There’s still a disconnect with a CGI character, no matter how well done.
- · Also, the story point that the Predators are collecting spinal fluid from whatever they hunt and using it to bioengineer themselves better…what?!? And that they now want our planet? And that one is going to rebel and help us? Nonsense.
- · On that point, the fact that the thing the Predator v1 left for us in the ship was a suit called a “Predator Killer”? Stupid. I wanted it to be a xenomorph egg, but I’m not sure that would have fit in this particular story.
- · Again, huge misfire to not end the movie with Bracket walking her space dog and her regular dog. That space dog made it through the whole movie and was obviously not leaving her side, so give us some closure on that.
Honestly, it felt like there were a lot of loose ends that did not get tied up correctly or well. I expected more from Shane Black, and while I did like parts of this, there were more parts I didn’t like. I did enjoy the cast:
- Boyd Holbrook, who I had previously seen in Logan (this might be his character’s prequel to Logan, it’s almost the same character), is not bad at all as McKenna. Gruff and determined, not particularly thrilled about his sniper duties, he’s quick to get his new buddies to follow him and form a new ‘unit’.
- Trevante Rhodes plays Nebraska Williams and was very good in this. Following up Moonlight with this movie is a bold move. He’s smooth and charming, and easy to buy as a natural leader. His character’s mental illness seemed to be depression, and while unnecessary, he played it as well as he could.
- Keegan-Michael Key plays Coyle, and is just fantastic. Again, didn’t need the mental illness bit, but loved his friendship with Thomas Jane’s character. He did manage to work some comedy in here and there, and was very entertaining.
- Thomas Jane plays Baxley, and if the other mental illnesses were unnecessary, his Tourette’s was insulting. We’ve made a lot of progress in ensuring those with Tourette’s are treated as normal folks with an issue, and this set it way back in terms of making fun of their outbursts. The character was interesting without that added bit. Jane is better than that, and I thought Shane Black was too.
- Augusto Aguilera plays Nettles, and he does a fine job with what he’s given, I particularly enjoyed the fact that he got upset after everyone saw the Predator for the first time, because he wanted to see it too.
- Alfie Allen is in this as Lynch, but there’s no explanation as to why this random Irish dude is part of their group.
- Sterling K. Brown plays Traeger, and I really did enjoy his part. He’s creepy, weird, and definitely is the villain. He chews all the scenery and seems to have a great time doing it.
- Olivia Munn plays Dr. Casey Bracket, and honestly she did a good job with what she was given. She has plenty of action sequences, and for the most part, attempted to evade the ‘damsel in distress’ trope, even when the movie kept trying to put her in it.
- Jacob Tremblay plays Rory Mckenna, the autistic child, and I just kept thinking how unnecessary that was, he did a decent job with what he was given, but why not just make him a smart kid who is good with gadgets.
- Jake Busey plays the Keyes, the son of the character played by Gary Busey in Predator 2, which is never mentioned, but fun nonetheless. He basically gets to give Bracket a tour of the lab, but I enjoyed it. I should watch Starship Troopers again. Everybody needs a friend like him.
- Yvonne Strahovski plays Emily, the estranged Mrs. McKenna. She also has nothing to do, but give one speech extolling her ex’s character when his new crew questions if they should follow him.
- Brian A. Prince plays the Predator. He’s just shy of 6’10” and a parkour expert. He really did a great job, especially in the escape sequence, and then again when chasing our hero and demanding he drops his weapons. A skilled creature actor can really help you understand what the character is thinking, and he did an amazing job.
- Here he is taking direction in costume, which is pretty hilarious.
- Apparently Edward James Olmos was edited out. What the hell?!? Who edits out Eddie Olmos?
Overall, the movie is not as terrible as I feared based on the reviews I read before going. But it’s also not nearly as good as I hoped it would be. I actually suggest reading a bunch of reviews, and then going to see it. Lower that expectation bar all the way to the floor, and you may find some parts you enjoy!
5 out of 10.
Go back and watch AVP again – I bet now you appreciate it!