No one I’m aware of is really excited for this movie, least of all me. That’s what I find truly disturbing about this, I find myself trying to promote this movie to casual moviegoers more than the trailers and other casual moviegoers. 90’s nostalgia is in full force currently, and 20th Century Fox is banking on Millennials coming out to support their fourth film1 in a franchise that’s existed for practically the entirety of their lifetimes.
2010’s Predators was supposed to reinvigorate the franchise after 20 years without a sequel or reboot to Predator 2. AvP films were released in the interim, but the mixed reaction, at best, to the third installment in the Predator franchise prevented Fox from pursuing any potential storylines from that film. That’s how we ended up with 2018’s The Predator, which director Shane Black has acknowledged will be a spiritual sequel2 to the first two Predator films, rather than follow-up Predators, or fully commit to a reboot.
We’ve been receiving news on this film since 2014 when it was first announced, but a quick skim on Wikipedia reveals some interesting production issues. Larry Fong was not hired as cinematographer until November 21, 2017; filming began February 20, 2018. That’s not a something that would normally be a cause for alarm, but when you’ve had this film planned for four years, and you have to push back the February 2018 release date because production isn’t happening as quickly as anybody intended, then I do get a little nervous. Predators was filmed in 22 days, The Predator wrapped on June 2nd, 2017, after a little over three months of filming. Normally, that shows a form of dedication and competence from the director and the crew, as well as Fox showing some self-awareness in amending a previous mistake, but re-shoots always wash away any faith I had in the production. It’s not that re-shoots are an inherently bad thing, as sometimes you have to go back and correct continuity errors or use more pick-up and insert shots, as was likely the case when additional photography was done in Vancouver in March 2018, but when the entire third act of a film is being re-shot due to poor audience reaction during test screenings, as was done to this film on July 6th, 2018, frankly, it lets out all the hot air in the film’s balloon.
Honestly, the movie should’ve just gone with a full reboot, because if we’re 21 years after the initial Predator incident, I’m shocked to discover more research wasn’t performed by seemingly any government. This film also has largely nothing to do with the original two films until it needs to be, and it’s incredibly distracting to the overall experience.The logic in the movie escapes you as the plot progresses with ever-changing goals, as well as a fluctuating ability to handle damage by the antagonist of the film, the titular predator, who’s really more like an über-Predator, because as we all know in Hollywood, bigger is better. Forget the plot, we have a bigger Predator to deal with! It felt the same as when Star-Killer Base was revealed as a larger, more dangerous Death Star in The Force Awakens; a lack of respect for the intellectual property being used, as well as a lack of creativity.
I saw this movie Wednesday night and when I woke up Thursday morning to write this, I had completely forgotten the motivations and names for most of the characters. There’s three protagonists who aren’t well-defined with a decent amount of screen time devoted to them, and one boils down to being a plot device due to him being the male lead’s son. Olivia Munn’s acting is average at best, has no bearing on the plot other than being the fish-out-of-water who asks questions so the audience can understand what new location we’re in, and has no importance to the story other than being the one who helps take down the über-Predator despite being woefully inept to combat this creature. The lore of this creature being a hunter; killing humans for sport, only works if you’ve seen the other films, as it’s not outright stated in the movie, but is heavily implied when the regular Predator they’ve captured wakes up, kills everyone in the surgical room, chases down Munn’s character, and then walks away in disgust after he corners her in a separate room. There’s no reason for her to actively engage the über-Predator in combat or even be in the situation with the male lead’s shrinking group of soldier friends, especially since it easily kills even other Predators, unless that was Black’s way of giving Munn’s character an arc without her having to actually prove herself?
The child in the film plays around with the Predator’s mask that was conveniently mailed to him, beaconing them to Earth, and of course despite all his annoying and clichéd fuck-ups, his father and his small group of ex-soldier prisoners we’re introduced to earlier save him from the government, who the über-Predator claims as his main prize, for some odd reason. It just doesn’t make sense, and for a film that claimed to be “getting back to the basics”, they sure went and filmed a bunch of scenes highlighting the average to downright apathetic acting in a tonally inconsistent film that relies way too hard on boring, everyday conversations that Fox now has to pray the audience doesn’t become annoyed with, as the clichéd tough-talking male characters who serve as only cannon fodder trope that the first film subconsciously poked fun at isn’t any fun in this buddy-comedy that features the Predator. If you find yourself questioning character motivations after every line of dialogue and outright laughing at the inordinate quantity of what is supposed to be natural, everyday dialogue and interactions bordering on a goofy tone while an alien species literally hunts you down, then you know you’ve written a bad movie.
We haven’t even spoken about the special effects, of which there’s nothing good to say. It all looks obviously computer-rendered, down to these creatures hilariously badly rendered green blood. They have attack dogs who look awful, and one of them befriends Munn’s character for no reason, it just kind of shows up and she has a new pet suddenly. That’s another plot point that makes no sense, but it would take another few viewings of this movie to even begin listing every plot point that doesn’t add up, and that’s not something I’m sure I’d want to subject myself to. The practical effects of the regular Predator are far superior to the badly rendered CGI über-Predator, and it makes me question why they decided to use so much damn CGI unless they really were in a rush to get this thing into theaters. Steppenwolf from last years Justice League was popularly described as a “badly rendered PS2 boss”, and this über-Predator is arguably even worse.
In short, Fox knew they had a bad movie on their hands, which is why they brought in Fong shortly before filming commenced; a cinematographer who best works with creative writer-directors with specific visions for their films. It’s why they had re-shoots, to get the most mediocre, crowd-pleasing ending that of course teases a sequel, and it’s why they edited out even more unnecessary characters to trim down the plot and runtime; this is a corporate product designed to set up another cinematic universe. The Mummy blew up Universal’s universe, DC is currently undergoing a shake-up due to the “Snyderverse” not winning over the general audience, so can we continue that practice of not supporting mediocre movies and forcing these major studios to do better? Shane Black played Rick Hawkins in the original film, and obviously this project meant a lot to him, so it pains me to pan the film this way, but I question if perhaps Black is just reminiscing on his mid-20’s, as the same year he played Hawkins in Predator was the same year he was credited as the screenwriter for Lethal Weapon. I’ve often enjoyed his writing and directing, as his witty dialogue and constant theme of friendship has always been entertainingly welcome, and could’ve been appropriately dispersed throughout this film, but even the most talented people are susceptible to running with far too many liberties when it comes to someone or something they love.
1. Sixth film unless you discount the Alien vs. Predator films, which clearly we do.