Dan's Review: "The Predator" gets messy, lacks star power
Sep 14, 2018 10:21PM
● By Dan Metcalf
The Predator - © 2018 20th Century Fox
The Predator (20th Century Fox)
Rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, and crude sexual references.
Starring Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera, Yvonne Strahovski, Jake Busey, Niall Matter, Brian A. Prince.
Written by Fred Dekker and Shane Black, based on characters created by Jim Thomas and John Thomas.
Directed by Shane Black.
Cool monsters are hard to come by. In the past 30 years, there have been exactly two that come to mind: the “Aliens” in the “Aliens” franchise, and “The Predator” in the “Predator” franchise. They were so cool that game creators and Hollywood eventually pitted them against each other as rivals, culminating in 2004’s AVP: Alien vs. Predator. Since then, there have been more “Alien” movies, but no new Predator installments – until now. The Predator hits theaters this weekend and comes to us courtesy of Writer-Director Shane Black.
Boyd Holbroook plays Quinn McKenna, an Army Ranger whose entire company is killed by an alien predator in Mexico. Deemed a psycho for insisting that an alien murdered his buddies, McKenna is stuck on a bus with other military mental health patients, including “Nebraska” (Trevante Rhodes), Coyle (Keeghan Michael Key), Baxley (Thomas Jane), Lynch (Alfie Allen) and Nettles (Augusto Aguilera). Meanwhile, McKenna’s estranged wife (Yvonne Strahovski) and son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) receive a mysterious package dad sent from Mexico containing a predator helmet and a few other gadgets he scavenged from the wreckage of the alien ship involved in his unit’s demise. Little Rory begins to play around with the alien tech, and because he has autism, he is able to crack into some of the strange code. At the same time, a secret government team led by the brutal Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) enlists the expertise of Dr. Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) to visit their secret lab where they have captured and sedated a predator. All paths converge on the secret lab located near McKenna’s family as an even larger predator arrives on the hunt for the smaller predator. A chaotic battle follows an important revelation about the predator’s intentions, as McKenna, his family and the mental health commandos reckon with a new threat.
The Predator benefits from Writer-Director Shane Black’s sharp wit and penchant for action-related humor, but not much else. The plot and story construction are a complete mess, riddled with snarky one-liners wedged in between gory death scenes. Black, (who had a small role in the original Predator film in 1987) tries very hard to regenerate the franchise and build a foundation for a sequel/series, but mind-numbing body counts and a smart-aleck script may not be enough to get it going again. Boyd Holbrook, an up-and-coming talent on the rise (his starring role in the first season of the Netflix Original “Narcos” series was noteworthy) certainly has bigger roles coming, but he doesn’t have the same star power as Schwarzenegger did in the original - yet. In short, you need more than just a cool monster. It also helps to have chemistry, a solid story and someone with a little more drawing power than <checks notes> “Boyd Holbrook.”
Speaking of the weak story, I have a particular bone to pick with The Predator. Jacob Tremblay’s character is a young boy with autism. One of the plot devices in the film involves the use of Rory’s genius (derived from autism) to crack the predator’s computer codes. As a parent of someone with autism, I grow increasingly tired of this stereotype of children with autism possessing some kind of magical brainpower. In reality, there are millions of people on the autism spectrum with varying levels of intelligence, and a supermajority of them are not geniuses (even though some do have special abilities enhanced by autism). So, please, Hollywood…stop using this crutch to make plot shortcuts and further this misconception (Mile 22, The Accountant, Mercury Rising, etc.).
The Predator Trailer