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– by Nick Doll

The Predator is back again, baby, this time from the mind of auteur writer/director Shane Black, who interestingly enough acted in the first Predator as he was meant to be on set for rewrites. You’d think that experience from 1987 would make Shane Black one of the leading experts on the Predator mythology.

You’d be wrong. Dead wrong.

Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is on a mission in Mexico when the Predator’s ship comes crashing down on Earth, and the creature murders his entire unit. McKenna survives the encounter, as does the Predator who is captured and held by the US government. In charge is Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), an expert on anything that falls from the sky, who has had a fascination with the aliens since their first arrival in 1987. Before McKenna is captured and discredited by Traeger and his men, he mails evidence of his encounter to his home, where his autistic son Rory McKenna (Jacob Tremblay) finds the box and accidentally triggers a device that will bring a far more lethal Predator to Earth. Now it’s up to McKenna and a rag-tag crew of mentally disturbed, former military men, as well as Professor Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), to save Rory, stay out of reach of the US government and Traeger, all the while hunted by the “super” predator brought Earth by the signal.

Oh, boy… This movie can be a lot of fun, but it is also a giant mess. You’re not going to like this, Predator fans, but the closest film I can compare The Predator to is Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Like Fallen Kingdom, we get into some utterly bizarre plot points that are meant to expand on the Predator mythology, dating back to the first film. In the process, many elements are over-explained and the mystery of the Predator is lost. We learn exactly why Earth was chosen, more about their DNA, and other unnecessary details that detract from the franchise as a whole.

The cast is really fun, but their characters are completely underdeveloped. McKenna meets up with the most interesting characters in the film – the bus filled with mentally-ill veterans – including a cast that includes Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key – who is hilarious, for better or worse – Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, and Augusto Aguilera. The interactions with these characters are great fun; perhaps the most entertaining group a Predator has ever hunted. Sterling K. Brown is wonderful as the human villain in the film, with more teeth than the actual Predators. It’s even exciting to see Jake Busey play a quirky scientist who is the son of Gary Busey’s character from Predator 2.

Olivia Munn on the other hand, well, is simply the eye-candy in this film, unfortunately. Look, even before the controversy surrounding the sexual predator whose scenes with Munn were cut from the film, Black has a reputation for the manliest of manly movies (to almost a point of “toxic masculinity”), including Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3, and The Nice Guys. The Predator is pretty sexist, with Olivia Munn getting naked more than once – for a plot-point, but a plot-point that only exists to get her in the nude – and also ending up as the least competent protagonist in the film, even compared to bus of men who are “certified crazy.”

Likewise, one character has Aspergers and another has Tourettes, two elements that only are addressed when it serves the plot, with writers Fred Dekker and Black seeming to completely forget these characteristics as the film continues. Even though Black has said he has Tourettes himself, these characters are not handled well.  Between the mishandling of mental disorders and Munn as eye-candy, The Predator really is a throwback to the ‘80s in a sexist and ignorant way, even mocking the veterans with mental illness on the bus. Not a good look in 2018.

Some plot points really didn’t make sense to me either, including one involving the Predator “Dogs” we see in the trailer. Many felt like they didn’t pay off, make logical sense even for a Predator movie, and are often forgotten altogether. The ending reminded me of another terrible sequel to an older Sci-Fi film that got a misguided sequel in the last few years, setting up a sequel we may never see to The Predator.

 Now, I don’t want to completely bash the film, as it can be great, mindless fun. Just not logical fun. The violence is impressive and actually welcome, the special effects are top notch, and much of the action is worth it. Black’s voice and style are all over this film, though as I previously said, some of Black’s characterization and lines are so inappropriate it is cringe-worthy.

Is this a return to form for the Predator franchise? No.

Do I actually expect to see a sequel to this film? I hope not!

If you love Predator mythology, maybe skip this one. If you’re not as attached to the history of the franchise, The Predator is a fun, but a bit misguided September movie to watch while we wait for the hopefully better movies coming in the next few months.

Grade: C+

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