Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Predator

John McTiernan's Predator is a sci-fi action flick that holds up three decades later. Unfortunately, you can't say the same for its sequels. Writer/director Shane Black is the latest to try his hand at breathing some new life into the franchise. Set in present day, The Predator acknowledges the previous films and offers more than a handful of callbacks (including someone actually yelling to "Get to the chopper!").

I think expectations are going to play a large role in audience reaction to the film. On one-hand it does work as a throwaway B-movie. On the other the film misses the mark with a convoluted script and an underwhelming ending. Despite enjoying Black's work, I expected very little from the movie and ended up having an okay time (while I freely admit that the elements here could have been put to far better use).

The first Predator arrives on Earth causing havoc. The second, uber-Predator (and his Predator dogs), follows later. I won't give away the relationship between the pair, or why they are on Earth, but it is far more complicated than simply hunting for sport (making a pretty large deviation from other Predator films).

The humans this time are led by a sniper (Boyd Holbrook) who alone survives contact with the first Predator and gets thrown into a rolling loony bin of other soldiers with mental issues (Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, and Augusto Aguilera). These characters provide most of the film's yucks, which are meant to balance the gorier action sequences. Some work better than others. Other characters include Sterling K. Brown as your typical government asshole (whose dickishness continues at all times whether or not it serves the plot or his own interests), Olivia Munn and Jake Busey as scientists studying the aliens, and Yvonne Strahovski and Jacob Tremblay as our lead soldier's estranged wife and autistic son. Munn makes out better than most, and sadly the film has no idea on how to use Strahovski.

Is the film worth seeing? Although I'm unlikely to seek it out again anytime soon, I'm going with a marginal (if unenthusiastic) yes. As flawed as it is, and it has issues with plot, tone, inconsistent CGI, and odd editing that actually obscures the fate of at least one important character, Black does deliver his version of an 80 action flick with modern sensibilities. Sadly, we have to wait nearly the whole movie for a true Predator hunt (which ends anticlimactically) and the films' epilogue doesn't to much to improve on the disappointing ending. Still, there is fun to be had here for those who keep their expectations in check.

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