Movie review: 'Predator'

Kyle Winfield | Contributing Writer

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

When the first Predator film was released, it was quite the subversive film. Take action star Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with several other hyper-masculine actors, put them in a film where they seem like unstoppable action heroes, and then have them get picked off one-by-one by a largely unseen alien presence. It was essentially a horror/slasher film in '80s action/sci-fi clothing. That being said, what direction does this new one take the franchise?

Directed by Shane Black, “The Predator” is the fourth entry in the “Predator” film franchise. It stars Boyd Holbrook, Sterling K. Brown, Olivia Munn, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan Michael Key, Trevante Rhodes and Thomas Jane.

Overall, the series has been a mixed bag in terms of quality, with an excellent first entry, followed by two films that could be called good to decent. With that established, where does this one stand in terms of quality?

Unfortunately, “The Predator” is one half of a good film, followed by a mediocre at best second half, or last third if you want to be generous. The story revolves around a group of soldier convicts/misfits who become involved in the conflict between two members of an alien race, which travel the galaxy to hunt other aliens and humans for sport.

The acting ranges from good to effective, with the standouts being Boyd Holbrook as a wise-cracking sniper and Jacob Tremblay as Holbrook’s character’s autistic son. This is not to say that the other actors were not noteworthy. Keegan-Michael Key, puts his comedic talents to use, utilizing that trademark Shane Black snappy dialogue, and demonstrates very good on-screen chemistry with the other “misfit” soldier cast members.

Speaking of the dialogue, that is one area where Shane Black and his co-writer, Fred Dekker, excel. The lines are quick, snappy and often humorous, which is a definite positive, something this film desperately needs. That is not to say that the dialogue doesn’t have it’s fair share of groaners.

However, that talent for writing dialogue was not extended towards the story.

As stated previously, the film has a pretty good, gory, fun first half. But after that, some of the magic is lost, and it devolves into a mess. Plot holes pop out of the woodwork, contrivances abound and an ending that just smacks of studio interference, all tied together with ridiculous, unnecessary sequel-bait.

For those who have not been following the production of the film, the whole ending sequence had to be changed due to script leaks and leaked set photos depicting two predator creatures dressed in human clothes accompanying Boyd Holbrook and co. in an armored personnel carrier. Something that could have made the later parts of the film better or worse, depending on how well that would have been handled.

Another strangely inconsistent aspect of the film are the effects. The practical effects, such as the suit and armor used for the Fugitive Predator look spectacular, and adds a new, unique look to the titular creature.

In stark contrast to the practical effects, the CGI varies in quality. The scenes involving the predator’s invisibility tech looks quite good. But the effects on the super predator, especially near the end, look quite poor. Following that was an even worse display of CGI, that looked horribly rushed and a might bit ridiculous. This, again, goes back to the whole ending being hastily re-shot.

To answer the question posed at the beginning of this review, this latest entry goes for a straight-forward action-comedy route that many action films have been taking as of late, no doubt due in part to the success Marvel has had in mixing the two. While that isn’t a bad thing, this film also follows the alarming trend of a studio interfering and changing a film for the worse.

Unfortunately, “The Predator," is not recommended due to the fact that it is only one half of a good film, followed by second half that just reeks of studio changes and a forced attempt to make yet more sequels. But, at least this film is better than “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.” Which isn’t a high bar.