The Predator **

Entertaining enough, but still just another footnote in a franchise that never seems to get off the ground. 

Is it worth $10? No 

With a nod toward nostalgia, “The Predator” opens with the same credit font as the original “Predator” from 1987 and even uses some of that film’s memorable music cues. But this new movie feels a little different, at first. Whereas the original had a relatively slow burn (well, for an ‘80s, testosterone-fueled, action movie), and a simple premise, this “Predator” has an overstuffed plot, an overabundance of characters, and a breathless pace that tears through its runtime like a bullet train. It’s different, yes, but in the end, still not different enough.

There’s so much going on in the first half of the movie it’s hard to take in and harder to explain coherently, something the movie only does marginally well itself. A plethora of disparate characters are folded together by the plot, chasing/being chased by the titular Predator, those pincer-faced aliens who cross interstellar space to hunt (humans, mostly) for sport/honor.

The movie begins with Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook, a little too smug to be charming), a military sniper who loses his crew when one of the aliens, mysteriously chased by another ship, crash lands near their military operation in Mexico. Then there’s Olivia Munn’s Casey Bracket, an evolutionary biologist (though, thankfully not a damsel in distress. Munn pulls off action heroine convincingly) pulled into the plot by Traeger (Sterling K. Brown, who relishes the quirky dialogue), a shady government agent who wants her to study the Predator after its tussle with Quinn and subsequent capture.

We also have Rory (young Oscar nominee, Jacob Tremblay), Quinn’s son, who is on the spectrum and whose genius talents make him important to the plot. And still more: Quinn joins up with a crew of ex-military, all suffering from a variety of mental issues who are defined almost solely by their afflictions and their familiar faces (one of them, Alfie Alan, I recognized from “Game of Thrones,” but doesn’t get to do more than be recognized as that guy from “Game of Thrones”). All of the characters join up eventually to take down the threatening alien, whose appearance on earth is not a simple hunting expedition, instead heralding a (literally) bigger threat that the abundant crew of heroes (and non-) has to deal with.  

The movie’s too chaotic, the way the characters are put together is slapdash, and the details of the story don’t make much sense. In too compact a time frame, Casey is brought into a top secret facility, the Predator wakes up, wreaks havoc, and Casey gives chase. At the same time, Quinn is framed, put on a prison transport, meets his eventual crew, taken to a military mental institution. On the way, Casey chases the escaped Predator into Quinn's path, bringing together Casey, Quinn, the crew, and the Predator, too (the Professor and Mary-Ann do not make an appearance).


It all feels rushed, too coincidental, with the geography not even making sense. Is that seemingly isolated top secret lab (introduced on top of a mountain, next to a waterfall) right next to the mental hospital? And who are all of these characters running around with guns? It all feels hastily streamlined and reshaped at the last minute in post-production. Turns out it kind of was.

To a degree, the movie’s still somewhat entertaining, being both funny and gory. Really gory. The former is more effective than the latter, with the blood and guts almost purely CG, looking more cartoonish than disturbing. It fits the film’s irreverent tone, but it also doesn’t have much impact, becoming a sort of red background noise. It’s so pervasive and so…animated…you become desensitized to it almost immediately. By the time a Predator beheads a jeep full of soldiers at once, you shrug passively.

But it’s easy to swallow the mayhem because the dialogue is consistently amusing, filled with hard boiled bon-mots. One character sums up the aliens’ motivations as, “…f***ing you up is their idea of tourism.” Granted, I relayed this one-liner to a colleague who only looked at me stone-faced, waiting for the punchline. The humor’s mileage may vary for some.

While the whole messy endeavor doesn’t feel like an exact retread of the original, it’s not all that different by the third act, which ends once again with another showdown in a forest. Every “Predator” sequel (this is the fourth, not counting the “Aliens vs.” movies) has sprinkled a few interesting details about the creatures, but the plots always end up the same. Maybe there’s isn’t much more you can do with these hunters, and maybe “Predator” just isn’t worthy of a franchise. “The Predator,” while kind of fun, doesn’t convince me that it is.

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