'The Predator' movie review: Not the one you wanted

Director: Shane Black

Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Jacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn

There was an appeal in McTiernan’s original Predator. At the time, it was not the best-received film, but thankfully, time has been kind to it and it raised itself to one of the best the ‘80s had to offer, with its complete package of action, tension, great dialogue, comedy and a very, very simple story as its skeleton. It’s surprising to note how similar The Predator is to Predator, yet how very different and unwelcoming it feels.

It starts on a very complicated note: Two alien ships are having a dogfight somewhere in space, and before the bigger one can destroy the smaller, it escapes to Earth and crashlands in America, unleashing the Predator we all know into the world...for a few minutes before it’s captured by the government.

Meanwhile, Quinn McKenna, an Army Ranger, who discovered the existence of the Predator at the bloody cost of his 2 friends, is arrested and thrown into a bus filled with loons. As this is happening, the bigger ship makes its way to Earth with a different occupant.

Director Shane Black (who incidentally starred in the first Predator as well) was given the reins after 2010’s Predators failed to excite fans and critics (but clearly made the studio enough money to warrant this attempt) tries his best to create a film that can pass for a Predator film true to the original. It is filled with references to the first film and its sequel in a none-too-subtle fashion.

However, it feels like Black forgot what made Predator such a good watch – at least for the most part anyway. While the first film carried a very simple “survive the hunt” motif with a bit of occasional horror thrown in, The Predator takes a completely different, and unfortunately, detrimental approach; mixing in elements introduced in Predators by way of the 11-feet-tall ‘super’ Predator and adding a complicated explanation as to why the Predators always took the spines of their kills - and were seen feasting on its contents at one point.

It also foregoes the subtle ‘climate change’ talk introduced in Predator and goes straight into the deep end of that particular pool, but fails to extract any meaningful value to the film. In addition, the first half of the film could easily be described as a series of very questionable decisions, and while the last 20-ish minutes of The Predator actually manages to reclaim the tension of Predator, it is but a fleeting compensation for being able to make it so far into it.

But thankfully, The Predator does have some merits: It boasts a decent cast, well-written - although sometimes questionable - comedy, and some very tightly played out action. The cast of the film keep themselves in-character from their introduction right to the very end, and some of them actually end up being somewhat endearing to witness. The characters, though very under-developed, manage to remain relevant right up to the very end, bringing in either smarts, brawn or even both. The classic Predator, though given some technical and visual upgrades, also has a presence that has been absent in the series for long, but the ‘super’ Predator is basically a ‘bad guy for the sake of being one’. Despite actually having dialogues, it never elevates itself beyond being a generic antagonistic force to the heroes. Even the dog has more personality than it.

The Predator also features a slightly updated version of the original theme from Predator, courtesy Henry Jackman – a welcome addition to the film. It elevates some of the more mediocre parts of the film to bearable and the better parts of the film to a decent watch.

Overall, the film is a shambled mess. It doesn’t know what it’s trying to be or show. Shane Black may be a talented director and a veteran of the series, but even he can’t save what is a terribly-written – though well-acted, mess.

Score: 2/5

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'The Predator' movie review: Not the one you wanted

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