Infrared vision, cloaking, voice record playback, and a bunch more high tech weapons and gadgets make for one fiercely decked out hunter. Combine all that with a strong sense of honor and a society built upon the thrill of the hunt and you get the Yautja a race of space-faring aliens better known as Predators. The first movie came out June 12th, 1987, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and since then has been a delight to revisit for many.
Before I get into the review for the newest entry in the Predator franchise, here’s a bit of a recap for those unfamiliar with the films. Predator starts off like any normal 80’s action flick. A group of heavily armed military men bursting at the seams with muscles (for the most part) go into the jungle to kill some bad guys and rescue a hostage. Unfortunately, it all goes to shit when they come across the Predator and almost the entire team gets wiped out. That first movie had a wonderful mix of action, setups with nice payoffs, and some glorious one-liners.
The second movie moves to the “concrete jungle” when a Predator is running rampant in a heat-stricken Los Angeles. Personally, I enjoyed Predator 2 a bit more than the original, partially because it expands upon the Predator lore. It showcased more of the trophy collection and cleaning process (which will be touched upon in the actual review) as well as the interior of a ship. All while having great characters, and an interesting plot that makes it stand out.
Even the 2010 film Predators was an interesting take on the franchise. Taking the hunting aspect and ramping it up by it being on a hunting preserve planet with a ragtag group of captured humans with various backgrounds. Even introducing a new faction of the Predators and showing that Yautja is willing to work with humans to aid in their goal.
So now here we are, thirty-one years later with the next big entry, The Predator. I will keep this review spoiler free as much as possible so some parts can be a surprise for you if you’re going to watch it. Overall, the movie is ok. It seems like a B-movie with a AAA budget, so if you go into it not knowing anything about the other Predator movies or expecting a “so bad it’s good” movie than you should enjoy it. If you go into this expecting a proper Predator movie than you will be sorely disappointed.
The opening scene of the movie is really nice with great use of both CG and practical effects. It starts off with a Yautja ship being chased down by another one before escaping via an interesting and really neat looking warp drive. The ship that escaped, however, does get damaged and crash lands on earth to be discovered by military sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) who takes a Predator bio mask and vambrace to his house that eventually ends up in the hands of his kid, Rory (Jacob Tremblay).
Rory is shown to be a fast learner and has an eidetic memory but hates loud noises. That is shown when he was at school and some bullies set off a fire alarm by him curling up into a ball with hands over ears. What else happens is odd and uncomfortable. Normal bully insults are typically bad or unimaginative. That is what makes it uncomfortable. But when it comes to this film, you have two adolescent boys saying stuff like “I’m hungry for an ass burger sandwich.” to another boy of the same age, it just comes across as odd, to say the least. I know it was meant to be taken as “Let’s kick his ass.” And I did take it that way but it just seemed off and took me out of the movie. Bullies may be unimaginative at times but they tend to have better insults than that.
Now that the establishing scenes are out of the way to let me blast through the rest of my review. To start that off we will talk about the Yautja. I do not mind new stuff to lore or even something radically different. This movie makes it seem as though director Shane Black only knows the basics of Predator lore. The big bad Yautja of the movie wears no bio mask yet still has the heads-up display that the bio mask gives. I guess he is not only genetically modified but mechanically as well, even though that was never shown or talked about at all. The voice recorder and playback which allows the Yautja to mimic the voices of their prey are nowhere near Predators that mimic voices of certain characters. So other than some sort of Yautja internet that exists, the masks seems useless in this movie. The Yautja code of conduct on hunts are also thrown out the window on scenes as well. The movie even gives a new reasoning as to why they collect trophies, though the reason makes no sense when you think of the scene from Predator 2 where the City Hunter Predator uses lightning to clean his trophy.
The whole movie hinges largely on Rory and for no good reason than that Shane Black likes to have kids play pivotal roles in his movies. Rory manages to learn the Yautja language fluently in a night and maybe a day. I do not know how fast it can take someone with an eidetic memory to learn a second language but that seems insanely fast. I am currently self-teaching myself Japanese and that is a venture and a half for someone of average intellect. So Rory is a huge part of the movie and is even a bystander during a massive, though very quiet (despite there being no silencers on any of the guns), gun fight. During it, Rory appears to be fine and unphased despite not being able to handle loud noises. I guess that does not apply to his character during pivotal moments. My issue with the character is he just feels too much like a deus ex machina for no good reason.
The scientist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) starts off as a really good though typical (an animal loving scientist with a fascination of alien life forms) character you’d come to expect from these alien stories. However, after meeting up with the main group (called Group 2) she turns into some gun-wielding badass after having been shown in a panicky state with utter incompetence in a life and death situation. There was nothing in what little backstory we were given for her character to show that she can fire military grade automatic weapons with ease.
I have many bad things to say about the movie but let me interject with something great. That great thing is “Group 2”. From the start of when Quinn meets Group 2 I was like ok, “These are just throw away characters.” Though I did enjoy the chemistry and fluidity of their lines and jokes. After seeing that they were indeed in for the long haul I was presently surprised. Though one did say “Get to the choppers.” in a half-arsed Arnold impression which makes no sense in the context of the movie seeing as how Arnold was the main character of the first movie. And that did take me out of the movie because of that fact. Still, though Group 2 is by far the high light of the entire movie. even if they do some very stupid stuff by the end of it.
To top off this blood-soaked cake, the cherry on top is that a lot of the purposeful comedy of the movie is just poorly done. They have a joke about the human name of the “Predator” by saying it does not accurately describe their race. That to me felt un-needed and flat. Especially when coming from someone in Group 2.
Overall, the movie has many flaws that outweigh the good in my eyes. I am not a die-hard fan of the Predator series, but I do love and appreciate the first three movies and even enjoyed both AVP movies. They had their flaws too especially the AVP movies but they did not seem to shit on the established lore and shove in stupid Deus Ex Machinas like The Predator does. I recommend checking this new iteration out if you don’t care for this franchise and enjoy “so bad their good” movies. The Predator welcomes newcomers to the franchise but fails at being a worthy entry for die-hard fans. – TS