The Predator (2018)
The Hunt has Evolved
Something is missing at the start of this year. Perhaps it’s more missing from last than this, but if there’s one movie franchise I can really get behind in terms of fandom, it’s that of one big ugly alien hunter. There has been a bunch so far - up until the newest, there was three in the “cannon” and two in the crossovers, as well as god-knows how many fan made films and plenty of games on computers or tabletop, comics, and novels to flesh things out further for those who couldn’t get enough. This race even had the chance of standing up against the Batman (and losing, as anyone not Batman tends to do against Batman). The first trailer I had seen for this new entry has me worried, but after hitting the theaters and checking it out I had fun - only to find out that I was apparently quite the minority in my stance. Well, it’s out for home ownership now, and it’s time to turn off that cloak and tackle it like a man. Will my enjoyment stand up to the initial response, or will I find myself buried like a side character in hot dismembering plasma? It’s time to revisit The Predator.
So here’s the rub - I still enjoy it. Is it without problems? No, no movie is - I don’t care if you happen to be Marvel Studios, I could find something if I wanted to, but that’s not the point. Knowing this going in, I’m going to be tackling this one a little different than normal, and seeing what I can do with this disconnect I seem to have from so many others - the average of seventy one thousand people has this sitting at a sub-six star movie. Will I be able to tackle every complaint? No. Will I change anybody’s mind? Probably not. Here’s the thing though - that doesn’t stop me from being able to point out my thoughts on some of those issues anyways and for someone who hasn’t seen the movie, and let’s be honest most people use reviews to figure out if they want to watch a movie in the first place, then if nothing else it could be a situation of allowing them to set their expectations to a point where they would have the most fun with the movie. Not that I feel you need low expectations, and in all honesty there’s a huge discrepancy between my thoughts and some people’s opinions.
So let’s hit the story. It’s pretty well along the lines of what you’d expect in a sequel - sticks to some of the series guns, but also tries to innovate or expand what’s been given and make the universe go somewhere, as opposed to pumping out the same movie over and over and over. The first trailer did not sell this great, and oddly enough there was a few people who seem to still be under the belief that the story shown in that first trailer is the actual story - to which they may be missing a beat. Largely, human characters are almost a side note to the main story that we don’t see as in depth as we might like - something is going on in the Predator race that’s causing a schism, and one of the resulting factions has produced a member that is trying to run away with technology the other has developed. The other side, not wanting them to have that technology, has sent a bio-engineered super soldier to bring the runner down. That is the factual side of things, but given the movie presentation a lot is left in the air towards specifics - was this technology supposed to be a gift for humans? Is there a plot on the Predator side to wait out our species decline and move into a our ruined sauna of a planet? All character suppositions. I would think, however, that if the runner wanted to give humanity a gift, there wouldn’t be much reason for him to murder every single human he comes across. Perhaps the humans in the movie are a little off in their thought paths.
On the human side of things, we have something a bit common - a macho gang of dudes. Each of them can feel a bit one note given the short expositions to their pasts, but generally each has this thought out character to them even if they can at times feel like it’s just crazies being loony. Are they full of as much effective bravado as “ain’t got time to bleed” Ventura or “do it now” Arnold? Well, no, they don’t really hit that over-the-top muscle bound levels of action hero, looking far more normal - for lack of a better word. The Loonies, as they refer to themselves, are really just side characters in the human story anyways, which largely belongs to their “leader”, a sniper who survives first contact with the runner and happens to steal some of his stuff in a moment of fore-thought about what superiors or officials might try and do with him when he makes claims of such a crazy event taking place. His rather plain potential takes a turn when he realizes in part thanks to the scientist they end up crossing paths and joining up with that his son might now be in danger because of the items he took before hand. Further escalation takes the human plot into your classic “survive the horrible alien or government related consequences that follow,” but if you are looking to get incredible complex stories out of a Predator movie, than maybe you are thinking of a different franchise. That said, the flow of all these things works well and keeps at a nice pace, so you never start feeling very bored while watching.
Of course, some of that entertainment might come from a part that seems to be incredibly disliked - the humor. Apparently to the modern audience, one liners are not considered jokes and humor, and therefore the other three predator movies are incredibly serious - granted, I’d argue the second or third is probably the most serious of them. I never felt like the humor was non-stop, but perhaps it’s because I had a decent mix between humor that hit it’s mark and humor that I just didn’t care about. People being annoyed over the joke of “that’s not a predator, that’s a hunter” for example - this doesn’t offend me, and honestly outside the context of it being from a series named “Predator” I’d probably have the same reaction to things in the real world in a similar situation. I don’t think it’s necessarily some in-joke everyone is supposed to be laughing about, as I don’t think I’ve ever gone into the line of discussion with a big fan (but at the same time, don’t the biggest fans just call them by their extended name of Yuatja anyways?), but I was still laughing over the human antagonist’s follow up line anyways. All of that said, I will openly admit that it does feel more comedic than the rest of the franchise in a perhaps light-hearted sense, in the same way that I was smiling throughout other Shane Black movies such as Monster Squad, Nice Guys, and even to some extent Lethal Weapon, I wouldn’t argue that it’s perhaps as finely balanced as Lethal Weapon, but I’m not watching this thing for the third time expecting the predator to come out with the bio-version and do a rendition of “Putting on the Ritz” with a cameo appearance by Mel Brooks. Humor is subjective, so if you don’t like humor I can understand why you perhaps wouldn’t enjoy it though - that’s a solid reason in any movie that has any sort of humor running it’s course.
One of my favorite parts of movies, especially ones feature big old creatures, is special effects and I’m happy with this one. It’s a mixed bag in every sense if I’m to be honest - there some good practical, some good CG, and some bad stuff as well. On the good practical side, look at that Predator suit! The modernizing of the armor is a hit or miss personal preference thing - it makes sense in the universe, but a lot of us at this point are most likely very partial to the near tribal look of the classic predator armor, but regardless the gold highlights really make things like the gauntlet pop and look sharp. The actual suit itself, despite potential limitations on the actors movements, looks amazing and I’m absolutely ecstatic that the franchise manged to get back to a more lean suit as opposed to the extremely bulky looking ones that appeared in the AvP franchise. On the bad end, it does still seem like Predators have issues closing up those mouth mandibles all the way, and at times the movements that cause a throw can be rather noticeably a “wire assisted” flight of those being thrown. On the CG side of things, there are moments where the new predator looks absolutely like it could be practical, or shots of the ships flying and using their little space-travel torpedo that look phenomenal. On the flip side of that coin, there are also moments where effects like gore look as though someone let the intern just paste them over something (like the wound area) in after effects. Let me be clear - these aren’t the worst I’ve seen, anyone who claims they are terrible hasn’t seen any Asylum productions, but it is noticeable and I’d not being doing part if I didn’t point it out. Of course, we also get plenty of explosions and action scenes to go with the effects, and they come out nicely.
Those action scenes are also nicely put together, keeping it easy to tell whose where and not having to resort to any 15-per-second smash cuts. Helping with those comes the audio department, giving us plenty of oomph when we need it while mixing in the classic sounds we’d want. Even when it comes to the score, we get plenty of moments where we bring back those drums or the music of the past, attached or reassembled into something new as well. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s an earworm for everyone though - in this case it’s more my level of exposure to the franchise as a whole that allows me to at a moment snap the beat or theme into my head = and when it comes down to it, those are really the only standout points of the music to me, so the rest of it falls into that same quality as most movies to me. It does it’s job. Audio balance is good, which helps let you pick out the actors as they do their jobs as well - although there are a few lines here and there that get whispered or said while another person is talking, so there are a few moments where you might have a little difficulty picking it out. Each of the actors does a good job of making themselves unique when it comes to their lines - and I could hear a line and know which character was saying it regardless of if they were off screen. There’s also a lot of effort, or at least it feels that way, of actors putting in some extra work to do justice to things they are applying on their character - details in how the kid acts, or how some of the loons handle their potential PTSD or other ailments is a nice touch despite overall them not really getting huge arcs. After checking out the special features, I even found out that most of them ended up doing research on the element so they could bring in those fine details - to which I thought it was neat, even if some of the finer details are completely beyond me not being familiar with the ailments anyways.
And then there’s the ending, and I’m going to be honest - I wasn’t a huge fan of it. I like one aspect of it that reminds me of an awesome scene regarding some Colonial Marines in one of the Alien versus Predator comics, but largely I would have been perfectly fine with the movie just ending after the final fight concludes. The thing they have looks cool, but largely it just doesn’t feel like it needs to be there, and ends up (regardless of intention) feeling like sequel-bait. The other large part that I’d like to mention is I had heard of a lot of re-shoots. This isn’t unnatural, most movies have them and even shoot entire extra scenes or change their endings over the course of being made. What gets me here however is that I was hoping to see something in particular in the special features, and watching the special features only made it worse. Throughout the special features, and walking all the way back to pre-finished stills, I keep seeing these other predators that are all decked out in far more human-looking armor and colors. I was hoping that perhaps I’d get to see some extra scenes with those in it, just to see them in action, but I guess it’s just not to be unless they release some special version later on that includes them. I’m not saying it would make a better movie - I’m happy with what I’ve got, and it could in fact make it worse - I’m just saying I really want to know what was going on in the scenes with those predators sitting on a tank.
So there you have it, After the third viewing I still largely don’t get why so many people hate this movie, but that’s something that happened quite a lot in the last year and probably won’t change anytime soon. It’s fun, it has some good action, it has some nice effects and a great practical alien suit. It has some good acting with some potentially cheesy characters in how extreme they can be. It’s predator, but it’s not just the same old thing getting rehashed with new characters. I enjoy this one better than two and three, and although it might cause some people to be outraged I’m at times wondering if I like it more than the first or not. Perhaps it’s a mood thing - if I want that action and nostalgic machismo with spooky undertones, the first is what I’d rather hit. If I want that action with a bit more spastic characters and more laughs, then i’d probably rather revisit this one. Either way I had fun watching it, and that’s the important part to me. Now all I have to do is to wait for someone to finally make a Predator movie where the main character is the predator as we follow him in his hunting of various alien and nasty game instead of getting bogged down in the lame human race that just ends up beating him every time because of their plot armor. World’s most dangerous hunter? Yeah, just like storm troopers are the most accurate shots in the Empire. All good until you need to kill a hero.