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The Predator 2018 – film review

September 15, 2018

THE PREDATOR

Another beloved 80s action property at risk of becoming fully Marvelized.

Reviewed on Thursday 13th September 2018

Directed by Shane Black. Written by Fred Dekker & Shane Black. Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Thomas Jane and Olivia Munn. Running time: 107 mins.

On special assignment in central America, a US sniper witnesses the crash-landing of a Predator ship. Targeted by the authorities for what he saw, he joins forces with an escaped busload of military misfits headed for the looney bin and together with a renegade kick-ass female scientist – embarks on a perilous mission to go get his estranged autistic son – before the Predator does.

Having missed seeing the original Predator in theatres upon its initial release in 1987 (subsequently catching it on VHS) – I finally got to see the much-loved Arnie vehicle on the big screen at a special one-off retrospective theatrical screening several weeks ago.

Best described as Alien in the jungle – wherein a crack team of black ops mercenaries are picked off one by one by an unstoppable otherworldly trophy hunter for sport, this surprise hit of 87 went on to spawn an LA-set sequel in 1990, two Alien cross-overs in the early 2000s and the stand-alone Predators in 2010. Of these films it is really only the first two which are generally considered as canon (having been conceived and penned by the original writing team of Jim & John Thomas). While all the rest are really nothing more than ill-conceived fan fiction – and should generally be avoided.

When it was announced legendary Lethal Weapon scribe Shane Black would be helming an authentic follow-on to the first two movies, interest was piqued (he was after all one of the original cast members featured in the first movie – and therefore     by rights would most likely have an understanding of what makes a good Predator movie).

So what the fuck went wrong?

Some have blamed studio reshoots (particularly with reference to hasty last minute meddling with the third act) – but in all honesty, this film is just plain bad from the get-go.

Much like that other needlessly awful soft reboot of a much-loved 80s action series Terminator Genisys (wherein comic book sensibilities are clumsily shoe-horned into it for no other reason than to appeal to a younger audience) – this film ultimately suffers the same fate; the much derided ending being an ominous sign of where the studio wants to take this series. Are you ready for an Iron Man clone fending off hoards of Predators?

The amusing banter between characters one normally associates with Shane Black’s writing is present, if laid on a little thick here – to the point where the film ultimately doesn’t take itself seriously enough to generate even a modicum of suspense or concern for the stakes – making the overall experience of watching the film an un-involving and passive one. At least the original had the sense to move its (highly quotable) funny banter to one side – as the suspense kicked in. Here there are funny lines right to the end, dissipating our concern for what’s at stake – should the antagonist succeed in their nefarious plan.

And while we’re on the subject of suspense – there is none to speak of in this film. None. The director of the original, John McTiernan, clearly knows how to generate suspense via anticipation. We anticipate something bad could happen at any moment. His use of long takes and ambient jungle sounds building tension – not only for the characters on-screen, but we the viewer as well. After all – it is this inclusion of the audience which most (if not all) filmmakers strive to achieve. Or so one would be expected to believe.

This lack of suspense (in this new film) is due largely to its pacing. There is simply no let-up long enough in the action – no time to pause to accommodate the possibility of the generating of tension or anticipation. This film starts at high speed and never stops. This wouldn’t be an issue for a non-stop balls-to-the-wall actioner like Crank or John Wick. But when your property has a sizeable horror element to it, it might be useful to slow things down every now and then – to allow audience inclusion. Adding to the frenetic pacing, it appears there are whole scenes missing – giving the first half of the film a certain choppiness, as it lurches clumsily from one sequence to the next.

The complexity of the plot is another issue. Sure we have hastily-delivered exposition thrown at us left right and centre, but at no point are we clear on what exactly is at stake; there is no clearly-defined goal from the outset. By the halfway point we find ourselves giving up on understanding what the hell is going on and merely wait for     the film to run its course.

The series’ central really cool idea of the Predators being interstellar big game hunters, travelling from planet to planet to hunt each new world’s dominant species     as trophies (which may or may not have been inspired by the hoary 1980 sci-fi film Without Warning) – is basically discarded here in favour of your basic alien invasion scenario. The Predators, it seems, have been enjoying our changing climate so     much (due of course to man-made global warming) – they now want to settle here permanently. And not only that, now it appears they’ve been collecting DNA from from all these various planetary alpha species to engineer genetic improvements in their own biology – an unwarranted plot convolution which is neither clever, nor compelling. It’s just plain dumb. (This uncalled for meddling with established lore being something of the order of the conceptual vandalism Ridley Scott perpetrated on the Alien mythos with the diabolical Prometheus and Alien Covenant. But, hey, don’t get me started)

Undoubtedly the bloodiest entry in the series thus far, it is perhaps due to the fan backlash afforded other recent iterations of 80s action properties which had their violence watered down for a PG-13 rating (Terminator Genisys, Total Recall, Robocop) – the violence in this Predator is so extreme – so over the top – as to become borderline ridiculous. With the Marvel-inspired final reveal no doubt pointing to a more kid friendly next instalment, my guess is this will be the last R-rated Predator movie we will be seeing for quite some time.

The conspiratorially-minded part of me wonders if there is a deliberate agenda on the part of the major studios to take beloved and iconic properties from the last forty years (Alien, Indiana Jones, The Terminator, Predator) and debase them to such an extent they will no longer remain relevant to future generations – or if its just your run-of-the-mill corporate blind greed and stupidity responsible for pumping out shameless garbage like this.

no stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Wallis Piccadilly Cinemas, Adelaide, September 13th 2018

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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One Comment
  1. Ian Smith permalink

    I read reviews like this and I feel so thankful that BR2049 turned out so well. Remakes and reboots of genre faves such as this, RoboCop, Total Recall etc show how easily things go wrong. I can picture a very bad Blade Runner sequel in my head. It’s really a miracle that it had the right people with the right attitude and that all involved were so brave. Yes it’s a shame it struggled financially, but it will better remembered than this Predator abomination, I’m sure.

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