Cinematic Releases: The Predator (2018) - Reviewed

Shane Black, who played a soldier in the first Predator flick, has decided to take a stab at both writing and directing the franchise with The Predator (2018). It takes place thirty years later in the same universe so it isn't a reboot, but it's removed enough story-wise that one who hasn't seen the previous films can follow the narrative.

The plot follows a similar trajectory as the first two: a Predator comes to earth and havoc ensues. A former Army ranger named Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) discovers the Predator exists and tries to let the military intelligence know with unexpected results. 

This new iteration feels like an uneasy mixture of elements of the first two films. It has the macho banter and rag-tag team-up aspect of the first film and the balls-to-the-wall action of the second film, but because it's trying to do too many things at once it's unfocused. The writing for the characters is juvenile with forced humor and quips a plenty. Comic relief is nothing new for the series, but literally every time anyone says anything it's a joke and it undercuts any tension or horror The Predator might have. There was a chance for this to be much more interesting as some of the film takes place in the suburbs, but they don't do anything with it. 

One of the defining themes of the Predator as a movie monster is the idea that he slowly stalks his prey waiting for the right time to attack. That's absent from this film as the Predator just mauls everything in sight stealth be damned (and he hardly uses his optic camouflage either, which is telling) and while all the gore and mayhem is entertaining at times, it gets repetitive and boring by the end of the film. Gone is the cat-and-mouse interplay from the other films and it's replaced with standard "monster smash stuff" type action. There is a lot of CGI used as well and most of it looks mediocre. The music score is serviceable if bland, but occasionally the memorable leitmotif from the first few films pokes its head in to say hello.

For most action films, keeping the plot simple is best as it allows for room to breath with the epic set-pieces, but unfortunately the story in The Predator is a muddled mess. Characters seem to come to conclusions with little to no evidence presented, plot lines are introduced then dropped at will, and the third act is just plain ridiculous. It's way too long and bloated with much of the second act padded out with "hilarious" hi-jinks and banter to the detriment of the pacing. Much ado has been made of the addition of a child subplot (via Quinn's autistic son) and quite frankly, the way his character is handled is distasteful to children on the spectrum. 

There are a few entertaining and amusing moments to be had with this film, but overall it's a messy and overlong attempt at recapturing what made the franchise fun in the first place. It appears that this was a setup for more sequels and I hope that they fare better than this attempt.

--Michelle Kisner