Some things have changed in PREDATOR town, but for the most part, nothing has really changed in PREDATOR town.
The basics of THE PREDATOR are that the action, the fighting, the gore, the jokes, and the performances are really quite good. It’s just that the actors involved could have done so much more with a more ambitious movie and script. The movie isn’t terrible but it isn’t the type of action movie that makes you go home on a high, inwardly cheering, and going over your favorite parts with your friends. It is more like, hey that was pretty cool and I thought it was funny and the acting was good.
You can see the templates and homages to other classic action movies in it, particularly The Dirty Dozen with the team of crazy soldiers who go reluctantly into the Predator zone and become progressively more engaged in the fight and valiantly give their lives for the goal and the team. Shades of Independence Day, particularly in the scenes located inside of a lab, but admittedly it is hard to do a lab scene featuring an alien without hearkening back to ID4. Jake Busey pops up for an extended cameo that made me very happy and reminded me of Starship Troopers. Seeing his face was a real pleasure, but he never got as good of a line in this film other than “I heard the Sergeant is a real nut buster.” On balance, Keegan Michael Key does have quite a few funny “Your Mom” jokes.
Boyd Holbrook is good as the Army Ranger sniper Quinn McKenna and Olivia Munn is excellent as Casey Brackett, the scientist who throws in the with crew to find out what is really going on. At no point does her character make dreamy eyes at any of the other characters and when she is nude, it is at least for the process of decontamination in the lab and all you see is her clavicle. For the most part, her character is given dignity without falling back on jokes directed at her.
The disturbed soldiers who join McKenna in his quest are Thomas Jane as Baxley, Keegan Michael Key as Coyle, Alfie Allen as Lynch, and Augusto Aguilera as Nettles. They all work very well as a team of soldiers and as a cast of actors. Augusto Aguilera and Thomas Jane’s characters, in particular, are quite sympathetic after the introductory madness of their characters is over and they can just be part of what’s going on. Sterling K. Brown is there to be the bad guy and he does it well. I remember thinking, wow, his character really is an asshole, but only in the most complimentary way. Yvonne Stravoski, from The Handmaid’s Tale, plays McKenna’s wife and her performance here is vastly different than that of The Handmaid’s Tale.
I will definitely give praise to Shane Black, the director and writer, and Fred Dekker, the co-writer for the lack of a romantic subplot of any kind, the multi-ethnic main cast, and some attempts to be kind to people with mental illness. A number of characters have various mental and emotional conditions and it isn’t really played for laughs and they are shown to be some of the more human and caring people in the group.
The movie itself is very sympathetic to those on the autistic spectrum and Jacob Tremblay does a great job of playing the young boy who is very much central to the plot. As an aside, after the movie I briefly saw a conversation with a young man who is on the spectrum and he seemed very pleased that the movie had a positive portrayal of the condition he has. Representation does matter.
The Predators themselves are fine. They are big, they like killing everything in their path that is dangerous, and they are very hard to kill. Their characters are part of the advancement but I won’t spoil that here.
There is some fine gore, a bit more than I expected really, as I have stated before the violence and fight scenes are all good, but the last act really doesn’t hold together all that well. The plot doesn’t really reveal why the PREDATORS are PREDATOR-ING until a certain point and then when it does, it is a moment of “oh”, rather than “holy fucking shit”! The character sacrifices in the last act are also not really something I saw as necessary to the plot but more of “well, these type of character’s die, so let’s kill them off”. It is very obvious that Black and Dekker, sorry, have a real reverence for the members of the Armed Services and believe in the code of military honor, which is not a bad thing.
My take is essentially this: if you love action films that are funny and you don’t mind not having your mind blown like other relentless action spectacular, this is a good movie for you. It is a mostly entertaining, well acted, slick looking summer action picture released in the Fall. I can’t recommend it any more highly – it’s just average, but a somewhat kind hearted and pretty funny average action flick. It is a decent effort, but in the end, doesn’t quite stick the landing.
THE PREDATOR opens in theaters September 14, 2018.