The opening of Shane Black‚Äôs The Predator has you locked in. It‚Äôs reminiscent of the 1987 original starring Arnold Schwarzenegger: A spacecraft zips through space as the title card pops up and crash lands in a jungle on Earth. The difference between the two films is the cat‚Äôs out of the bag. We‚Äôve seen enough of these Predator films to know that there‚Äôs a killer alien aboard that ship and the blood is about to hit the fan ‚ÄĒ and it does, spectacularly.
From its intense opening sequence (where we witness just how R-rated it is), the film quickly enters a matrix of lunacy. It might be surprising to hear that The Predator is in the running to be the comedy of the year. However, that should also come as no surprise, considering co-writer and director Black is known for his witty writing style and out-there story directions (see The Nice Guys, Lethal Weapon, or Black‚Äôs bizarre role in the original Predator).
Black‚Äôs decision to make almost every character in the new movie a comic relief character may be overwhelming to Predator fans who were hoping for a movie more like the original or the first 20 minutes. But we‚Äôre in the age of Marvel and post-Batman v. Superman, so it‚Äôs the studio‚Äôs logic to keep it funny or the audience will label it dull. So whenever the movie hits its more serious points, most notably during the conclusion, the tonal nuts and bolts start to scatter all over the map.
The story concerns a soldier named Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook, and a southern accent that could soothe you to sleep), who has an unlucky encounter with the titular creature at the film‚Äôs start. Quinn was just trying to fulfill his duties as a sniper and execute a mission in the jungle, but he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He justly assumes that nobody will believe what he has witnessed and decides to bag some proof (the Predator‚Äôs helmet and a weaponized armband), an action that proves to have some serious consequences.
Quinn‚Äôs young son, Rory (the adorable Jacob Tremblay of Room), who has Asperger‚Äôs syndrome, gets his hands on this alien tech (because daddy sent it home like a goof) and accidentally triggers the universe‚Äôs most lethal killer to play the ‚Äúmost dangerous game.‚ÄĚ
From that vague description you may recognize the familiar story beats. What is detectable is the ragtag team of men (including Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen and Augusto Aguilera) who assemble to help Quinn take out the alien trash. Like the original, they have so much machismo that you may have a Tom Selleck-mustache by the time you exit the theater. The movie doesn‚Äôt have the best handshake of all time (the muscularly exchange between Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers) or guys firing guns bigger than themselves while yelling, ‚ÄúGet some!,‚ÄĚ but you get some skilled and manly ex-soldiers who won‚Äôt go down easy against the beast.
What‚Äôs new is the once simple story (man vs. Predator) has now evolved into something more bulky and complicated (man vs. Predator vs. Ultimate Predator vs. Government). The film is certainly not devoid of merit, but you can sense there was an active tug of war match going on between Black and the studio. There are some fascinating details about why the Predator has come to Earth and then there are other details that don‚Äôt quite add up. It‚Äôs as if Black was so frustrated with all the feedback he got from the studio that he busied up the storyline in hopes the audience wouldn‚Äôt be intelligent enough to stop and question what‚Äôs going on.
No matter how stupid it gets (the last scene of the film especially), this is an entertaining and funny movie. If it weren‚Äôt for the humor, this would be another stone to cast into the sea. Truthfully, it‚Äôs best to approach The Predator like it‚Äôs a Deadpool movie, minus all the fourth-wall-breaking. The Deadpool movies are so ridiculous and comical that they can just about get away with anything. If the movie has the will to poke fun at its own franchise‚Äôs name (‚ÄúPredators should be called Hunters, because they hunt for sport‚ÄĚ), you laugh. When a Predator uses a dead man‚Äôs arm to signal to that dead man‚Äôs other team members that he‚Äôs OK (like Woody does with Buzz‚Äôs arm in Toy Story), you laugh and roll with the punches.
I should also mention Olivia Munn, who brings a nice presence to the film as a science teacher called to action. She‚Äôs like Sarah Connor mixed with Amy Adams from Arrival. She‚Äôs the brains of the outfit and is not afraid to pull the trigger. A scene where she stands up against the Ultimate Predator (a Predator that‚Äôs twice as big and mean, of course) is exciting.
The Predator may not be your dad‚Äôs Predator movie (which he loves to quote), but it ain‚Äôt half bad. There‚Äôs plenty of dumb to go around, but there‚Äôs enough humor and fun action scenes to make you want to, as Schwarzenegger said in the original film, stick around.