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Review: The Predator (2018)

The Predator (2018)

Directed by: Shane Black

Premise: The fourth standalone Predator film. A soldier (Boyd Holbrook) witnesses an extraterrestrial spaceship crash on Earth and sends some of the alien technology to his son. He then joins with a group of servicemen to protect his family from government agents and aliens.

What Works: The Predator was co-written and directed by Shane Black and the picture benefits from the filmmaker’s characteristic style. Black has a way of writing masculine characters in a way that is self-aware and fun without becoming obnoxious. He also frequently puts a new spin on familiar genres like the buddy cop formula in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and superheroes in Iron Man 3, incorporating unexpected twists and providing a fresh take on familiar material. Those qualities are on display in The Predator. The movie has enough in common with the previous Predator films to satisfy longtime fans while also pushing the franchise into new and interesting directions. This is one of the few Predator films to build on the concept and it does that aggressively. There is an admirable ambition to The Predator. Whatever the problems with this film—and there are many—it never feels lazy. The filmmakers put on a show with a mix of action, horror, and humor and the film is certainly not boring.  

What Doesn’t: The Predator is a hot mess. The story is a jumble of plotlines and the movie suffers from too many characters. No one is well defined. Unlike the underrated 2010 effort Predators, which applied the hunting themes to the action and to the human relationships, 2018’s The Predator does almost nothing with its characters. They just run and shoot. The Predator incorporates some evolutionary ideas into a subplot involving a boy with Asperger’s syndrome (Jacob Tremblay) but it’s quite stupid. The primary antagonist of The Predator is not the extraterrestrial sports hunter but rather an unscrupulous government agent played by Sterling K. Brown. His actions don’t make sense and oftentimes neither does anyone else’s. Characters make plainly absurd decisions that aren’t motivated by character flaws or plot mechanics. The story jerks the audience around from place to place and the pacing is off. This is a poorly edited film. It’s well documented that The Predator had a complex post-production saga with a lot of the film reshot. That is quite evident in The Predator especially in the last third of the picture. Some of the pickups are obvious and don’t quite match the rest of the picture. The set pieces are especially messy. The action doesn’t cut together and some of the characters’ fates are unclear. Perhaps most misjudged is the use of the titular alien. The very title of The Predator suggests that this movie would put the creature at the center of the action and in fact the premise of this story is poised to do that but the alien is shoved into the background in ways that just make the film confusing.

Bottom Line: The Predator is an entertaining mess. The film succeeds at putting on a show but it is an overwhelming cacophony of action, characters, and plot threads. This film doesn’t give the 1987 classic the sequel it deserves.

Episode: #718 (September 30, 2018)