I was around 11 years old when I first saw the original ‘Predator’ movie (back in 1989). Whilst at a friend of the families it was popped into the VHS to keep me and my brother quiet whilst the grown-ups enjoyed their evening (I believe they had actually won this particular copy of the film in some competition). I was both amazed and petrified at what I saw. That one evening changed my young life, it warped my little mind. I had become an Arnie fan (despite not knowing who he was) and a Predator fan (despite being terrified of it).
Ever since that moment I yearned for more Predator action which we did (eventually) get with varying degrees of quality. ‘Predator 2’ in 1990 is still the best sequel by far in my humble opinion. ‘Alien vs. Predator’ in 2004 was a solid attempt but watered down badly. ‘Alien vs. Predator: Requiem’ in 2007 got it half right but they forgot to turn on the lights. And ‘Predators’ in 2010 was again solid but too similar to the original. Alas all sequels have failed to carry the franchise further with much success.
So this leads us to the next inevitable attempt to try and revitalise the franchise. And what better way than to use one of the original cast members who has since become one of Hollywood’s top action flick writer/directors, Shane Black (and Fred Dekker??). What could possibly go wrong this time?? Surely this was bound to be a home run.
So the start of the movie is a badly paced and edited mess of horrendous proportions. Black essentially copies the start of the 87 original with the Predator ship looming into Earth’s orbit, and then essentially copies ‘AvP2’ by having it crash on Earth in virtually the same looking location. Apparently Predator ships are also able to jump through wormholes in space now? Or create them or something? Jump to a sequence with our main protagonist McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), who is a sniper, trying to save a hostage. The Predator has conveniently crashed in his immediate vicinity and immediately intervenes killing everyone, apart from McKenna who manages to incapacitate the hunter with its own tech which he conveniently found moments earlier.
McKenna is then seen trying to avoid some form of secret US government who are after him because he’s encountered an alien lifeform. He reaches what looks like some shitty Mexican looking town (no idea where it was) where he mails the alien tech to his son before being apprehended. Jump to his son receiving the tech in the post, playing with it, and activating it (of course). His son is autistic you see and this conveniently enables him to be able to decipher alien technology. And finally jump to McKenna being stuck on a bus full of other ex-military nut jobs on the way to a military facility for a good probing or whatever.
This is the now overly used and highly cliched part in the movie where we are introduced to the bunch of overly macho military types (thank you James Cameron). We already know McKenna who is the all-round good guy. Along with him we have Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), a Marine veteran who kinda offers the comedic relief…but is black. Baxley (Thomas Jane), another Marine veteran who suffers from PTSD and also offers comedic relief…but is white. So just to be sure they cover both sides. Lynch (Alfie Allen), stereotypical British cockney and ex-Marine sniper. And Nettles (Augusto Aguilera), ex-helicopter pilot was has suffered brain damage, so more comedic relief. A small team of foul-mouthed, unfunny, ridiculously over the top macho meatheads.
So the introduction is weak, very weak, but things don’t really get any better. The secret government organisation manage to capture the Predator (they’ve known about the Predators for a long time) and its here we get the God-awful throwback line of ‘you are one beautiful motherfucker’ from the utterly pointless character of Dr. Bracket (Olivia Munn). I cringed deep into my seat. Turns out this Predator came to Earth to help mankind, to try and save us. But that doesn’t stop him from escaping the facility and killing every human that stands in his way. In fact up to this point there is no sign whatsoever that this Predator is in fact trying to help mankind, he’s having way too much fun slicing humans down with his weapons.
These government dudes make me laugh too. They know all about the Predator yet when he breaks free they try to shoot him. That didn’t really work with the encounter back in 87 or 97, why would it work now with the Predators being even more technologically advanced. Also the government agent leader Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) is such a cocky moron. Its like Brown and his costars had a competition to see who could be the most arrogant asshole of the feature. The real problem is none of these characters are enjoyable to watch, they are just cringeworthy and annoying.
It’s worth pointing out that the military prisoners manage to escape from their military prison escort really really easily. Its literally as if they didn’t even have to try because the guards were so dumb and useless and they knew exactly how to defeat them. You got the impression they could of quite easily broken free at any point, whenever they wanted too. No effort required at all, cos they’re that badass apparently.
Moving swiftly on we get to the main crux of the story, the all new giant Predator…in CGI (that’s the cue to roll your eyes). Yep for some bizarre reason (despite other movies with similar ideas) Black decided to once again introduce a new breed of Predator, but this time a giant one. The super Predators from ‘Predators’ were a reasonable idea but badly imagined, I thought, especially the new look face. This giant Predator looked the part but also looked entirely fake because he was CGI, a huge mistake. Not only that whoever did the motion capture movements for the creature swaggered way too much trying to be tough looking. Don’t get me started on the way he ran. I’m still not entirely sure why he was so big. Something about the Predators apparently taking DNA from their prey to enhance themselves. So why aren’t all Predators giants?
Turns out climate change will eventually kill off the human race (political commentary, groan!) and the Predators know this somehow. So they are coming to Earth to get all the DNA they can. McKenna’s son being autistic also plays into this because the Predators see this as the next step in human evolution. But that still doesn’t really explain why there are still regular sized Predators and why one particular Predator wants to help humans. Must be an SJW Predator. Nonetheless try and help us he does, and he does so by leaving the human race…an Iron Man suit? OK an Iron Man suit with a Predator mask and shoulder cannons. Really Black? Of all the things you could of stuck in at that point, Dutch, Harrigan, a xenomorph, Ripley, Newt, an engineer, Bishop, Royce etc…You chose a flippin’ Iron Man suit?! Presumably to jump on the Marvel bandwagon.
But that’s not all, oh no. We once again have Predator dogs because this movie is set before Robert Rodriguez’s movie. The only thing is they look bloody awful, laughable basically. They essentially look like small four-legged Predators. They have the same eyes, a similar facial structure, and they have their own mop of dreadlocks which looked terrible!!. To top this nonsense, and I can’t believe Black managed to do so, they even made one of the Predator hounds docile to the humans after it takes a bullet to the brain. Come on Black!!
Surprise surprise in the end the movie boils down to a long action sequence set in an environment which looks suspiciously like the original 87 movie. There are some admittedly decent moments but also some incredibly dumb moments. The giant Predator apparently eating the face of one victim? Traeger blowing his own head off with the Predator shoulder cannon (ffs!). Black tries to engage and lure us in with musical trickery by playing the original movies key tunes, but it just doesn’t work. Finally McKenna manages to bring down the Predator and whilst looking at it he asks ‘what the hell are you?’. But before the Predator can reply McKenna blows its face off. So why ask?
I honesty don’t think I’ve been so disappointed with a movie, a movie franchise that I’m a fan of. The plot is terrible, its all over the place and doesn’t make any proper sense. We know the movie underwent huge reshoots and boy does it tell. The cast was bad, real bad. Its like they deliberately chose the worst collection of people they could find, or they were forced to. None of them gel, most can’t act, they aren’t funny, and they aren’t badass. The worst part being some of them, such as Olivia Munn’s character, weren’t even needed. Clearly that’s the modern day diversity quota in action again. The movie is also chock full of pointless tiresome meta references from the original two movies (mainly the first of course), mainly repeating lines and visual elements. There really is little originality here and what there is is just nonsense.
Just because Shane Black was in the original movie and contributed to it, doesn’t mean he’s the right guy for the job, it seems. Black has done good work sure, he’s good at action comedies sure, but this was the wrong route for this franchise. Honestly, I thought Black would be good with this, I thought he would understand the franchise, well apparently he doesn’t. As a result we now have possibly the worst Predator movie ever, and yes I am including the Strause brothers gloomy effort.