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Predator is one of those franchises that feels like there have been many films released over the years. The Predator, releasing this weekend, is only the forth proper film in the series (we are not going to count the Alien Vs Predator films). The first is a classic of course, the second is campy fun but not a good film. Predators gets a bad rap, it was way more entertaining than people gave it credit for, and had a pretty great script. For a franchise with such an iconic first entry, The Predator has a lot to live up to.
Sadly, this newest entry does not rise up to the original’s level. Not that it ever really could. In this film, a Predator has crash-landed on Earth after being pursued through space by another. It encounters Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook, who you will be forgiven for mistaking for Joel Kinnaman), this film’s Arnold stand-in. He steals Predator tech and mails it to his estranged son for safe-keeping before he is taken into custody. The Predator itself is tranquilized and brought to a lab, where Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) brings in Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) to help them study it. Of course, it escapes. From there, all sorts of chaos goes down, and Casey ends up teaming with The Loonies, a squad of institutionalized soldiers led by McKenna in the war against not only the fugitive Predator, but a new Super Predator. (Keeping the specifics loose here for spoiler purposes)
There are things that work here. The film itself is pretty funny. Shane Black knows funny, and it would be disappointing if this film took itself too seriously. Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Augusto Aguilera, Alfie Allen, and Trevante Rhodes are all scene-stealers as The Loonies. Key and Jane especially are the standouts in the funny department, as should be expected. Munn is good as well, maybe the best she has been since Newsroom on HBO (still an underrated show). The action is brutal and shot well, probably the best since the original. The creature designs are fantastic, even the silly Super Predator has a unique and intricate design that you have to respect. Jacob Tremblay is also fine as Holbrook’s son, the scenes with him figuring out the Predator tech are some of the best in the film.
Which makes the bad feel worse. This film is kind of boring in stretches, after the first half the action scenes feel very generic. It is fairly obvious where the story is going about halfway through, and any attempts to add to the creatures mythos feels forced and leaves you scratching your head. While most of the humor works, there are jokes that feel forced. The whole thing with the Predator dogs feels so weird: if Predators are the ultimate hunters, why do they need animals to help them track? The end becomes yet another Man vs Predator face-off, and I’m sorry, Holbrook is no Arnold. It would have been nice to see something different for the last 15 minutes of run-time. And don’t even get me started on the last moments.
The whole thing just feels very forgettable. In three months most will forget this one exists, much like Predators until this movie was announced. Maybe we just don’t need anymore Predator films. The first one sets the standard, and its shadow looms so large that there is really nothing else to say.