A scene from “The Predator,” which opens Sept. 14, 2018, in theaters across the United States.
Credit: Kimberley French
It’s been 31 years since action man Arnold Schwarzenegger roared “Get to the choppa!” and now Shane Black is taking a stab at re-creating the sci-fi classic that brought us that glorious quote. So, does “The Predator,” which opens in theaters across the U.S. Friday (Sept. 14), capture what made the original “Predator” film a classic? No, but it’s ridiculously fun.
The plot itself is pretty simple. [Warning: Some spoilers follow.] The Predator traveled to Earth from another planet to kill some fools, so humanity has to kill the creature first. The movie introduces a few new ideas about the Predator universe, such as Predator dogs, which are somehow adorable.
The best part about “The Predator” is that it doesn’t pad out its run time with boring exposition. As soon as the movie opens, we get introduced to the Predator, and right after that, we meet the hero (aka that one guy from “Logan”). And there aren’t any awkwardly long cuts or “fancy” slo-mo shots in the midst of the action. These moments are tight, as the heroes are constantly in clutch situations and react to them naturally, rather than succumbing to cringe-worthy tropes. [‘Predator’ Primer: Your Film Guide to the Sci-Fi Franchise]
That being said, the new movie is considerably different from the original “Predator.” The new film still has that same campy vibe, but it’s less of a thriller and more of a comedy. I mean, what else did you expect from Shane Black (“Iron Man 3,” “The Nice Guys”)? He makes the film wholly his own by sprinkling snappy humor in every other scene. Even the deaths are completely over the top. While the comedy occasionally overstays its welcome, Black manages to maintain a solid blend of laughs and action.
A lot of this success is due to the great cast. The heroes — or the “Loonies,” as they call themselves — are led by Boyd Holbrook (“Logan,” “Narcos”) and played by other notable stars, like Keegan-Michael Key (“Key and Peele”), Olivia Munn (“X-Men: Apocalypse”) and Alfie Allen (“Game of Thrones”). Thomas Jane (“1922”) straight up kills his role as the disgruntled soldier with Tourette’s syndrome, and he’s unexpectedly the funniest person on camera, especially because of his incredible chemistry with Key.
Initially, I was leery of an 11-year-old’s presence in a “Predator” film, but Jacob Tremblay’s character fits in perfectly, as he uses his gifts from being on the spectrum as a way to fight the Predator. (Yes, it’s as cool as it sounds.)
On the flip side of the Loonies gang, there’s Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”), who plays a shady government agent who has the cliché motives you’d expect. Bbut this character is interesting, because his actions are more rational than those of your average villain. He’s actually clever when he makes a decision, avoiding the convoluted Dr. Evil-esque traps for the heroes.
One of the most memorable moments in the film occurs during the opening, when blood dripping onto the Predator’s cloaked body slowly reveals the creature’s real face under its mask. While the Predator’s face isn’t particularly scary, the way the scene was shot provides a chilling visual. The CGI wasn’t as bad as I expected, either. The opening scene details the Predator’s landing on Earth, and the shots of the ship crash-landing from space are gorgeous. And the way Black handled the Predator’s practical effects, suit and face makes them look threatening and cheesy (in a good way).
However, there were a few moments that made my eyes roll to the back of my skull. There’s the insufferable bully scene that all similar films seem to have, and a very unnecessary “rally the troops” moment among the heroeso. There’s also a scene when Munn gets naked, and we’re led to believe it serves as some plot device, but this device never pops up again. So, she essentially gets naked for the sake of being naked.
The greatest sin, however, is how the end of Brown’s arc is handled. While that failure is due mostly to bad editing, it’s disappointing nonetheless. And then there’s the weird epilogue, which comes 5 minutes after the film should have ended and just tries far too hard.
Despite the occasional tacky moments, “The Predator” is a solid entry in the franchise and holds its own as a campy action film that’s worth a trip to the theater.
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