by Conar Murdoch
I can’t talk about the latest release in the Predator franchise without first going back to the original movie that spawned it all. The 1987 original spends nearly half its runtime in the guise of your typical 80’s action movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, there’s explosions, gunfire and nearly everything that’s uttered from the Austrian movie star is instantly quotable. Then it turned into something completely unexpected, a bloody, mesmerising and wonderfully tense sci fi thriller. Fast forward to the present and the first man to ever be killed by a Predator is in the director’s and writer’s chair for the 4th movie in the series.
You wouldn’t be wrong to believe that because Shane Black was present in the beginning of the franchise that he would recognize the power and awe that the original creature could still convey to audiences three decades later. With the Fugitive Predator he does achieve this apart from a certain ‘thumbs up’ scene, though the lab escape was excellent and definitely the best part of the movie in my opinion. The Fugitive Predator looked incredible and moved with such an athletic pace and brutal purpose it was awesome to behold.
Unfortunately that respect is smashed into the roof of a car as Black takes the ‘Bigger is Better’ approach with the Upgrade Predator and for the most part it’s completely unnecessary and damaging to the film. The direction of the lore also takes the same damaging approach, the predators apparently don’t take the spines of their greatest kills for trophies. Instead they take them to harvest the spinal fluids so they can genetically upgrade themselves with aspects of the most dangerous species in the galaxy. They’re goddamn Predators! They live for the challenge of hunting something that has every chance to kill them.
As for the cast I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed everyone’s performance. The comedic ensemble of the Loonies were the highlight of the movie for me with their humour. While the comedy might not be everyone’s cup of tea this is a genuinely funny movie and there was quite a few moments that had me bursting with laughter. Yet the heavy emphasis on comedy burdens the movie with an identity crisis as it doesn’t know whether to be funny or a tense and gory sci fi action movie.
You can definitely feel the effect of the screen tests and reshoots in the flow of the movie. The scenes feel like they’re all stitched together awkwardly and the film loses its sense of cohesiveness but at the same time I never felt bored watching the movie but it was jarring nonetheless. It’s at it’s worst in the second act where the pacing feels the most chopped up and awkwardly edited.
Perhaps my views on the movie wouldn’t be so negative if the ending didn’t exist at all. The reveal of what I call the ‘Iron Predator’ was something so damning that I was groaning in pain and utter disbelief. It was the kind of thing you’d see from a teenager who grew up watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe, watched Predator once. Then decided to write a crossover fan fiction where he saves the human race from a predator invasion because Tony Stark built him an Iron Man suit with dreadlocks and plasma casters the size of tank cannons.
Honestly I’ve never felt more conflicted about a movie in my entire life. There were aspects I seriously enjoyed but there were others (the Upgrade Predator and the divisive lore expansion) that never should’ve made it past the first script draft. All in all it was a great popcorn action movie and filled with good laughs. It’s worth a view in the cinema but I just couldn’t ignore the flaws in the story and clashing tones. We waited four long years for this movie and I curse myself for not seeing this disappointment coming. I’m giving The Predator a regrettable 5 out of 10.