The Predator and all the images you see in this editorial are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Shane Black
It’s been a few weeks since The Predator graced the multiplexes in all its confused glory, so I think now’s a pretty good time to really get into what exactly is SO fascinatingly wrong about this movie that I couldn’t fit into a proper review. The last time I did something like this was all the way back when The Mummy was supposed to be the next big thing which sadly didn’t end up being the case despite making four hundred million worldwide and so The Dark Universe is more or less dead on arrival. A shame because, despite the film’s ASTOUNDING amount of flaws, it was compelling in a way that very few terrible movies can be and I’d have loved to see a DCCU style nightmare come out of it. Predators though still has a chance to be the next (albeit smaller) version of this with its incredibly pronounced sequel bait at the end and comparatively lower stakes, so why not give it the proper WTF treatment? Unlike my last list however, this isn’t ranked in an ascending order of absurdity; rather it’s structured in a way to try and get across the ESCALATING sense of absurdity that builds as the movie goes along, so while one thing may not be as out there or ridiculous as the thing before it, it all adds up into this ludicrous mishmash of ideas that either should have been left on the cutting room floor or given the time it needed to not feel so inexplicably jammed into an already overly tight runtime. Let’s get started!!
10) Lock him up and throw away the key! – Why the heck is Quinn being railroaded!?
So the movie begins with The Predator (at least the first one of them) crash landing on Earth basically within spitting distance a squad of army dudes out on a mission. Our lead dude is Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) who finds the escape pod The Predator used as well as part of his armor; including his mask and one of his arm bands that both have VERY advanced computer systems in them. His men die at the hands of The Predator, he manages to escape, and then he mails the pieces of armor to his home in the US. Now why would he do that? Well apparently he correctly assumed that he would be arrested by THE HIGHER UPS and sent to a mental institution as a way to keep him quiet about the alien… because reasons. Now to be clear, this is not just ANY army dude; the mission he was on was to assassinate a drug lord on an ally’s soil (Mexico) and the US Military isn’t about to send someone on that kind of job who doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut and play ball. How is this guy not an ASSET to The Stargazer Project considering his sterling military record, and for that matter why are they so intent on keeping HIM out of the loop when they IMMEDIATELY bring a civilian scientist on board (Dr. Casey Bracket played by Olivia Munn) to run tests on the darn thing!? Speaking of which…
9) Men In Black? Never heard of it! – What in the heck is The Stargazer Project!?
One of the more obnoxiously confusing elements of this movie is THE STARGAZER PROJECT led up by professional hard ass Will Traeger (Sterling K Brown) because it’s never clear where they fit into all of this. The biggest question for me is, are they a branch of the US Government? Do they have authority over all of this (including the plot to railroad Quinn), or are they working outside the bounds of the law? I mean sure it wouldn’t change TOO much either way since a private company could have the resources to put together facilities like this (especially if they have government contracts), but there’s a difference between Weyland-Yutani in the future doing their evil thing in deep space, and trying to sell us on a contemporary setting where a corporation can not only force a HIGHLY VALUABLE solider to be locked up in a mental institution against his will with a bullshit diagnosis, but also commit a SLEW of extrajudicial killings in the name of covering up the loudest and most blatant alien rampage that isn’t a LITERAL invasion. Now you could argue that the Men In Black is basically the same thing (a film that I do genuinely enjoy), but I think the big difference is that it had a pretty consistent tone, albeit a ridiculous one, and it had the good sense to make them MORE OR LESS the good guys. Sure, it’s supposed to be a joke on society as a whole that they can so easily cover up alien invasions and whatnot, but for me at least it helps the believability that they aren’t killing humans left and right or kidnapping them to keep aliens under wraps. Heck, despite how jaded a lot of them may be, they still never lose sight of what’s important which is the people they’re protecting. I honestly don’t know what The Stargazer Project is hoping to accomplish, and if it IS to protect humanity from the threat of Predators, then they’re doing a pretty piss poor job of it. Is that the point? I mean Sterling K Brown plays his character like he’s constantly ready to whip it out and start measuring, but even if that’s the case I just didn’t find them all that believable (or frankly all that enjoyable) in whatever the hell role they were supposed to fill here.
8) Soldiers of Misfortune! – Who’s bankrolling Quinn and his new buddies!?
Okay, so Quinn is being sent to a mental institution with a bunch of legitimately disturbed soldiers, but due to circumstances that I think WORK for the kind movie this is (i.e. The Predator wakes up and wrecks Stargazer’s shit), they all break out, team up with Dr. Bracket who was knocked unconscious during the attack (I THINK Stargazer wants to kill her now as well?) and they all decide to head to Quinn’s home to get the armor back which is what The Predator seems to be after. I don’t remember exactly how far they’re going (I think its Virginia to Georgia), but these are guys who just got off a transport bus with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a couple of motorcycles that they stole from the base. I mean sure, it’s A BIT of a nitpick for me to speculate how they got a hotel room (did they just rob Dr. Bracket’s purse while she was unconscious?) but we’re also supposed to expect that Stargazer, who is EXPLICITLY trying to hunt them down, can’t keep up with them on their cross state journey as we basically just cut from the hotel room to them getting to Quinn’s house with no obvious roadblocks or hardships. On top of that, I THINK they acquired an RV at one point because Dr. Bracket is doing SCIENCE in one that’s parked in Quinn’s driveway. Was that his RV that she climbed into once they got there? Did they steal one along the way? Heck, that’s not even getting into the GUN issue where every last one of these mo-fos has some high caliber assault rifle for the big upcoming action scene, yet we only see that Quinn had one gun in his house that he himself is using. It’s yet another victim of the viciously cut down runtime where I guess it was too much to have an establishing shot of a gun cabinet in Quinn’s house, or a fifteen second montage of them going from point A to point B, and while it doesn’t take much effort to connect the dots here (if they stole all this stuff, well no one in the movie is looking for them) it all ends up affecting the flow of the movie as we feel like we keep starting and starting even five minutes to try and recalibrate exactly where we are and what we are doing.
7) WORST PARENTS EVER! – How did they screw up Halloween Night so badly!?
Things only get worse however once they DO get to Quinn’s house because instead of things feeling like they’re MISSING, the things that are there feel completely out of place and wrong. Okay, so Quinn’s son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) is the one who finds the Predator gear and had been playing with it for a few days; naturally decrypting it and understanding the alien language because he has HOLLYWOOD AUTISM; mainly that his place on the spectrum allows him to be absurdly smart for plot convenience. Coincidentally, Quinn and his pals arrive on Halloween night AFTER Rory has already left trick-or-treating. What did he wear as a costume you may ask? Why the Predator helmet of course! A helmet so big on him by the way that he has to freaking duct tape it to his head in order for it to stay on. Oh, and this kid is like ten years old, yet his mom let him go off trick-or-treating by himself; presumably without checking to see what his costume is. It’s just an excuse to extend the chase as Quinn and the A Team need to find him before either The Predator or Stargazers find him first, but it just leaves more questions than answers about the situation; particularly in regards to Rory’s mother (Yvonne Strahovski) who had a solid scene earlier in the movie showing she’s a good and attentive parent to him, but then THIS happens and it doesn’t fit with that at all! That’s not even mentioning this scene having one of the most tonally out of place moments in the movie where some jackass throws something at Rory which activates a canon on his helmet and blows the bastard up in an instant! Does Rory have any conflicting feelings about MURDERING A MAN IN HIS OWN NEIGHBORHOOD!? Not really because the movie doesn’t have time for stuff like that, and we’re WELL overdue for him to run into the NEXT ridiculous thing in this movie!
6) Dogs with Dreads! – What the heck is up with those Predator Dogs!?
While everyone is chasing after Quinn and the Predator helmet that Rory has, we periodically cut to a SECOND Predator whose goals are not quite as clear and he has these two giant dogs with him (I THINK they’re the same creatures from Predators?) that show up on Halloween night. While Rory is wandering the streets (presumably hiding from the cops after blowing up a guy), he ends up on an empty baseball field at the local school and runs into the two dogs who start menacing him but are stopped because Quinn and The Quinn Squad come screeching around the corner and start opening fire on the dogs. This is the WORST action scene in the movie because they keep cutting and moving the camera around, but NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS! I sat there in AWE as like five dudes shot machine guns at two alien dogs, and nothing happened! The dogs only look mildly irritated by the bullets and we were just STANDING there waiting for the dogs to do something or the army dudes to run out of bullets! WHO IN THE HECK STAGED THAT SCENE!? Even more baffling is that later on in the movie one of the dogs comes back… but is on the human’s side now? WHAT!? That’s the kind of thing you can’t just KIND of introduce and then leaving hanging for the rest of the movie, which of course is exactly what they do here. The dog being on the human’s side adds basically nothing to this and feels completely inexplicable. Oh, but I’m getting ahead of myself! We need to jump back to the WORST part of Halloween night; namely when The Predator finds his way to Quinn and Rory.
5) You didn’t really think this through, did you? – The “Good” Predator’s Plan!
I cannot accurately recall HOW they figured this out (I THINK Olivia Munn solved this riddle with some science goo?), but it turns out that The Predator is NOT a bad guy but instead is just looking to get his stuff back AND to give human’s a grave warning; like he’s freaking Klaatu from The Day the Earth Stood Still. No really, The Predator is a GOOD GUY! Apparently humanity is gonna wipe itself out from Global Warming which means that the BAD Predators are gonna come down here and… take our DNA? And then I guess they’re gonna chill out and wait for us to destroy ourselves before moving in? I mean look, if The BAD Predators big awful plan was to bleed a few of us dry before we go extinct… well we could probably just work something out there! Do a few blood drives in exchange for them leaving us the heck alone, and we’ll either fix Global Warming or not! There’s no indication they’re actively sabotaging our efforts to fix the planet (though it’d be AMAZING if it turned out a bunch of them got fake IDs and voted for the current SCROTUS), and it’s not like the GOOD Predator has any qualms about killing people! Yeah, does the movie think we forget that? The dude broke out of a Stargazer research facility and killed like fifty people along the way! And he’s supposed to be HELPING us!? Oh, but that’s just self-defense you may say! WELL WHAT ABOUT QUINN’S MEN AT THE BEGINNING OF THE MOVIE!? What the heck did THEY do to deserve being strung up by their wrists and cut in half!? Seriously, I probably could have gone with a movie about a GOOD Predator, but to throw it in THIS late into the movie and have such a gaping plot hole as THE GOOD GUY IS KILLING ALL OF US, only further shows how slapdash this whole production was!
4) You didn’t really think this through either! – The “Bad” Predator’s Plan!
So that brings us to the OTHER Predator I mentioned earlier (the guy with the dogs) who is one of those BAD Predators and is here on Earth to track down The GOOD Predator and take all his stuff back to Predator Home world. Now why is he’s so intent on getting the helmet back considering there have been dead Predators on Earth before and we haven’t done crap with THEIR armor (Stargazer has a few on display but don’t actually know how they work)? It seems that The GOOD Predator brought us a gift with which to fight back against The BAD Predators if they ever make their move, and the helmet can lead The BAD Predator straight to it so he can destroy it and… I guess give humanity the finger. Now to be fair, while it IS just another chase after we’ve already done two of those already, I think the movie does get a modicum of focus here where we FINALLY know what everyone is looking for, and the factions are rather clearly set up. We’ve got Stargazer doing their evil thing, Quinn and his crew as the nominal Good Guys, and The Bad Predator who’s there to be even MORE evil than Stargazer. If that all makes sense though, than why am I complaining about The BAD Predator’s plan; especially when proved to be so effective at taking out The GOOD Predator (in case you were wondering what the deal was with that poster) and throwing a wrench into his plans? Well let’s jump ahead to the climax where The BAD Predator is poised to win as he has taken control of the ship and has set it to self-destruct. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, right? Well… no. Instead of just pissing off to let humanity live out its final years before environmental Armageddon, he decides to instead let the remaining humans (both Quinn’s crew and what remains of Stargazer) get a ten minute head start so that he can hunt them all down in the nearby jungle. THAT’S RIGHT! The movie that, if nothing else tried to get away from the standard Predator formula, shifts gears ENTIRELY at the end to go all in on the Predator formula. The dude had ONE JOB, and he couldn’t even finish it without getting sidetracked with this ridiculous bullshit!?
3) We’re gonna pull it together, and we’re gonna find a way to get out of here! – How did Sterling K Brown Die!?
Well if we’re stuck with a Predator movie ripping itself off, do they at least manage to do THAT well!? Heck, maybe this was what they were all building too and pulled out all the stops for it, like how that DOOM movie only exists for those five minutes of first person action! The short answer is… no not really. It’s way too dark to see anything, most of the humans getting picked off are Stargazer goons so you don’t really care, and there’s not nearly enough time to actually build suspense which was what made those OTHER Predator movies work as well as they did! Most bafflingly of all though is that I honestly wasn’t sure how Sterling K Brown, THE BAD GUY OF THE MOVIE, ended up dying. I THINK what happened is that he was wearing some sort of Predator weapon, but it ended up blowing his own head off. Hey, if someone out there can give me a better explanation than please do, but it happens so quickly with such choppy editing that I was only able to come to that conclusion, which obviously doesn’t speak well to Stargazer’s competency on ANYTHING! They had these weapons lying around for decades, but no one bothered to learn how to use the damn things properly!?
2) Is Shane Black making Iron Man 4!? – What the heck was up with that ending!?
After all that and after one final (admittedly pretty cool if still supremely silly) confrontation with The BAD Predator, the movie comes to a somewhat satisfying end. EXCEPT IT DOESN’T! If you thought we were gonna get out of here without a big ol’ tease for the next movie, then you clearly haven’t seen every other studio’s attempt to replicate Marvel’s success! After all is said and done, we get a rather lengthy epilogue where Quinn is now a general or something, and they actually managed to find the gift that The GOOD Predator had sent to us. Apparently it wasn’t ON the ship The BAD Predator blew up, which you’d think they would have checked for prior to pressing the self-destruct button. In any case, it’s a giant box that looks a bit like a space coffin, and it slowly opens up to reveal… POWER ARMOR! Wait, that’s it? Seriously, I was expecting a Xenomorph or a cryogenically frozen Adrian Brody! Why did we treat this Predator themed Iron Man suit like it was supposed to be something we were going to recognize when it’s never been introduced to us in any of the other films? It’s practically the same ending as Independence Day: Resurgence which seems like a bad lead to follow considering NO ONE has thought about that movie since it came out, and I really don’t see what we’re heading towards here when the best they can think of for the next movie is Iron Man but probably not as good. I mean if they DO make it I’ll be there opening day because I’m loving the completely unbridled disaster this franchise is turning into, but I don’t know how ANYONE working on it thought it was a genuinely good idea.
1) You are trying WAY too hard here… – What tone are they going for?
So overall the movie is a mess structurally and its plot feels like its cobbled together from various pieces of other scripts; maybe even one’s that weren’t intended to be Predator movies. What ultimately is the most bizarre thing about the movie though is its tone. Sure, you can still blame some of that on the haphazard editing and the unfocused story, but so much of this movie flips incoherently between straightforward machismo, self-aware satire, and even Spielbergian wonder that never comes together to MEAN anything other than an emotionally unclear mess. The humor in particular is very up and down with some scenes eliciting a genuine chuckle, but a lot of the dialogue is smug, self-satisfied, and feels intended to offend in that obnoxious way that South Park tends to be (though NEW South Park is still far worse than anything in this film). I don’t know, it just isn’t really fun to watch actors pretend to have silly versions of mental illnesses (Thomas Jane’s character has that form of Tourette Syndrome you see in movies where you swear a lot which is actually VERY rare), and pretty much ANY movie using the R-word isn’t as clever as it thinks it is. Out of all the Shane Black movies that I’ve seen, this is by far his worst. No question. It’s still entertaining in its own way, but it’s still kind of surprising to me that the guy who made Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3, and The Nice Guys, managed to make something so sloppy and all over the place. Then again, work for hire projects have taken down good directors in the past like when Martin Campbell directed Green Lantern, but it still feels like there should have been MORE here. Sure, I COULD be overstating how much of a connection Shane Black has to the material, but this felt like a slam dunk of an idea that shouldn’t have backfired the way it did, even if the result isn’t as bad as it could have been.
And that’s my list and/or pedantic recap of the entire movie! Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below!!