In the decades since their releases, there always seemed to be a constant comparison between the Alien and Predator franchises. Both have aliens, both were made into sequels, and both eventually crossed over for a couple of not so well done films. It’s been over 30 years since the first film which spawned two underrated sequels, so that must mean much like the Alien series that was recently rebooted, that it’s time for this mandible-jawed hunter to get its own reboot, sequel, or whatever you wanna call it. Directed by Shane Black who was an 80’/90’s action screenwriter turned director who has stepped in the Marvel world with Iron Man 3 and bookended with two-guys-and-a-mystery films like the beloved Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and 2016’s The Nice Guys. He also has history with the original 1987 Predator as he was the first person to be killed on screen by a Predator. So how does he fare, now that he is in charge of this classic series where tone has always been a struggling point? Well I’m not sure if this is grammatically accurate but I’d have to say that Shane Black, Shane Black’s the hell out of The Predator.
After a alien ship crashes to earth right in the middle of a covert military mission, sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) encounters a Predator. They are both taken into custody, the man for questioning, and the creature for examination. Sterling K. Brown is Traeger, who is in charge of the operation and brings in Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) a scientist who may have insight into the Predator. When things predictably get out of control, Bracket escapes and meets up with McKenna and a band of military prisoners all with PTSD and other mental conditions. The group consists of Trevante Rhodes, Keegan -Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, and Augusto Aguilera who supply tremendous comic relief along with solid action skills. The team reluctantly take on the Predator when McKenna’s son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) gets caught in the middle. But they soon discover that the Predator is not the only threat that is is facing them, as something bigger and badder may be hunting them all.
The best part of having someone like Shane Black direct a franchise film such as this, is he’s been around, and he knows exactly what kind of film he wants to make. Or more to the point what kind he doesn’t want to make, he stays away from the tone of the 1987 original which essentially was a horror movie. The following sequels and even the AvP films all kind of skirted around that formula in one way or another with varying degrees of success. Black decides to play to his strengths, that being characters caught in awkward situations, mixed with uncomfortable humor and action. He and his co-writer Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps, Monster Squad) do what comes natural to them, and since they’ve been writing these kinds of films long enough that while it may not work with critics or some of the fans it totally worked for me.
There are still elements that don’t hold up throughout, mostly dealing with Jacob Tremblay as a boy with Aspergers who ends up in the Predator’s sights, very little of his screen time works. There is also several instances of characters making fun of his condition including jokes at the expense of Thomas Jane who suffers from Tourette’s in the film. In Black and Dekker’s hey-days this was done without batting an eyelash, but now it can be off-putting, though mostly after you already laughed. Plus some of the CG is a but rough in spots. But any negative in the movie is overshadowed by sheer force of being what it is meant to be, with the insane kills, and crazy character moments it becomes the Predator sequel we’ve been waiting for. They even go as far as interrupting their own cheesy alien-science exposition on several occasions by way of brutal Predator action as well as great comedic timing of Brown, Key, Jane, and Munn. Speaking of Olivia Munn, I don’t have all the facts from all sides to make an informed opinion regarding Shane Black hiring a sex offender unbeknownst to the cast. All I can say for sure is that Munn has handled the whole terrible situation with courage and class. And even though you will find more articles about that fallout than you will film reviews of The Predator it’s certainly a shame and even more so if enough of the audiences don’t get what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish here. Together, they bring something fun and familiar blended in bloody violence while taking us an entertaining ride, and that is something fans of this series have deserved for a long time now.