There are certain franchises out there that I know very little about, and have never really examined for myself. They may be long-running and much-beloved series, but for whatever reason I just don’t have much more than a tangential relationship with them. And, the Predator series certainly fits into that mold. Yeah, it’s not exactly a long-running series or anything, but it’s one that people seem to have real affection for it, and I really have never connected with it. I’ve seen the John McTiernan original and the somewhat reviled Predators, and while I enjoyed both of them, it was never really my thing. I know about the other films in the series, and the strangeness of the Alien v Predator flicks, it’s just nothing that’s ever managed to catch my interest in the way that it does for other people. Which is a long preamble for me to say that when I learned they were releasing another Predator movie, and a semi-reboot no less, it didn’t really have a big effect on me. Honestly, the bigger draw when this film was announced was the fact that it was being helmed by Shane Black, whose directorial output lately has been extremely in my wheelhouse. So, I wasn’t really that invested about the Predator as it was developing. But, I started to become intrigued for the worst possible reason. Because as the film was getting closer we started to get a series of trailers, which seemed more and more confounding. The tone’s were wildly inconsistent, the plot looked strange, and everything about them seemed pretty worrisome. Add in some rumors of intense studio interference, a horrible real-life scandal involving a scene having to be cut because it contained a known sexual assaulter, and incredibly tepid initial reactions, the Predator started to feel like a real train-wreck. And, folks, sometimes I really like going and watching a train-wreck. And, this did not disappoint.
The Predator opens up in the middle of a space battle between two Predator ships. One of them appears to be fleeing from the other, and it ends up going through a worm-hole and crash-landing on Earth, right into a complicated military action involving American Army Ranger Quinn McKenna. The Predator inside the ship then escapes and is promptly accidentally killed by McKenna, who comes in contact with a Predator helmet and gauntlet. McKenna realizes that he’s just been embroiled with an alien encounter, and decides to send the helmet and gauntlet to his personal PO Box before the army can scoop him up so that he’ll have proof. The package then ends up getting erroneously routed to McKenna’s estranged wife and son Rory, who becomes fascinated with the alien technology. Meanwhile, McKenna is indeed apprehended by the military and is put on a bus full of fellow soldiers who have all been deemed too insane for service, including the suicidal Nebraska, the babbling Coyle, the Tourette’s-inflicted Baxley, the pyromaniac Lynch, and the shellshocked pilot Nettles. For some reason these soldiers are then brought to a special military base that examines aliens, where a biologist named Casey Bracket is visiting to view a captured Predator. She gets some readings from the Predator, but it ends up getting free, killing most of the scientists in the base. The escaped Predator then regains some gear, and begins tracking the stolen helmet that Rory has.
McKenna, his team of Loonies, and Bracket then team up together, especially because shadowy government agent Will Traeger now wants them all dead to cover things up, and they head to McKenna’s home to save his son. Unfortunately, it’s Halloween, so it’s kind of hard to find some people in weird costumes. But, they eventually find Rory hiding in his middle school, where they save him from the Predator. Unfortunately, at that point a much larger Predator shows up and kills the first Predator. They escape the new, larger Predator, and Bracket ends up discovering that the Predators are apparently experimenting with human DNA and creating hybrids. However, they’re immediately captured by Trager and told that the smaller Predator they encountered was a member of some sort of Predator resistance who had brought some sort of weapon for humankind so they can defeat an incoming Predator invasion. He now wants Rory, because Rory’s autism apparently means he’s the next step in human evolution, and the Predator wants to capture him. Our heroes escape yet again, and end up at the same place as Trager and his men, the crashed spaceship that contains the super-weapon, which the large Predator has arrived to destroy. A massive fight breaks out, until everyone but McKenna, Rory, and Bracket are dead. They fight with the giant Predator, and end up successfully killing him. The film then jumps forward several months to see that Rory now works as some sort of alien translator for the government, and McKenna is ready to use some sort of Predator mech-suit to fight the invading Predators, setting up a sequel that will almost certainly never happen.
This film is baffling. From start to finish it feels like every few scenes in the film were missing, because very little of the film made sense. There were some good parts of the movie, and it wasn’t a wholly bad experience, it just ended up being bewildering. I think that a majority of the actors did a great job, and they really gave their thinly written characters their all. Sterling K Brown was delightfully terrible as Trager, Trevante Rhodes actually gave Nebraska some human depth, Olivia Munn was pretty fun as the action-scientist Bracket, and a majority of the Loonies were a real blast, especially Tom Jane as the stuttering Baxley. The film is full of all the crazy, gleefully over-the-top dialogue that I love from Shane Black, and the cast is more or less able to deliver them in a way that works, something that’s actually legitimately impressive. The action and effects in the film were also really well handled, giving as a movie that was least thrilling to watch. It was the plot that was the problem.
Now, it’s come out that things behind the scenes were pretty fraught. There was a completely different, and actually even crazier, ending that was planned for the film, but that’s not even the worst part of the film. It just feels completely jumbled, in a sadly very familiar way. This film has all the hallmarks of a movie that was utterly edited to shreds by the studio. I don’t know why in this case, but it’s clear that whoever had final cut of this movie didn’t think that it was going to work, and cut it down to the shortest length they could where it still made some semblance of sense, just to be able to put as many show-times as they can before the public wises up and stops going to see it. And, as a result, the film feels incredibly muddled, confusing, and just generally scatterbrained. There’s a whole lot of ideas in this movie ,and they’re more or less tossed out and abandoned, because the film seems to be missing everything but the necessary connective tissue to get from set piece to set piece. Apparently autism is the next step of human evolution? The Predators are looking to invade because global warming has made the Earth a Predator-friendly climate? Why where the Loonies at the base to begin with? Was the Predator in the beginning of the film completely irrelevant? Why is there a Predator Civil War brewing? All of these questions are asked, and none of them are explored enough to be answered. This film had a lot of ideas, in the hopes that they’d be examined more in future installments, but it was then shredded to the point of near incomprehensibility, almost guaranteeing that no future installments will even be made. Which is a shame, because some of these ideas were great, they just never had a chance.
Oh, and as a post script, all the stuff involving Shane Black hiring his sex-offender friend and then never telling anyone was incredibly shitty, and the way that everyone treated Olivia Munn when she raised concerns was even worse. It didn’t really have much to do with what I talked about in the article, but I wanted to mention it, and make my opinions clear. Men suck and need to do better.
The Predator was written by Fred Dekker and Shane Black, directed by Shane Black, and released by 20th Century Fox, 2018.
Categories: Reel Talk