“From the first page, it didn’t read like a Predator film,” said Stacey Snider, Chief-executive-officer of 20th Century Fox, on the script of The Predator. Written by Shane Black (also on directing duties) and Fred Dekker, hopes were high for a franchise that’s been sideswiped by two awful Alien vs Predator movies. As a series on its own, it doesn’t get enough credit. Predator is an action classic while Predator 2 and Predators are enjoyable flicks. The idea of Shane Black at the helm was salivating for fan boys and critics alike. Not only is he known for his stylish and witty scripts, he also holds the honour of being the first on-screen kill of the Predator, having been butchered in the original film. The script might not have read like a Predator film, but what about the final product? Black does well to heighten the testosterone like the first and third films while adding more humour much like Predator 2 did. While the original sequel dipped its toe in the water of comic relief, The Predator belly flops in.
Set in the present day, after the first two but before the third one, Army Ranger sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) and his team are attacked by the Predator on a hostage retrieval mission. His team are killed but McKenna manages to incapacitate it. The only survivor, his story is refuted by the authorities and he’s held captive with other military misfits. Meanwhile the Predator is taken to a lab for experimentation by government agent will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) who recruits Dr. Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), an evolutionary biologist to study the alien who they know from the plots of previous films. Naturally, the Predator breaks free and the fun really begins.
Or it should do. Instead what follows is a mess of a movie that, despite a few decent set pieces, is highly unsatisfying. What is setup as a glorified chase movie for the second act lacks any real thrills. The third act picks up the pace and presents an intriguing premise, however as the Predator picks off lesser characters one by one, it’s confusing as to why we’re supposed to care. A great cast on paper, they’re given little to work with, portraying poor characters stripped of depth and laced with stereotypes. This worked in 1987, here the magic is far from being recreated.
For a franchise that’s prided itself on ground-breaking effects, the CGI on display is woeful. The use of Predator dogs (an idea used much better in Predators) does nothing but provide laughs where there shouldn’t be, which contrasts with the many jokes that fall flat. The gags are lazy and eye rolling. A couple of homages are groan inducing as Black appears to be mocking what came before as oppose to pay tribute. The script repeats the same joke regarding the erroneous naming of the Predator itself, which, if mildly amusing the first time, becomes derisive when repeated.
Black shoehorns his own brand of humour into the film, much like he did with Iron Man 3. While this works with his original scripts, the results are less successful when he’s dealing with a franchise. With Ridley Scott taking the Alien series in questionable directions, it appears Predator is doomed to a similar journey albeit with more emphasis on absurdity than pomposity. With at least two other films planned, it’s yet to be seen if this will kick-start a franchise that just can’t seem to catch light. The awful final scene sets up a sequel that does nothing to inspire hope that it will be an improvement. The worst of the Predator films, it still sits above the crossover attempts. A disappointing movie that oozes mediocrity. Black and Dekker can do so much better.