This is how I imagine the decision to make The Predator was made:
Executive 1: “You know what? We should make another Predator movie”
Executive 2: “Not this again. Look, we’ve been over this. That IP is cursed. No way.”
Executive 1: “I know, I know but we’ve been thinking about it the wrong way. Theres no need to try and re-invent the wheel here. All I’m suggesting is staying true to the original story’s roots. Hunter vs Hunted in the wilderness. Humanity going up against impossible odds and still winning.”
Executive 2: “Sounds boring. Besides, audiences are a lot for demanding now. The CGI alone would make it financially nonviable. Not unless you pitch a new MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).”
Executive 1: “With the right script and a decent director the plot wouldn’t have to hinge on massive set pieces. The first movie had surprisingly little. Explosions? Sure. CGI? Not so much. I’m telling you, this could work. Not every movie has to be a cinematic universe.”
Executive 2: “Larry wouldn’t go for it and you know it.”
Executive 1: “Larry has four ex wives and a cocaine habit. I wouldn’t trust his opinion on anything.”
Executive 2: “He’s also our boss.”
Executive 1: “Fair point. Alright we can throw him a bone or two but I still think the world is ready for the next chapter of the Predator story.”
Executive 2: “Sigh. Fine. I’ll take it up the ladder.”
(Two weeks later)
Larry: “Guys, good news. We’re making a new Predator movie.”
Executive 1: Yessss!
Larry: “Thing is, we’re gonna need some changes to the script. The whole jungle thing is so 1980s. We need a new setting. Like the suburbs.”
Executive 1: “I’m sorry. Did you say suburbs?”
Executive 2: (Under his breath) “Wait for it.”
Larry: “Also, this is script is so darn grim. Where is the humor fellas? Where is the heart? Lets have some fun yeah? Put some one liners in there. And instead of a typical team of spec ops bad-assess, lets push the envelope. Lets make em combat vets with mental disorders. And a hot chick. And a kid. No, no. An autistic kid. And lot more action. Did I mention one liners? Lets MCU this mother!”
Executive 2: “There it is.”
Executive 1: “Oh dear God. What did I do?”
Executive 2: “Told you. This IP is cursed.”
If you found the above amusing, congratulations! You have effectively found more entertainment in reading a fictitious rendering about the thinking behind “The Predator” than you will from the actual movie itself. You can now go about your day knowing you wont waste your time and money on yet another train wreck of a franchise. If however, the minutiae of a train wreck interest you, by all means, read on.
If it isn’t obvious by now, Predator is a terrible, terrible film. It is so bad, it should be a mandatory watch for budding film makers as a good example of how NOT to make one. Where does one even begin with this mess? With the beginning, I suppose. Which just might be the best part of the film. It starts by ticking all the right boxes. A night time spec ops mission in the jungle WITH a crashing UFO? Nice! Judicious use of the original Predator theme to set the mood? Awesome! Sure, the first few minutes of The Predator goes above and beyond in setting up the expectations of old fans. Unfortunately, every single thing from that point on spits on said expectations.
There is no real plot to speak of. Not unless you think a Tier One spec ops dude sending stolen mysterious alien weaponry to his nine year old son is a plot. Yes that really happened. Or maybe the plot has something to do with the idea that the Predator isn’t really the bad guy because there is like a super bad “Hulk Predator” with his two Predator dogs who is even worse. Yes, that is a thing too. There is also this idea that climate change means humanity is doomed so the Predators must now go on overdrive to harvest human DNA. Because clearly, all the centuries they spent hunting on this planet clearly wasn’t enough. Look, just take my word for it, there is no real plot here.
Also lacking is any depth to the characters. And I do mean “any”. All the viewer is subjected to is variations of “wise cracking person that can shoot”. Even the lead’s (played by Boyd Holbrook) strained relationship with his family is a poor attempt at giving a cardboard cutout some semblance of a soul. It’s not that the cast is made up of “bad” actors. Talent is not the problem here. Olivia Munn’s character actually showed some promise in the first few minutes but as with everything else in this movie, it quickly unravels into a tangled mess. She exists purely as a walking prop, a prop whose sole job is exposition. The issue then, has to be that of bad directing and jaw droppingly bad writing. The same treatment has been meted out to every other character here.
Whatever promise of a plot there is, quickly gets thrown under the clown car. Characters don’t so much evolve as just “decide” to be courageous when the situation demands it. When they are not being action heroes they are spewing ill timed and unnecessary quips. How did the biologist/scientist/hot science chick suddenly become a crack shot and absolutely fearless? Who cares? She’s hot! Not enough? Fine. Here you go, have a complimentary joke. Don’t worry about stakes or threats either. Any critical players in this comedy of errors are protected by the greatest defense any fictional character can hope for: Plot armor. That magical blessing which ensures a key figure in a story cant be killed by virtue of being central to the plot. In other words, if a character is too important to the story, he/she is effectively invincible. The monster can wreck havoc with the rest of the planet, tear highly trained soldiers limb form limb, but the little child that is key to the plot? He’s untouchable.
The humor is inconsistent, poorly tied and infuriating in its frequency. The original movie had its share of quips and killer one liners. For instance, who can forget the ridiculous but epic line “I ain’t got time to bleed?” But for all its humor, it did not take way from the fact that a team of super bad asses was shitting their pants when they realized what they were up against. I mean the movie had Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime and HE was terrified. Here? The entire cast cant stop making one liners. Bad one liners at that. Its like they had a quota or something. One of the characters (played by Thomas Jane) actually has Tourrete’s syndrome, a quirk that I now realize was given purely for comedic purposes. It is obvious that regardless of editing mishaps, this movie was supposed to be funny above anything else. It isn’t of course. Not in a deliberate way at least. The biggest laughs I had were during what I can only assume were moments of poignancy. One of these involves the death of two characters. I laughed so hard I damn near choked on my popcorn. Holy hell, how did this travesty even get made?
So horrible is the writing here that it effectively takes the most terrifying creatures in sci-fi and effectively makes it look like any other humanoid being. Apparently its the tech that is terrifying. Not the being behind it. Theres more than a few scenes here show humans use Predator weapons as if it were just a matter of slapping it on and letting the gizmo do its thing. Turns out it wasn’t heat vision, super strength or those toothy grins that made Predators apex hunters. It was apps. For all we know, the Predator in the original film was just a moody teen with a bad “Pokemon Go” habit. I cannot believe how awful this movie is.
Even the special effects are all over the place. To its credit, there are some scenes where the Predator creature looks impressive as all get out. But they are immediately followed by shots were the CGI washes away any good impressions that were forming. I suspect this has to do with using costumes and full body suits vs CGI but I cant say for certain. As with everything else here, there is no consistency at all.
Part of me wonders if my expectations are skewed. Maybe my love of the franchise makes objectively impossible. But heres the thing: none of the decisions taken in making the film, ie, the move to the suburbs, the unusual casting (what on earth is Keegan Micheal Key doing here ffs?!?), the convoluted storyline or the abundance of one liners are necessarily doomed to fail. All of those ingredients could theoretically come together to make something, if not completely satisfying to old fans, at least enjoyable to watch. Holbrook isn’t bad, he did an excellent job in “Logan” and was compelling enough in “Narcos”. The villain (played by Stirling K Brown) just like the movie, is also brimming with false promise. Brown, one of the better actors here, is clearly having fun playing the bad guy and does an impressive job with terrible lines he has. Even the director has some serious cred. Has written and directed gems like “Lethal Weapon”, “The Long Kiss Goodnight” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and “Iron Man 3”. Hell, he was actually IN the original Predator from 1987. What happened here? Was it studio interference? Overconfidence? Incompetent writers? A bad batch of LSD? What the hell happened?
Just goes to show that no amount of talent can save a terrible script. Keep in mind that this is not a reboot but a continuation of a tale 30 years in the making. It just fails on every level. There are bad movies, there are movies that are edited poorly, there are movies that run into serous production issues. There are also movies that are technically terrible but still fun to experience (I’m looking at you Suicide Squad). But then there are steaming piles of celluloid crap that are downright insulting to watch. The Predator is one such pile.
Avoid with extreme prejudice. This IP is cursed.
FINAL SCORE: 2/10