If you are a millennial in India, you have probably grown up watching Star Movies, which was our quintessential gateway to Hollywood back in the 90s. When you want to create an audience where none exists, you introduce them to the blitz and bang of action films. The Star Group understood that very well and fed us Arnold Schwarzenegger. Back then, Schwarzenegger was the perfect embodiment of the term ‘action hero’ with his chiseled body and a fierce face. It goes without saying that when I watched John McTiernan’s The Predator for the first time, I watched it for him. Action Director legend McTiernan was just starting out then and this was just his second film. He would go on to direct Die Hard the very next year.
After no less than 5 re-runs of the film, the story started coming into focus and the idea of “the perfect hunter” had found its appeal. When the Danny Glover starrer Predator 2 came out, I was hooked. Even before cross-overs were a thing, 20th Century Fox played a massive gamble in the early 2000s by bringing two of their biggest character assets together in one film. Paul Anderson’s Alien vs Predator was one of the most imaginative re-boots which brought McTiernan’s space-hunter together with Ridley Scott’s alien, and it was a marriage made in movie heaven ! Made on a budget of $60 million, the film went to earn about $200 million at the Box Office. The story made sense from a plot standpoint as well – two highly intelligent, and advanced, species fighting over Earth as the ultimate prize. I don’t know about you, but I am a sucker for that ! Even after the cross-over, the Predator arc has been kept alive through sequels that try to re-create the premise of the first story.
Made by Iron Man 3 Director Shane Black and co-written by Fred Dekker, The Predator revolves around a group of former soldiers who find themselves in the middle of a battle between the Predator that we know and a more evolved species of Predators. Led by Quinn McKenna played by Boyd Holbrook, who was one of the first to encounter the creature and has alien tech in his possession, the bunch of misfits fight a Defense outfit and the Predator Pro (that’s what I’m calling it) both of whom are trying to get ahold of that. The soldiers are also joined by an Evolutionary Biologist named Casey Brackett and McKenna’s autistic son Rory in their struggle for survival.
The Predator films have never been about intricate plots. It has always been brute action that has driven the boat. Having said that, The Predator makes you realize how important properly choreographed action and screenplay is. Besides the paper-thin plot, the film suffers from characters that do not have any depth to them. There seems to be zero motivation driving the characters, so much so that their actions feel worthless in terms of driving the non-existent plot forward. The film is a montage of missed opportunities too. For instance, when Quinn gets hold of Alien tech, he goes to a Mexican smuggler who can help him get it inside the United States. In that scene, we get to see him using the Alien camouflage that renders him invisible for a split second. That made me sit up. Before then, no Predator-fighting human had acquired this capability. I was almost excited to see what he would do with this newfound power. But alas I was expecting too much. This ‘power’ was never used again to the potential that it could have. Another possible angle could have been the humans teaming up with the original Predator species to drive out the Predator Pro, especially since we got to learn that the Predator was trying to help the humans save themselves from the Pros who wanted to take over the planet. Again, nothing happens with that.
The Predator films have never been about intricate plots. It has always been brute action that has driven the boat. Having said that, The Predator makes you realize how important properly choreographed action and screenplay is. Besides the paper-thin plot, the film suffers from characters that do not have any depth to them. There seems to be zero motivation driving the characters, so much so that their actions feel worthless in terms of driving the non-existent plot forward.
Besides that, there were some genuinely funny moments amongst the misfit soldiers, especially the hotel room scene where Olivia Munn aka Casey, wakes up from her stupor to find a bunch of men creepily staring at her. With a cast that includes Keegan-Michael Key one would expect a uniquely comedic aspect, but it was written so badly that nothing seemed to fall on point, and soon the misfires just became plain annoying. Thomas Jane and Alfie Allen also fail to impress, primarily because of the lack of depth their characters had. Jacob Tremblay was, perhaps, the most interesting character of them all with his strange abilities to decode alien symbols. However, that angle too got buried in the incoherent mess.
The Predator would leave a bad taste in your mouth and would make you want to go back and watch the good parts of the franchise once again. Despite being over three decades old, the originals would more than hold up today. Until someone does something outrageous to revive the storyline, I am taking a break from the franchise. Thank you.