The Predator (2018)

Directed by Shane Black

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Something feels wrong about The Predator.  It’s a rough reboot of the 1987 film, complete with a new round of machismo heroes (though they all suffer from some form of PTSD), but the movie’s possible charm dissipates quickly when they do the whole Jurassic World thing of introducing a second, bigger/badder Predator as well as, for some reason, a couple of Predator dogs.  It’s… strange.  Also a huge chunk of the plot revolves around a kid whose autism means he is incredibly intelligent and thus can interact with the Predator helmet, wearing it like he’s Iron Man.

Such a depiction of a child with autism feels problematic because it assumes his otherworldly intelligence, and it’s used as nothing more than a plot device, to make us feel sorry for him and then as an easy way of making sure we root for him.  It’s all a shortcut to empathy, and I do not appreciate when movies do this.

There are a few interesting characters in The Predator, but other than a few individual moments or quips they are reduced to nothing more than plot food, like feeder mice to be consumed by the Predator as he, inevitably, works his way through them all until only the white hero remains.

That white hero is Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), and he’s probably the least interesting of all the characters involved, but I suppose he’s supposed to be, just some rugged, handsome dude around whom all the craziness flies.  We meet him deep in the jungle, somewhere similar to where Predator took place.  After a shipwreck, Quinn gathers the Predator’s advanced technology, and what does he do with it?  Well he knows he’s going to be detained by the military and called crazy, so he mails it to his son.  Later he will learn that the Predator, kept in captivity by a team of scientist (led by Sterling K. Brown), is tracking down this equipment, right back to his son.

So Quinn works with a rag tag group of PTSD-riddled veterans to stop the Predator.  They have no reason to work together other than that they happen to be on the same bus, and in the Predator they recognize a shared disdain for, I don’t know, the man?  The point is that they work together, and they are meant to be seen as an oddball little family.  It’s all fine and good, and there are some nice actors here, but I don’t know, it’s fine.

There’s another character here, a biologist named Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn), but for the life of me I can’t remember what she does.  That’s not a slight against her character because I can’t remember what any of the others do either.  They’re just a group of people fighting the Predator, and in between the action scenes they comment on their own masculinity, or something like that.

It’s fine, I guess, it’s not terrible, but I just could not stand this movie.  I think it’s because it reveals too much information about the Predator, but not important or good information, just information like he has two dog predators.  We also get a scene later in the movie in which he uses google translate to tell the humans that he intends to hunt them for sport and wants to give them a seven minute head start.  It’s such a weird scene that tells us what we already know.

Part of what was great about Predator was watching the characters struggle to wrap their minds around the Predator.  What is it and what does it want?  For a time the characters believed it was the jungle itself pushing back against the humans (and providing some commentary about how destructive humans are in the process).  This time around the Predator just flat out tells the characters (and the audience) this subtext.  Instead of layering it into the story, it literally tells them, ‘I’m haunting you for sport,’ and this is after several tired dialogue exchanges in which the characters discuss how destructive people are.  We get it.

Too much of this movie is predictable, and it’s really not that cute when it thinks it is.  I still have problems with the kid character (Jacob Tremblay) because of how his autism is handled (he’s defined by it), and I loathe how vague and undefined the other characters are.  The people of this movie are either uniformly boring or defined by a single condition.  In either case they have little humanity and are instead just a series of limbs to be torn through.

Up Next: Mars Attacks! (1996), Hotel Artemis (2018), Papillon (2017)

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