The Predator franchise cannot catch a break. Everyone loves the 1987 classic film which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was Arnie at his best: Shooting guns, shouting almost incomprehensible English and fighting an hunter from beyond the stars in the middle of a sweltering jungle. Even the sequel, 1990’s Predator 2 was a pretty awesome movie. I would even argue that the film is superior to the original. (Shut up Simon, it’s a great film) Instead of delivering more of the same that fim pitted the Predator against the exact opposite of Arnold, a past-his-prime Danny Glover in the concrete jungles of Los Angeles. This was followed by two wretched Aliens vs Predator films. You’d think that you couldn’t fuck up a movie like that, but they did — twice. They got back on track with 2010’s Predators, taking the route James Cameron did with Aliens. Also the movie was produced by Robert Rodriguez, who fucking understands how to make a great action movie.
This then brings us to last year’s The Predator which took a franchise on recovery and smashed it back down to being on life support.
It had all the potential of being a great film. You had Shane Black and Fred Dekker together again writing a movie. These guys wrote Monster Squad together. That movie was awesome. However, the pair also wrote their share of stinkers solo. Dekker almost tanked his career by penning Robocop 3 and Black really shit the bed with Iron Man 3. Sadly, these two guys were not channeling the creative energies that created Monster Squad.
I am more disappointed with Fred Dekker who told Rue Morgue in 2009 that Robocop 3 was a blemish on his career for years. In fact, he hasn’t directed a film yet and The Predator marks the first film script he has written in 25 years. Obviously, he learned nothing from the experience.
Let Me Count The Ways that The Predator sucked….
10. Tries too hard to remind you of past films.
The movie makes a lot of passing references to the previous films in the franchise. That much is a given. Some of the elements referenced make some sense. The biggest one was casting Jake Busey in the role of Keyes, a scientist who is studying the Predators. This is the son of Peter Keyes, from Predator 2 who was played by Jake’s father Gary Busey. (aka the fun Busey)
However, it’s not the continuity in this film that feels forced. It’s the ham-fisted attempts to remind people of the original movie. The most obvious one is the fact that they use the original score from Predator in this film. It’s an awkward fit because the music does not match the atmosphere of this film.
The original music score to Predator fits the setting of the film. That movie was about a military operation that takes place in the jungles of Central America. The Predator is definitely not that and playing that the score from the first movie is so out of place as characters are driving through suburbia in an RV.
There are moments in this film where characters say lines that are similar, if not word-for-word from the original film. The first example is when Doctor Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn) calls a captured Predator a “beautiful motherucker”. This is a call back to the first film when Arnold’s character, Dutch, calls the alien creature an “ugly motherfucker”. Later, Nabraska Williams (Trevante Rhodes) shouts “Get to the chopper!” just like Arnold, but without the heavy Austrian accent. In yet another scene a note left for Rory McKenna (Jacob Tremblay) warns him not to do something the note reads “I will cut you!” if he does. This again, is a line taken from the original Predator.
These references are forced and do nothing to add to the film. There’s one thing showing props from previous films, it’s something entirely different to pair a movie with unfitting music and making characters say uncharacteristic lines.
It’s about as jarring as a Star Trek movie that suddenly plays music from Star Wars: A New Hope and, inexplicably, Captain Kirk says “Luke I am your father” while winking at the camera.
9. Mail Order Predator
The hero of the film is Quinn McKinna (Boyd Holbrook from Narcos). The film opens with him eliminating drug dealers in Mexico when — wouldn’t you know it — a Predator escape pod crash lands in the middle of his operation. Although the Predator kills his men it is injured and capture by the secret government agency trying to learn their secrets. McKinna manages manages to steal some Predator tech and flees the scene. These items include the Predator’s mask, his gauntlet, and a small metal sphere that activates the Predator’s trademark cloaking system.
On the run from the authorities, Quinn figures the best thing to do with the alien technology is to mail it to his estranged wife in America. Everything except for the cloaking device which he swallows.
Now, I can totally suspend my disbelief when we’re talking about alien hunters from outer space that use advanced technology. What I’m not buying is the idea that someone can mail alien technology to the United States from Mexico without raising any red flags.
Which brings us to our next point…
8. The Autism Subplot
Back in America, we meet Rory McKenna, Quinn’s son. The thing about Rory is that he has aspergers. Which, if you want to have a character on the Autism spectrum in your movie, that’s cool. It’s topical. However, this movie takes it to ridiculous levels.
The filmmakers decide that the best way to demonstrate what aspergers is by having Rory get bullied and then reset a number of overturned chessboards back the way they were before the bullies knock all the pieces off.
He then goes home and receives the package as it is being delivered. The only interesting thing about this whole scene is seeing the Gary Chalk can still get work, and that’s just Prime.
So this kid does what kids do, open the strange package from Mexico mailed by their estranged father and start fucking around with the alien technology inside.
This is where we start getting into bullshit territory. Because he is autistic, Rory McKenna is apparently the only person in the whole movie who can figure out how the Predator tech works. However, he has the capacity to understand that this is an alien technology, but not the common-sense to not wear it as a Halloween costume to go trick-or-treating.
But even this is not the most ridiculous thing. It’s the fact that throughout the course of this film it is posited that aspergers is the next evolutionary step in humanity. In fact, Rory is the reason why the Predator’s have come to Earth. More on that later. Let’s talk about this “next evolutionary step” stuff.
The idea of Autism being the next step of evolution was first suggested in a stage play called “Lucy” from 2007. However, the idea has since been floated by Professor Tony Attwood, a British psychologist a so-called expert in autism. He is the only expert who is suggesting this. In fact, the only other people who are mirroring his opinion are the typical internet hucksters who make videos and alternative medicine websites.
Syfy Wire actually did a piece on this and approached some leading psychologists on this idea. The TL;DR version is: That’s not really how evolution works. It’s about as much junk science as — speaking of entertainment called Lucy — like the idea that accessing 100% of the human brain lets you “swipe right” on real life.
The moral here, budding filmmakers, is that if you’re going to try and write some kind of science into your science fiction film, talk to a fucking scientist first.
7. Predators altering their dna
The whole autism plot point is to flesh out the concept that the reason why Predators hunt is so they can steal useful DNA traits from alien species in order to enhance themselves and become better hunters. As such, the Predators in this film are after Rory McKenna because he is viewed as humanities “greatest warrior”.
Somehow, the genes that create aspergers are what the Predators need to become better warriors. This does not make much sense since, even as human understanding goes, we don’t really know if someone being on the spectrum has an evolutionary advantage. What if it just turns you into Space-Rain Man. You’re not going to be able to do much hunting if Tom Cruise cons you into winning at Blackjack.
However, even without the whole autism plot point, this movie takes the Predator mythos and adds an unnecessary element. For decades the whole point of the Predators has been pretty straight forward, they’re a race of hunters that like to pit themselves against great warriors from other worlds. What more do you need?
The idea that they are also stealing DNA to alter their genetics doesn’t make any sense since this is the first film you ever see it done. They’ve been hunting in space for centuries (as evidence at the end of Predator 2) and they only started altering their DNA now? Why only human DNA? These guys have obviously fought other alien races (Aliens vs Predator) and yet it’s only human DNA they’re looking for?
Also, I thought the whole point to the Predators was being able to defeat their prey with only their natural skills. If they were constantly roiding themselves up like a Major League baseball player wouldn’t it just be easier to nuke entire planets and be done with it instead?
6. Unclear Motivations
What’s even more unclear is what the Predators even want out of all of this. One of the Predators, the “good” one (more on that later) gets infused with human DNA and suddenly it wants to get a weapon to Earth to help humans fight off an invasion from Predators.
Why does it suddenly decide to turn against its race when infused with human DNA? That doesn’t make any kind of sense. Moreover, the motivation for an invasion is not very well explained. It is suggested in this movie that global warming is making Earth more appealing to the Predators who are apparently looking to take over the world. So now they need a new home planet? What happened to their old one? Are they planetary conquerors now? Wouldn’t an invasion remove a fertile hunting ground?
Also, if the “good” Predator is supposed to be trying to save the Earth, he certainly has a dumb way of showing it. From the moment he gets on Earth he starts killing humans. In fact, the whole time it is active in this film it is trying to kill every person it comes into contact with. Sure, it just escaped captivity and is being hunted by the military itself, but you aren’t exactly endearing people to the whole “saving the human race” by slaughtering everyone you come into contact with.
The whole point is that the “good” Predator is trying to deliver a suit of Predator armor to the humans and the “bad” Predators are trying to stop them. On the one hand, the “good” Predator’s ship crashes on Earth and he has to find it, on the other hand how was he going to explain all this to the humans? The movie just tosses in a lot of action sequences and violence to cover up the fact that this is a really poorly thought out plan.
5. Dumb Dogs
In Predators, the previous installment in the franchise, the Predators introduce two concepts to the franchise. The so-called “Super” Predators and Predator dogs. In that film, the dogs are depicted as ruthless unrelenting trackers that are deadly in their own right.
In The Predator these beasts appear again but they are less menacing this time around. There are two of them and they are dispatched within 5 minutes of being unleashed upon the humans.
The only surviving dog is lobotomized with a bullet and keeps on coming back to play fetch with the humans as part of a stupid running gag. It’s not just the running gag that makes this so jarring. It’s also the fact that our main characters keep on reacting to it differently. They go from treating it like a playful pet to still being afraid of it.
This ultimately culminates with a poorly telegraphed “fetch” scene with grenades where the Predator Dog is used to deliver explosives.
4. Poorly Placed humor
Putting humor into a movie, particularly an action/horror/sci-fi film like this is commonly used to break up tension.
However, the story is so incredibly bland that the addition of humor is so out of place. It’s almost like they movie can’t decide on a tone. Is it being deathly serious? Is it trying to be funny?
Part of this is the ridiculous utterances of lines from past films (“Get to the chopper!”) to a debate on why the aliens are called Predators when technically speaking they are actually hunters. This is a debate that is tossed into the film twice to try and boost the laughs. It doesn’t. It’s the type of conversation you’d encounter at a comic book convention. You know the ones. The kind where someone makes a passing reference to a film or television show and some bigger nerd has to stop, push up his glasses, and go “well actually…” If you find my comparison a strained stereotype, then congratulations (!!!) you know know what it’s like to sit through this drivel on film.
Oh, and remember when our hero swallowed the Predator cloaking device at the beginning of the movie? Well you better believe there is a scene where he suddenly — and urgently — shit it out. The scene is played out with all the grace of an Eddie Murphy movie that uses farting as means of advancing the plot.
There’s more “humor” in this film that I’d like to touch on but first let’s move to our next point…
3. the Loonies - heroes like the a-team, only more depressing.
After irresponsibly mailing alien technology to his family, Quinn is picked up by the government and after he tells them that he had an encounter with aliens they decide to silence him by sending him to a mental health facility.
Along the bus he befriends a group of other soldiers that are on their way. They form the rag-tag group that Quinn works with to save his son from the Predators. These guys include…
Nebraska Williams - Who tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head but missed. His motivation for killing himself was because “my commanding officer was an asshole”. Who was his commanding officer? OH SNAP IT WAS NEBRASKA HIMSELF! Probably not from Nebraska.
Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key) and Baxley (Thomas Jane) are both the only survivors on a mission, best buds, both suffering from PTSD, and implied to be gay (which the other characters talk about with surprise in the middle of a deadly firefight with the “bad” Predator) Also, Baxley has turrets syndrome. (more on that later)
Nettles (Augusto Aguilera) a former helicopter pilot who suffered a head injury.
And Finally, Lynch (Alife Allen) whose only disability is, apparently, being Irish.
The thing I liked about the Predator films is that they would put the Predator up against different types of opponents. It would have been very boring if each move had the Predator going up against an Arnold type every movie. In Predator 2 it was a dumpy getting-to-old-for-this-shit LA cop. In Predators they fought a diverse group of individuals including various soldiers and mercenaries.
To be honest, the idea of broken soldiers, those who have suffered as a result of their service to their country would have actually been an interesting angle. As far as commentary goes, particularly since the United States has been in an endless “War on Terror” for almost 20 years it could have been a poignant commentary for our times. That these characters could still be heroic even though they are broken and suffering from mental illness.
2. Mental Illness is Played Up For Laughs
For a movie that is trying (and also failing) at presenting autistic kids as unsung heroes it does the exact opposite when it comes to approaching the subject of other mental illnesses.
For example, Baxley’s turrets syndrome is played up entirely for laughs. Sputtering offensive lines for comedic effect. Hey, you know when this was funny? When South Park did it 11 years earlier.
The rest of the film has these characters acting like the Three Stooges without a Moe. They meander around and do stupid wall-eyed things in another pitiful attempt for laughs. From putting objects around the passed out Doctor Brackett (including a unicorn made out of tinfoil!) to critiquing the artwork of Quinn’s wife, Emily. (Yvonne Strahovski)
This would be like if in First Blood, John Rambo falls on his ass after slipping on a banana peel and Vietnam flashbacks that involve pie-fights.
What’s worse is that the jokes at the expense of the mental health of the characters takes time away from actually developing these characters in legitimate ways. Ultimately, when they get killed you’re struggling for a reason to care about the fact they are getting killed off.
1. Bad editing
The worst thing about this movie is all the really bad, nonsensical editing. There are many, many, many examples I could make but two stand out in my mind after watching this film.
At one point in the film, Quinn and his Loonies end up at Emily’s house and start trying to explain what’s going on before rushing out to find Rory. When we next see Emily, she is suddenly entertaining two men from the military project that are hunting down the Predators. There’s no set up. They are just there. It’s such a jarring and confusing moment that you wonder if you blacked out and forgot a scene. Next thing you know it your struggling with the urge to rewind the movie and see if you missed something and not wanting to spend more time watching this movie than necessary.
In the same section of the film, Rory runs to a nearby field to get away from the Predators. Suddenly, a pitbull comes out from behind the bleachers. Is it a threat to the boy? Did it escape? Is it a cool talking dog that rides a skateboard that’s voice by John Lovitz? Nope. It’s just there as a size comparison when the Predator Dogs show up. Which is unnecessary since, you know, you can do a size comparison between the Predator Dogs and the child. The inclusion of the dog for this scene is so nonsensical. After the heroes come and save the boy they then cut to a scene of the bulldog running away, never to be seen again. This is such a bizarre and unnecessary choice to add to the film.
Oh then there’s the ending
If for some reason you don’t want the ending to this turkey being spoiled, stop reading.
In this day and age where movies set themselves up for a sequel this movie has one of the most disappointingly bad endings I have ever had the displeasure of witnessing. After our heroes win and defeat the “bad” Predator they recover the secret pod. Rory gets a job working for the super-secret government agency even though he’s like 10. Also the secret pod has a “Predator Killer” suit which is basically a Predator suit with two cannons. Quinn then looks at the camera and says:
That's my new suit, bubba. I hope they got it in a 42 long.
Internet rumor being what it is, there is talk of having Shane Black back to make two more Predator movies. Hopefully, with the Disney acquisition of 20th Century Fox’s film properties changes these plans. I’m really hoping that someone with fresh eyes decide to take this franchise in a different direction.
Here’s the Thing about the predator franchise
There is a wealth of Predator stories out there as Dark Horse comics has been publishing Predator comics since 1989. There are some great stories in there that could be easily adapted to film.
On top of this, as Predator 2 shown, the Predators have been coming to Earth for centuries. Why not tell one of those stories? I’d like to see them do a movie about when a Predator clashed with Raphael Adolini in the 1700s. They did it in the comics, why not turn that into a movie? Or even better, do a Predator movie that take place during World War II or during feudal Japan.
The problem with modern Predator films is that they spend too much time trying to explain the motivation of these hunters. Who cares? The core of the series was always about humans persevering against a seemingly superior foe.
What made the original Predator work (and even Predator 2) is the fact that the movie didn’t waste its time trying to figure out the motivation of the creature. That’s was never the point. It didn’t matter. Once you start adding explanations to the alien creatures in this franchise they lose whatever mystique they had to begin with. What makes the Predator so menacing is the fact that it is the unknown. You didn’t know why it was hunting. You couldn’t understand its motivations. The lack of motive and the fact that people were treated as game to be hunted is what makes it scary.
That is something that both Shane Black and Fred Dekker forgot and that’s the main reason why this movie stinks so bad. These Predators aren’t scare. They aren’t menacing. One of them is literally 10 feet tall and he looks fucking ridiculous.
Sadly, the genie is out of the bottle at this point. The only way to move forward is to go back to basics and just conveniently ignore this movie ever happened and hope like hell they don’t reboot the franchise.