It’s been 30 years since the very first Predator film came out and it’s being described by the film’s director as “the deadliest and scariest one yet.” At the very least, I can concede it’s self-aware and refuses to take itself that seriously (or possibly at all). This must be because the team behind it is led by people who have history with the franchise. Director Shane Black was the first main character in the original Predator film to be killed off by the creature and producer John Davis brought this seminal franchise to life.
The movie isn’t a reboot as it is treated as a new chapter in the franchise. What are these “predators” or alien “sport hunters” (as this movie gets pedantic and addresses the incorrect use of the term “predator”) up to? And why do they keep coming back?
“Thirty years later, it’s the same Predator, but over time the Predator has upgraded himself,” Davis says in press material on the movie. “This is not a reinvention and not a redo. This is the franchise you loved, 30 years later. These are the consequences of what has happened. This is what has been going on in the last three decades. They’re badder and bigger—they’ve evolved. It ain’t your daddy’s Predator.”
Olivia Munn’s character, evolutionary biologist Casey Bracket discovers in the movie how these alien creatures have been taking the DNA of the best, most evolved members of certain species and adapts them into their DNA to create these “bigger, badder” Predators.
This discovery happens alongside the action that kicks off right from the get-go when former Army Ranger and Special Forces soldier Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) first encounters the Predator during a mercenary mission in Mexico. He takes some of the creature’s tech as evidence and has these sent back to a post-office box in the U.S. Somehow the tech finds its way to his home, where his young gifted son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) figures out the Predator’s language and tinkers around with the alien tech. This draws the bigger, dare I say, Super Predator to Earth and all hell breaks loose.
As the invaders approach, Quinn is being shipped off and treated by the government as if he was mentally unstable, in an attempt to cover up the extent of Predator’s “excursions” on the planet. He somehow ropes in a group of fellow former soldiers that have been called “the loonies” to save his son, themselves, and the world, by extension, from the aliens.
And while that is a serious task—even when it comes to the more personal mission of saving Quinn’s son—Black approaches this film with a lot of humor. And I mean, a lot. Like you’ll be in the middle of the Predators (and their dogs, yes there are alien hounds) hacking and slashing through people and you’ll get one-liners or banter that’ll try to draw out a laugh from the audience. And it mostly sticks. I heard a lot of laughter and laughed along even through the gore. It kept things entertaining but at the same time, seemed to downplay the severity of the situation. Black says these are the deadliest and scariest and all the jokes made it seem like the cast weren’t that scared of these creatures. Sure, they were bigger but the urgency just wasn’t there.
And there were a lot of action scenes, while not as jarring visually (the CGI looks great), it felt a bit disjointed when it came to the story. Like you’d go from one scene to another and feel like you were missing a key plot point or motivation behind a certain character’s action. You’ll have to infer a lot from what wasn’t said or seen. But then again, there’s only so much you can squeeze into a film that’s one hour and 48 minutes long. And it’s pretty predictable so you won’t have to stretch too far. Plus, as expected, it sets itself up for a sequel. Perhaps Black knew the series needed a bit of silliness. At this point, with that many movies down the line, you have to try something else.
The cast works as well as it could with the material that they had. Holbrook, Munn, and Tremblay share some great banter and many action scenes with the other “loonies” played by actors Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, and Augusto Aguilera.
At times though, their characters felt more like caricatures and that would pull me away from the story a bit. Like the issues, the personal and psychological issues they dealt with became butt of jokes or used as character identifiers and all they needed was to kick ass and kill aliens and suddenly they’re okay. But I guess, there isn’t space to delve into their stories in a popcorn movie.
I did like how they approached Rory and his being on the autism spectrum. Rather than being treated solely as a weakness or disease, his condition is portrayed with genius and perspective that is the next step in our evolution.
The brilliant Sterling K. Brown kicks it up a notch as a nefarious government agent that is in charge of hunting down the Predators and trying to silence Quinn and his crew.
As for the two female characters, don’t expect much complexity. (The production itself is embroiled in some controversy surrounding lead actress Munn and her fight to get her scene with convicted sex offender off the film. In the end, it was taken out and Forbes has been able to detail well what happened and the aftermath in this story). Munn’s character, while portrayed capable for most of the film, also felt somewhat dismissed from the big action scenes. There are moments wherein she comes off as a damsel in distress but at the very least, they didn’t try to work in a romantic subplot here. The only other female actress in the cast, Yvonne Strahovski, had a part that really made her come off just as a secondary character. She plays Quinn’s wife and her most memorable scene had her talking about her husband’s achievements to convince the other soldiers to help him get their son back. There’s not much else I can say about her.
Is the film worth the watch?
If you don’t expect more from what it delivers, then it could be. If you want to see people kick alien butt, then this film delivers that in spades. Don’t think of it as addressing important social issues or loaded topics like PTSD, government cover-ups, and even autism and society at large. At the end of the day, it is still just a big blockbuster that delivers on the action, gore, and a surprisingly large amount of laughs.
6.5 out of 10.
The Predator is now showing in Philippine cinemas nationwide.