It has been nearly 4 years in the making. And from what it seems, 4 rough years. Production was delayed, the film’s release was changed several times and director/writer Shane Black has said it was a much harder production than he had anticipated going in.
It’s also a film I wasn’t too sure what to expect with going in. For the longest time I wasn’t sure how I felt about The Predator leading up to release. Was I excited? Could I care less? I just wasn’t sure. It’s Shane Black! How could I feel so unsure?!
The last few months really started to excite me, though. All the interviews Shane Black gave just showed he had such a good awareness of what he was doing. The cast had such an amazing dynamic that I couldn’t wait to see them in action up on the screen! And that last trailer; I was sold. I was ready and rearing to go! Give me The Predator!
Spoilers contained below.
I really really enjoyed this film! It was so much fun! That is the best way to describe the film: fun. I was especially pleased with how the film doesn’t try to remake any of the previous entries. This is very much its own thing while still dipping into the expanded lore; the opening sequence is straight out of Predator: Bad Blood.
I’ve often said in the past that I consider the Predator to be a very versatile series and I don’t just mean dropping the Predator in different time frames. That said I would still love to see that film. The Predator showcases that there is more to the Predator that just a hunt.
Shane Black and Fred Dekker really did try to expand the mythology. There’s so much in this film to unpack. There’s a more a clear cut look at differing philosophies between Predator which I really liked. But this still felt a little muddied because they both share in the lore expansion that set some fans aback – the DNA upgrading.
The Fugitive stole a piece of technology to give to mankind to defend itself against the other Predators but I can’t recall why (this goes into a problem I have later on with the film). While I can’t attest to the motivation, it was interesting to see different Predators with different goals. It wasn’t a simple hunt.
Speaking of the different Predators, I was so pleased with their portrayal in this. The Predators really did move! They’re very athletic, shown to be very fast, capable and very brutal. Unfortunately our time with the Fugitive felt a little short but I was fond of what we got – I think Brian A. Prince did a great job bringing him to life and even imbuing the Fugitive with a sense of personality that sets him apart from the others.
ADI did a great job with the suit too! Honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Predator suits in the Alien vs. Predator films, primarily because I didn’t look they looked moist enough. I didn’t have that issue with The Predator at all. I thought the naked suit looked fantastic.
I also really loved Quantum FX’s take on the Predator armour. I’ve said all along that I enjoyed the new take on it. I’m especially fond of the in-laid gold and the Samurai influence.
The Upgrade Predator worked really well too. Unlike the Berserkers in Predators, I think Upgrade genuinely came across in The Predator as a much stronger take on the creature, so much so that when they do take him down I felt like it was really earned.
Some people may dislike the DNA manipulation angle but I think it worked. It wasn’t over-done. This wasn’t the Goro-Predator from the Predators sequel comic. I was especially fond of the Upgrade’s skin armour.
Shane Black has said in various interviews that not all Predators toy around with genetic manipulation but unfortunately it doesn’t come across in the film at all. There’s no mention of it within the narrative.
While the over-all experience was just great, there’s just so many little things that made me go “what?” but the film quickly moves on, maintaining a very fast pace and not giving me too much time to think too much about what I just saw.
And that’s really what my main issue with The Predator is. This film is just so lean! It’s something of a double edged sword as it maintains a very brusque pace. The film has great momentum and keeps moving. I was never bored with what was on the screen.
However, because of how big a story Black and Dekker seemed to want to tell, a lot of the scenes felt too short. It never felt like there was enough explanation and everything just came across as being assumed which I really disliked. This was something that I think particularly effected the Predator mythology side of things. It came across as if all the motivation of the Predators was just assumed without any real basis in what had actually happened.
Another example is something we saw in the trailers: Traeger uses a Predator shoulder cannon at the end of the film – which is awesome, by the way – but it’s just him picking it up at some point and then suddenly he’s got this contraption that completely functions. It really felt like so much explanation and reason was missing from this film.
It is at this point that I feel like the film was a victim of being screen tested too much. It felt like there was too many attempts to fix things that didn’t test well or caused negative reactions online. It lacked a sense of cohesive vision for what Black and Dekker seemed to want to do because it seems as if the film was being cut up too much. I’m not sure I’d even understand the film as well as I do if it wasn’t for tracking all these details over the last couple of years.
There is so much in this film that doesn’t get explored or touched on. So much so that I’m now eager to read the novelization purely to see if that goes into anything in more depth.
But oddly none of that impacted on the overall experience and the enjoyment that I had as I was watching the film. And a lot of that was thanks to the cast and the Loonies. The Loonies were just incredibly memorable. At one point I was crying with laughter thanks to Thomas Jane as Baxley.
Aside from Lynch – I think Alfie Allen’s got the short end of the stick though. It didn’t seem like there was a lot of Lynch in this film – everyone has a distinct personality and is such a treat to spend time with. I was genuinely disappointed when they met their various ends. They have such a fantastic dynamic. There’s going to be quite a few memorable lines and moments coming out of this film!
Now that said, if you decided that Predator wasn’t supposed to be funny you won’t like them. It’s as simple as that. While I still maintain that the original Predator was plenty funny and cheesy in its own right, The Predator goes further with it. I personally don’t think it’s to the film’s detriment but some people are going to take issue with it.
It’s also worth mentioning that Jake Busey as Peter Keyes son was barely in the film! I criticised the prequel novel for not spending more time with Sean Keyes and I think he had more to do in the novel that he did in the film!
I really enjoyed Boyd Holbrook as Quinn McKenna. He wasn’t Arnold, he wasn’t Glover and he wasn’t Brody. Nor is he intended to be. Like so much of this film, it lead is meant to be someone different and he worked for me!
All of the main characters worked for me actually. I know there was concern over Jacob Tremblay’s Rory McKenna and for the most part he performs the expected role – he deciphers some of the Predator technology. As with most of the Predator mythology expansion it doesn’t really get focused on. But considering the reactions some people had to the character, this might not have been such a terrible thing.
But on a performance level, I did really like Tremblay. He wasn’t running around screaming or being annoying, but instead his and Holbrook’s dynamic was genuinely touching and something I liked. Likewise I know some people had issue with Olivia Munn’s casting as Brackett but she also was fine.
And Traeger! I absolutely loved Traeger. Ever since I saw Sterling K. Brown in Brooklyn Nine Nine I’ve been so keen to see what he did with his character in The Predator. And he was amazing. Everything about him was just so charming but he was such a dick. He was very much a love-to-hate character. I was really disappointed with his death, though. It very blink and you’ll miss it.
In general I thought the special effects were great too. The opening sequence with the two Predators ships looked fantastic. Design-wise they shared the same design language as Alien vs. Predator’s mothership but they weren’t the same design.
I thought the Upgrade looked perfectly good for the most part. There was a few sections later on towards the end where he looked overly CG, almost as if they hadn’t finished working on the effects after the reshoots, but nothing as bad as Justice League.
Henry Jackman’s score isn’t something we’d heard a lot about either. I thought it was good. It made sure to re-use the original theme and some of the motifs but it certainly didn’t feel like a carbon copy either.
Now my second big and final issue with the film is the finale of the film itself. While I will forever maintain that Predator 2 is a camp and cheesy film, it’s a tone that goes throughout the entire film. The Predator is comical but I don’t think I would say it felt much like a comic book film. Now the end of the film is such a cheesy and comic book moment that it comes across as a complete turn-around on the films tone that it feels so tacked on.
The Fugitive Predator brought a weapon (the Predator Killer) with him to Earth to help us combat the impending Predator invasion. This is what the Upgrade/Assassin came to stop. Despite the Assassin blowing up Fugitive’s ship, the cargo was safely ejected and recovered by Stargazer (or the military, it’s unclear).
And it’s a damn Iron-Man suit! It even activates like the new nano-suit from Infinity Wars! Complete with robot dreadlocks… I sat there and just groaned. It didn’t even feel like Shane Black or Fred Dekker conceived of this. It felt so out of place and it was such a bad scene that it just about soured the entire experience as I came out of the cinema.
I genuinely enjoyed the film as I was watching it but I also feel like that was because it was moving at such a pace I didn’t have time to really focus before we moved onto the next scene. I loved that it did something completely new with the story and how it handled the Predators but I’m so frustrated at how little it let any of that settle or offer much concrete explanation. It felt like the film wasn’t sure what it was. And that end…I just can’t get over that end.
But I’m eager to go see it again. I’m keen to go back and re-watch it and see if there was anything I missed. I just have the feeling that after a few re-watches I’m going to start picking up more and more on the holes and lose threads and stop enjoying the actual experience.
From Aaron Percival at Alien vs. Predator Galaxy, I award The Predator a 6 out of 10.Rating: