Who would’ve thought that almost three decades after an ensemble of rag-tag soldiers ventured deep into the Amazon jungle in John McTiernan’s ‘Predator’ that one of its stars would helm its sequel? Shane Black, most known now for his directorial efforts in 2016’s ‘The Nice Guys’ and the third addition in the ‘Iron Man’ trilogy, starred as Hawkins in the original ‘Predator’; a survive-against-all-odds extra-terrestrial slasher that has gained cult status since its release in 1987.
Since then, the ‘Predator’ franchise has spawned four sequels that, safe to say, have not been welcomed with open arms by critics. Whilst 1990’s ‘Predator 2’ and 2010’s ‘Predators’ are considered the best of the litter by fans, (let’s just forget about the Alien vs. Predator spin-offs) it’s noticeable that the franchise has favoured a more action-oriented focus than the original’s ‘slasher’ format; a palpable shift in perspective that is perhaps no more prevalent than in Black’s 2018 rejuvenation of the franchise. Granted, this is more of a reboot than a sequel, but there’s still a lot to be enjoyed here.
Like the opening scenes of the original, ‘The Predator’ opens with a spaceship travelling across the wide depths of the Galaxy, being chased and attacked by another ship; a silhouette of a gigantic predator in the cockpit. As the fleeing ship crash lands on Earth and the Government captures the rogue Predator, humanity learns a terrifying truth: the Predators are evolving. But when the detained alien escapes with a more superior Predator hunting it, it’s up to a rag-tag team of misfit militants to rescue humanity from extinction.
The overwhelming success of McTiernan’s original was largely dependant on the inclusion of its ensemble crew in unknown territory with each character bringing something unique to the table. Whether it was Schwarzenegger’s testosterone-swelled, calculating Dutch or Sonny Landham’s muted Billy, each character felt different. Shane Black’s crew fails to hit such heights. There’s a palpable lack of characterisation from the screenplay that sadly bleeds onto the proceedings, resulting in an emotional disconnection from the viewer and the characters. That’s not to say that there’s fun to be had with the crew. What they lack in depth they make up for in humour, and there are plenty of laughs to be had here. With the likes of Keegan Michael-Key and Sterling K. Brown channelling Shane Black’s trademark wit onto the big screen, ‘The Predator’ is perhaps more comedic than it ought to be; but whether that impedes one’s expectations of the movie will solely depend on what type of film you’re letting yourself in for.
But the issue is when the humour dips its toes into offensive territory. With terminology like “retard” being used to describe a child with autism in 2018, there will inevitably be backlash from the movie-going community, and rightly so. In fact, the prevalence of autism as a plot device through Jacob Tremblay’s character is as problematic as it is damaging to those diagnosed with autism – a form of exploitation that is inexcusably out-dated. It’s an issue that warrants its own area of discussion.
Controversy aside, ‘The Predator’ boasts a collection of well-executed action set pieces that are thrilling to watch. Tantamount to the original, the action is unflinching in its explicitness with an onus being placed on gut-wrenching gore and inventive ways of displaying the Predator’s physical prowess over his prey. There are moments where the Predator tears through his opponents like a fatality out of a Mortal Kombat game, and my god is it fun to watch. Thankfully the similarities to the original don’t stop there. There’s a true sense of nostalgia that seeps through the film with little nods made to McTiernan’s film, from Donald McAlpine’s distinctive tribal score being brought back and the fun (albeit cheesy) play on Schwarzenegger’s memorable one-liners (“You one beautiful motherfucker”).
Your enjoyment of ‘The Predator’ will depend on your preconceived expectations for the movie. The trailers are faithful in their promise of an adrenaline-fuelled, comedic continuation of the franchise, and if you’re expecting anything else, you will be left disappointed.
Directed by: Shane Black
Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera.