Movie Review: The Predator
Director: Shane Black
by Jason Koenigsberg
The Predator is a thirty-one-year-old sequel to a 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger action classic. The original had exotic jungle locals, a subtle Vietnam allegory and one of the best machismo casts of all time alongside the Governator with Carl ‘Apollo Creed’ Weathers, and Jesse ‘The Body and Future Governor of Minnesota’ Ventura. It is worth mentioning the first Predator because this new film makes tongue and cheek references to the original, but has absolutely none of the timeless qualities that make the first film hold up as well today as it did when it first premiered. I highly doubt that thirty-one years from now anyone will be talking about Shane Black’s The Predator. In fact, I do not know if people will even remember this movie three years from now.
The opening shot is outer space and after about ten seconds of silence, the peaceful stars are very loudly disrupted by two spaceships roaring past the screen and crash landing on planet Earth. The Predator jumps right into the action and never really stops. No time is taken like in the original film to create the mood, examine the atmosphere, or develop the characters. It felt like this movie had ADD, or in a hurry for no reason. This made The Predator feel like it is a good movie for thirteen-year-old boys. It expects its audience to just want action, violence, and bro-jokes… and not much else.
One of the main reasons The Predator is unsatisfying is because of the performances. Seriously, what has happened to our action stars? This could have really used an Arnold or an actor of his stature to elevate the material. Boyd Holbrook is the pretty white boy main character and he has the leadership skills and screen presence of a gerbil. All of the members of his motley crew of military rejects have zero charisma to match his blander than vanilla leading role. Thomas Jane is the only established actor that managed to come across as a real person and not an over the top caricature out of all the men trying to take down the predators. Even less convincing was Olivia Munn who is supposed to be a brilliant Ph.D. biologist from Johns Hopkins recruited by the US army to help track down the predator and his missing weapons. All she did was make me think that she wandered off the set of a Lifetime movie and onto this film, someone thought she was hot, threw her a gun and said ‘run around and look pretty for two hours’. Her facial expressions never change and her delivery makes the dialogue look worse than it already is. Jacob Tremblay who was outstanding as the little boy in Room (2015) plays an autistic boy that stumbled onto the super secret predator technology and does not show an ounce of the incredible talent he did in that Oscar-winning film but he is not really given much of a chance. Only Jake Busey in a small role brought some aura of cool and authenticity to The Predator, which is because of two reasons; 1. He fit the part he was cast, and 2. his father Gary had a memorably zany over the top performance in the underrated Predator 2 (1990).
The Predator is not the first sequel to the John McTiernan directed 1987 original. Sadly, Shane Black is probably the best writer/director to helm a film in the Predator universe yet inexplicably his take on the material is the worst (other than those horrible Alien vs. Predator movies). Both Predator 2 and Predators (2010) are much maligned but still have their charms and are a lot of fun. The Predator has none of Shane Blacks dark comic humor, film noir style or themes of loneliness and friendship that make his best films so endearing. Shane Black starred in and was a script doctor on the original and sadly all he had to add to this franchise now that he was given much more control are some really bad CGI effects with a lot of fake blood splattered around. He shoehorned in some liberal social commentary about the environment and how global warming is making Earth more appealing to the predators. Also, he added predator dogs that help them hunt. They came across as ugly and unimaginative compared to what a lot of the ideas and images were in all of the three previous standalone Predator movies.
In the end, The Predator is not completely worthless. It was a nice touch that they named Jacob Tremblay’s school Lawrence Gordon Middle School after the producer of this film and the original. By far the best aspect of The Predator is the fact that they used the theme from the original. The music by Henry Jackman faithfully takes Alan Silvestri’s score and utilizes it to great effect to enhance the images. The Predator just needed a whole lot more help besides a faithful music orchestration.
Skip The Predator and re-watch the original. Here is a sample of Alan Silvestri’s rousing Predator theme.