80’s action movies hold a special place in my heart. They either have the right amount of cheesy one-liners or so many that you just take it all in and hope it’s a worthwhile experience when it’s over. The characters have a certain dark humor to them that resonates throughout the story. You are taken along with them on some outlandish journey that is filled with unusual situations and this increases your anticipation for what comes next. It doesn’t always pay off. In fact, there are more bad action movies in the 80’s than memorable ones, much like any other decade. Still
Which brings us to the film Predator, directed by John McTiernan and released in 1987. You would recognize McTiernan’s name from his most noteworthy film Die Hard, but I would wager that Predator is just as beloved among fans of action movies. Predator is a great 80’s sci-fi, action film. The characters are believable and yet their bravado and confidence give them a certain surreal quality. Every scene grabs your attention and you always believe in the objective of the main character. It doesn’t hurt that your main character is Arnold Schwarzenegger. You are dedicated to witnessing the outcome.
Several sequels have helped grow this ongoing franchise, but none have done so in a very meaningful way. Which is why only the original is mentioned in conversation. The rest are brought up only to explain how good it really is in comparison. Shane Black had a fairly big part in Predator and he returns now as an accomplished director and writer. Can decades of bad sequels be redeemed with the very first good one?
In The Predator, directed by Shane Black, a sniper named Quinn(Boyd Holbrook) witnesses an alien spacecraft crash landing during one of his missions overseas. After a series of encounters, his crew ends up dead and Quinn is sought out by the government for questioning. Quinn’s son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who suffers from Asperger’s, receives his father’s package by accident in the mail and inside are stolen items retrieved from the crash.
Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), a scientist assigned to monitoring eventual contact with extraterrestrial life, has been tasked by Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), a secret government official, to research up close the body from the crash. Quinn is later captured by authorities and placed with a group of mentally unstable soldiers receiving treatment. You have Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), the joker who likes to get under your skin, Baxley (Thomas Jane), a soldier with Tourette’s, Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes), who takes his predicament in stride, Lynch (Alfie Allen), and Nettles (Augusto Aguilera). When the creature finally awakens, all hell breaks loose and it is up to this strange crew, Casey the scientist, and Quinn’s son to sort out who this alien is and whether or not they can stop it.
From the very beginning of this movie, I felt assured that this would be a true return to form for the Predator franchise. As time passed, however, it became clear that this movie is a convoluted mess. I can sort out parts that are worthwhile, but, when taken as a whole movie, I am left completely dumbfounded at the lack of cohesion and sincerity in the story and performances.
Let’s start with the alien. There are two of them and they offer a serious dilemma for our main cast. Yet all that comes across is a one-sided fight of blood and guts with no suspense. Their interactions with humans is brief because they are so incredibly fierce and fatal to their opponents.
It’s difficult to build tension when you can’t see any hope of winning and the scenes don’t give you time to process emotion or sympathy for the characters. Then you have the story arch with Quinn, our main hero in the movie. He navigates through this mayhem fine, but the humor is not balanced and it becomes almost a slapstick comedy. The less you believe in the objective, the less you care about the action and the more unrealistic it all feels. A science fiction movie, in particular, should do everything it can to make you believe the unbelievable elements, but this film just throws it in your face and makes you cringe at its delivery.
The crew that Quinn is traveling with are actually the best part of the movie. Each character has some interesting affectation to them and their chemistry makes you want to hang out with them longer. Still, I couldn’t fully engage with their characters because they were spouting off so many one-liners and not completely connecting with the situation they were in. You could say it’s how they were designed and part of their mental state, but all the other characters in this movie were pretty much acting the same way. It was bordering on a sitcom atmosphere with special effects.
I did enjoy the moments between Nebraska and Quinn. There is some genuine sincerity between them. Not enough to hang your hopes on, but I’ll take what they give me. Baxley and Coyle’s relationship is pretty good too. Again they are here for mostly laughs. So are Lynch and Nettles.
Jacob Tremblay’s Rory has a strange subplot in this film. He is a very intelligent young boy who quickly learns how to use the alien technology without much fuss. It culminates in a hilarious scene or two involving bullies.
Again I liked the concept that Shane Black and his writing partner Fred Dekker were trying to convey, but it never pays off in a way that matters. In fact, I think it hinders what potentially could have been a powerful ending by shoving an unnecessary element into the resolution. Although nothing in Rory’s story or anyone else’s is as bad as the editing.
If you are worried about this movie dragging, then have no fear. It’s actually a rather fun movie on its own. It gives you plenty of intense action and silly beats of humor. It just doesn’t take any time to let a scene develop naturally and thus doesn’t give the audience time to connect with any of it.
The Predator is not the movie you’ve been hoping for. I enjoyed Boyd Holbrook, Jacob Tremblay, and the misfit cast of antihero performances. Olivia Munn stuck out for all the wrong reasons. I did not believe she was a scientist at all and her dramatic moments had no impact. The woman who played Rory’s mom Emily(Yvonne Strahovski), who has only a few scenes in this movie, would have made a more convincing scientist. I’ll give some blame for Olivia’s performance to the script, but you can tell who can act even when the script is subpar.
I’ll give The Predator credit for a schlocky, 80’s-style, B-action movie. When you don’t think it can get sillier, it finds new heights to achieve. With all that in mind, I suggest giving this film a watch once it reaches your favorite streaming platform. Or if you too curious, when you are already overcome by high amounts of sugar, alcohol, or both. Shane Black left the door open for more movies. I say it might be time to let the Predator stay out of sight for a while.
About The Predator
Synopsis: When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.
Director: Shane Black
Writer: Shane Black, Fred Dekker
Stars: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera, Jake Busey
Runtime: 1 Hour, 47 Minutes