The Predator

By Ray Kaiser
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The Predator movie poster. Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.

Rating: 3.25/5

T
his film was frankly bizarre. It’s been a little longer than I would normally take before writing about a film, but for such a seemingly simple film, it took me awhile to formulate any type of coherent thought. Now, I don’t mean to suggest the film is particularly deep, because the bottom line is that it’s not. It’s just a very odd mix of things that are all varying in intensity throughout the film, putting it on the verge of an identity crisis. That said, the promotional material for this film had me convinced that it was going to be excruciatingly B-movie, but with those extremely low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised in places.

Anyone who’s seen a Predator film in the past should have a pretty good idea of what they’re getting into. The effects are respectable, the action will be high, everything else will be cheesy- it’s just the way these things are. There are a couple of key differences with this film. First of all, this is a properly R-rated film, and Shane Black has certainly not shied away with the imagery that it allows. And by “imagery,” I mainly mean gore, but yet again, not in the way I would have expected. It’s not over the top, B-movie gore.

The effects were pretty shiny, but it was all actually pretty realistic. Quite visceral and intense though, as realistic gore tends to be. The film has sizable focus on mental illness, which really caught me off guard. This is really displayed through the majority of the main cast suffering from different types of mental illness- characters suffering from things like PTSD, suicidal ideation, tourette’s and schizophrenia- and the main character’s son being on the autism spectrum. The way this is handled is all over the place.

A lot of the time, elements of the supporting casts’ mental illnesses are used as the butts or punchlines of jokes, but there are a handful of more sincere moments mixed in and in general, there weren’t any gross miss-handlings that I caught. The main character’s son having Aspergers is a main plot-point in a surprisingly non-problematic way for how straightforward and borderline ham-fisted the rest of the film is.

Past those differences however, there is a lot of classic Predator antics to enjoy here. To my surprise, yet again, this film is directly build off of the three (arguably five) previous Predator films. It’s pretty common for new films in a franchise to just soft reboot things and pretend that certain older installments just didn’t happen, but The Predator owns its legacy more brazenly than any of its predecessors. The gist of things is a Predator is chased to Earth by another of its kind for unknown reasons, while a government agency that has been onto the Predators since 1987 tries to get its hands on both of the aliens and tie up any other loose ends. Where do the protagonists fit into all of this? They’re the loose ends. The way this ends up playing out is in a lot of small-scale skirmishes in urban environments with scenarios that do their best to pay homage to both Predator and Predator 2.

All of the performances, even from the child actors present, were pretty good. I ended up enjoying Boyd Holbrook and Olivia Munn far more than expected, and Trevante Rhodes’ character was also a surprise hit for me. Keegan-Michael Key and Thomas Jane’s characters were the comic relief, and while a lot of the humour didn’t really land with me, I still enjoyed their performances.

Keegan-Michael Key did kind of keep on taking me out of it, though I’m not really one to subscribe to the idea that casting too well-known of an actor for that reason is a bad thing, so I think that’s more of a me problem. Story-wise, I really did find it sub-par. It was serviceable and not overly broken, it just felt a little uninspired. It was nearly saved at the very end for me, but alas, they didn’t make as bold a move as I thought they might. Again, probably more of a me problem there.

The visual effects, practical and otherwise, were also pretty good, if a bit shiny here and there. The creature effects for one of the Predators (look, it’s in the trailers y’all, saying there’s more than one isn’t a spoiler) are absolutely superb. I’m almost certain it was a suit that was then touched up in post, but even the almost-entirely CGI Predator looked pretty good. Some of the props work looked a little more plastic than I think was intended, but all of the designs for the Predators and their equipment were highly respectable.

All in all, I think this is a film you can afford to miss in theatres- and should probably just avoid it altogether if gore is not your thing. It is some really solid Predator-action and has all of the tropes from puzzle-like action sequences to that very unique sci-fi style. That coupled with the interestingly implemented themes about mental illness make it worth a watch if this is the kind of film you’re interested in. However, you can definitely afford to wait for it to arrive on whatever myriad of streaming services it ends up on.

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