The Predator series has never been one of my favorites. Oh, I really like the first Predator film (directed by John McTiernan) but everything that has been made post-Arnold Schwarzenegger has been subpar for me. Predator 2 has its fans but the movie never worked for me. The Alien Vs Predator movies range from okay to among the worst in blockbuster filmmaking. The 2010 Predators was the closest the series has come to returning to its roots but I think the movie lacked a strong director to make the movie thrilling.
Now we flash forward to the 2018 Shane Black film, The Predator. The Predator (not to the be confused with the original movie simply called Predator) is an attempt to revive the franchise in a more modern context. If Predators was more of an attempt to revive it using classic 80s B-level action film (wrapped in the cloak of darkness) then The Predator is an attempt to bring the 80s macho film with the modern blockbuster. This has all the gory images and testosterone jokes you expect from a movie following the first Predator but it is also combined with Black’s attempt to push the series into a more serialized narrative and heavy doses of spectacle. The result? A movie that only occasionally works and is at times entertaining but also feels confused with poor editing and a weak third act that makes this latest Predator feature yet another disappointing sequel to the 1987 film.
The Predator follows a group of damaged ex-soldiers led by a man named Quinn McKiena in their race to save McKiena’s son who has accidentally learned to use Predator technology after a rogue Predator crash lands on Earth being chased by a more evolved super Predator.
The Predator does one big thing that I have clamoring for in the series for a long time. The Predator actually feels like it is pushing the story forward. Some fans may disagree that it is a good thing to start delving more into the Predator world as it might ruin their mystic. I understand that, but I am also tired of subpar sequels that really only repeat the basic beats of the first Predator without adding something fresh to the table (although to be fair Predators started to do that but pulled back). The Predator has ideas in the script that had me thinking that I was finally watching a proper sequel.
Then again the execution of these ideas don’t always work. In many places the story feels muddled and it isn’t helped by the surprisingly bad editing present throughout almost the entire film. I don’t know if this movie had extensive reshoots but it wouldn’t surprise me if it did. Editing is supposed to be seamless. Editing is supposed to provide clarity to the audience or at the very least intrigued. We should be able to connect certain images and follow the director’s intent and visual storytelling. There are characters that I didn’t even know died until I left the theater. There are random shots inserted that don’t communicate anything at all. For instance, there is a moment where a dog is running towards the group of soldiers in the midst of battle but we never see where the dog goes. If it was meant to communicate that the dog ran away, then the edit doesn’t communicate that because it made edited together as a reverse shot. This seems like a petty thing to harp on but this is just a small example that is indicative of the movie’s poor editing choices.
With the poor editing and muddled storytelling it does make the movie feel like it was stitched together at the last minute. That isn’t to say the movie is bad all the way through. Black’s action is entertaining; he knows how to shoot action and his talent for good action sequences does help overcome the confusing edits. Despite my problems with the story, I did find myself being entertained at various moments throughout the movie. Black’s collection of misfits and colorful characters was a fun crew to be around. Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Alfie Allen and the rest of the cast are well chosen. I cared for them and didn’t want them to die. Sterling K. Brown is a fun human villain as well. Only Oliva Munn felt out of place and miscast. I didn’t really believe her in the role as a badass scientist. Her wide-eyed teeth clenched look always comes across as trying too hard to be intense.
The third act is a spot where most blockbusters tend to stumble the hardest and The Predator is no exception. The ending feels rushed and Black does a poor job making a super-predator feel intimidating. Remember how hard it was to kill one Predator in a jungle? Now there is a Super-Predator, that should be the hardest thing to kill but instead, it just feels like a big dumb CGI alien creature without any menace at all.
Oh, and the very end of the movie had to be a post-credit scene originally. I won’t go into detail to avoid spoilers but the way the ending is shot and put together it feels like a Marvel-style post-credits scene hoping to keep you hooked on what is coming next (except they forgot to put it after the credits). The problem is the filmmakers forgot to make the ending hook intriguing. It is one of the most underwhelming “hooks” or “cliffhangers” I’ve seen before cutting to credits. If it wasn’t a post-credit scene originally then everyone dropped the ball on that. It reminds me of the endings to Independence Day: Resurgence or Pacific Rim: Uprising; just a sad attempt at sequel bait.
The Predator is a mess. Although this is an occasionally fun mess, The Predator is a mess none the less. The story is a bit scattershot, the editing choices are weak, and the third act stumbles. The Predator has a few entertaining action scenes and the movie isn’t a hard watch (and it does boast a lot of personality) but it is another poor sequel to a franchise that has really survived off a good original film and a creative creature design that looks good as an action figure. Between this and Iron Man 3 I would much rather Shane Black stay away from these studio blockbusters and continue to make movies like The Nice Guys or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Movies like The Predator don’t seem to be working out for him.