DIR: Shane Black • WRI: Fred Dekker, Shane Black • DOP: Larry Fong • ED: Harry B. Miller III • MUS: Henry Jackman • DES: Martin Whist • PRO: John Davis, Lawrence Gordon • CAST: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key
Director Shane Black is no stranger to the Predator franchise having starred as Rick Hawkins in 1987’s Predator. Fast forward thirty one years and the latest addition to the franchise is The Predator, directed by Black, albeit with a troubled production. This sequel had its initial release date of February 2018 pushed to September 2018 amidst reports of poor test screening reception, which led to significant reshoots. Black has also faced heavy criticism for casting a registered sex-offender in a scene with Olivia Munn, whom has now spoken out against the director for doing so. The scene was subsequently removed from the film.
This latest addition stars Boyd Holbrook as Quinn McKenna, a skilled army sniper, who is preparing to intercept a drug cartel in Mexico, when his crew becomes interrupted by the arrival of a spacecraft containing a ‘predator’. Quinn manages to take down the creature using its own technology and steals two pieces of its equipment as proof of the creature’s existence. Before Quinn is apprehended by government agent Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), he posts the stolen equipment to himself. When the items are then delivered to his house, Quinn’s son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) curiously plays with the equipment, inadvertently bringing upon the arrival of another predator to earth. The original predator escapes from a government facility and is tracking down his stolen equipment, identifying Rory as a target. The hunter then becomes the hunted as the newly-arrived predator’s prime target is one of their own. With the assistance of Dr. Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), Quinn and his crew of ‘Loonies’ must protect Rory and stop the predators.
One of the significant issues with The Predator is its script. With Shane Black’s previous works, including the Lethal Weapon scripts and 2016’s The Nice Guys, Black has a track record of great humour. However, not for the want of trying, the humour in this film does not work. Once we meet the ‘Loonies’, there are one-liners aplenty. Yet, they fall flat on each occasion. Although, there is one gag involving a thumbs up that is effective and also a humorous line describing the predator as an “alien Whoopi Goldberg”. The character count also becomes bloated. Some are completely insignificant such as Alfie Allen’s Lynch who bears no impact whatsoever. Olivia Munn’s Dr. Casey Bracket is one of the standout characters but the script affects her character development. Much like other female STEM professionals in film, her work is affected and disregarded by male characters and there is one sequence where she is forced by Quinn to become a mothering figure for Rory, which felt regressive after initial hope for her character development.
Also, The Predator needed to branch out from Predator’s legacy and success. The latter had such physicality and grit in what was a post-Vietnam film set in a jungle. Predator had the gore, as this film does, but it also created such tension in sequences such as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch fortunately camouflaging himself from the predator in mud. With The Predator, it’s more of a post-9/11 film with subtextual elements involving technological and arms races between nations. Here, the increase in alien technology does not contribute to any significant dramatic effect. The second predator brings two ‘dogs’ to earth to emphasise the sports hunter aspect of these alien creatures. Yet, they become laughable with one of them later acting like a trained house dog for the predator’s enemies (as well as having some dodgy CGI).
Overall, The Predator is the not the worst entry in the Predator franchise and the running time of 107 minutes is paced efficiently. It resembled 2016’s Independence Day: Resurgence in the sense that bigger does not necessarily mean better for franchise sequels. It’s amped up with fun action sequences and deserves its R-rating but it’s ultimately betrayed by its script and it also shows disregard towards Rory’s autism and Baxley’s (Thomas Jane) Tourette syndrome with its dialogue.
Shane Black obviously has an affinity for this franchise and it’s a shame The Predator does not match Predator’s success. It was plagued by production problems and perhaps it foresighted the end product. However, with Disney attempting to acquire 21st Century Fox, Black could always try again with the inevitable Avengers vs X-Men vs Alien vs Predator spin-off.