The circle is now complete. When he left on the helicopter back in 1987, he was but the comic relief. Now Shane Black is the director of the continuation of the most cunning hunter in the galaxy. The Predator doesn’t seek to remake or reboot the whole cannon, but rather continue where it left off from that fateful ending.
A rogue spaceship crashes on Earth to the surprise of elite sniper, Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook). Unwilling to cooperate with authorities on what he shipped to his family back home, he’s sent on a prison bus with the rest of the buffet table for the evening (Thomas Jane, Keegan Michael-Key, Trevante Rhodes, Alfie Allen and Augusto Aguilera) and betrayed science professor Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn). When McKenna’s son (Jacob Tremblay) activates the helmet he mistakes as a Halloween costume, more trouble arrives in the form of the next evolution to the predator species.
That’s a lot of story to stretch for a simple monster hunt. And it does snap at a certain point cutting from one set of characters to another, expanding the lore and trying to make two opposite tones work together. All before the third act starts running on fumes as the sun rises. The action mostly takes place at night which is more atmospheric than the original’s daytime setting, and the gore-tastic fatalities rain buckets of bloody entertainment for shock value and/or the movie goers popcorn diet. Combined with both prosthetics and computer generated effects, the predator has never looked better.
But riddle me this: If a clown threw a pie at a three year old and it dripped blood and small intestines like some demonic gusher, what’s the correct reaction? If your answer is inconclusive then congratulations for figuring out the main flaw in this supposed self-aware madhouse. For an non-franchised project like The Nice Guys, Shane Black’s touch went a long way in dialogue, story and genre combinations despite only making 12 million dollars after deducting the budget. But for a series that, over the years has been associated with horror-action, it’s a huge problem without the aid of Sam Raimi. There are a few laughs to be had in the Halloween setting, but it’s quickly followed by baffling comedy interventions that more confusing that trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. More often than not, established rules are completely broken and some jokes that are supposed to set up lore are thrown in a toddler’s playpen without any further development. Also known as sequel baiting. On top of that serious moments aren’t an endangered species unbalancing the entire notion of making this fueled by the humor.
Something that’s happening in more recent comedies is making the team interchangeable with one defining trait. I’m not gonna act like the original squad was three dimensional since the 80’s were about muscles, manliness and machine guns, but they had different personalities working off each other. Much like Teen Titans Go! each member is no different than the other with the same quips and competition to one up each in lunacy. Other than that, they might as well be action figures with different colored bandanas to tell which is which. Why can’t someone be the grounded every person to be more interesting than the typical lead Holbrook fills in for? Or the smart alec trying to bounce off of the passivist? There’s more to comradery than just being a kooky cardboard cutout.
I’ll give it props for trying to branch out into new territory and having a few funny moments considering the past attempts, but The Predator joins the likes of Solo, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and to an extent The Nun (might’ve been a little too nice to that feature) as another constant for the biggest disappointment of the year. Maybe a comedic tone was the right direction to go with since nothing before has been able to replicate the success of the first. And if this was leading to a remake of Alien vs Predator with more substance this might’ve been worth the trouble. If you can get through the tonal whiplashes between the additional locker room talk that earned this the R rating and the genuinely serious team deaths, bring a kiddie pool to the theater and use it to swim in your popcorn. But for me trying to mix both tones at once made it even more lost in finding a clear identity. To quote the original in summing this up, What the hell are you?