Another day another reboot. Actually, this time around audiences are being “treated” to a sequel to 1987’s Predator, the sci-fi actioner starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and one ugly alien who hunts for sport. One of the original film’s cast members, Shane Black, has made a career as a screenwriter and director, and the opportunity to write and direct a continuation of the Predator saga was too enticing for him to pass up. And considering Black likes to inundate his projects with humor and one-liners, his directing and writing style might be perfect for the franchise. But in a perfect world, writers and directors wouldn’t have to get studio approval of their work. But we live in a far from perfect world, so where does that leave 2018’s The Predator?

Starring Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen and Sterling K. Brown, The Predator is the official 4th entry to the franchise, excluding the Alien vs. Predator films. Black, along with co-writer Fred Dekker, conjured up a project that pays tribute to 80’s actioners while trying its best to give new life to one of the least memorable film franchises.

Black and Dekker provided a little bit of a story, but not one I want to give away. What I will tell you, though, is there are two Predators – one who many will recognize and the second being a super -Predator. The super-Predator is much larger and even more lethal and the good guys are forced to protect themselves from both. In the meantime, viewers get to put up with a bunch of fugitive soldiers (all with some form of PTSD), a biologist who’s surprisingly comfortable firing military-grade weapons, and a child with Asperger's who is the key to everything.

Black, who’s known for writing some memorable fare like Lethal Weapon, The Monster Squad , The Last Action Hero and Iron Man 3 (which he also directed), opted to go heavy with the humor. The entire film plays out like a comedy that just happens to have action and an iconic villain. That has worked for a majority of Black’s past work, but the humor in The Predator is so hit and miss that I wish this was more of a serious action film. The original Predator began with some lighthearted moments - Black even provided some of it. I believe he felt he was keeping in line with the original, but things eventually got serious as Schwarzenegger was too busy trying to survive to bust one-liners every minute. Black’s The Predator offered too much humor, and since a good amount of it didn’t land I was turned off at the light tone juxtaposed with such a violent antagonist.

In regards to the violence, Black and Dekker likely wanted to counterbalance the humor with incredibly violent scenes. Decapitations and disembowelments are the norm in The Predator, and its excessiveness came off as attempts at humor, too. The way people died seemed unnecessary but Black and Dekker consider it a part of the fun.

Admittedly, The Predator is fun, and in the end that’s all that matters. The humor that does land will keep many chuckling, and there are plenty of callbacks to the 1987 original. But there are too many plotholes that preface a third act that's easily the worst I’ve seen this year.

The Predator is quite assuredly a studio film. Although Shane Black and Fred Dekker will be credited as the film’s creators, the final product is a result studio meddling. Fox badly wants this to do well and they clearly added their two cents. That is evident with the tacked-on final scene that sets up the possibility of sequel, but makes no sense within the film’s context (not to mention, it’s freaking ludicrous). The story didn’t make sense considering how things unfolded, and the writing never allowed any character to be memorable. At the least, Sterling K. Brown provided the best performance as Will Traeger, but his character was wasted. Even Munn, who’s proved she can handle serious material (HBO’s The Newsroom), plays a one-note character whose scientist Dr. Casey Bracket apparently can do as much ass-kicking as highly-trained Army Ranger Quinn McKenna (Holbrook).

The Predator will enjoy some success at the box office, thanks to audience curiosity. But this entry is an empty, poor attempt at extending a franchise that isn’t on the same level as most of horror’s iconic villains. It’s bad enough that even a proposed Schwarzenegger cameo wouldn’t have been enough to save this (Schwarzenegger was approached to reprise Dutch but he passed). Maybe if Black and Dekker simply pitted Arnie against the Predator one more time they would’ve done the franchise true justice.

2 stars out of 5


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