Review: New ‘Predator’ takes franchise a step backward |

Review: New ‘Predator’ takes franchise a step backward

The titular villains from 1987’s “Predator” — dreadlocked alien manhunters with the power of invisibility — are back on Earth in the new sequel “The Predator.”

Only this time they have dogs.

As the writer of “Lethal Weapon” and the writer-director of such films as “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and “Iron Man 3,” Shane Black has a gift for smart-alecky dialogue. But in his effort to inject fresh blood into this gory franchise, which has already seen four sequels (including two “Alien” crossovers), the filmmaker can’t seem to summon up that old Black magic.

Set in the present day, some 30 years after the action of the first film, the new film immediately beats you over the head with leaden spectacle, opening with a battle between alien spaceships.

In a departure from “Predator,” which took its sweet time introducing its extraterrestrial visitors, you see the monsters here almost immediately.

Broken-family dynamic

That generic opening sequence could have been plucked from any number of other science-fiction movies. Fortunately, the film’s human characters do begin to gradually come into focus.

Chief among them is Quinn (Boyd Holbrook), a mercenary who has discovered an alien spaceship that crash-landed in rural Georgia. Quinn sends some of the wreckage back home, where his 6-year old son (Jacob Tremblay), who longs to reconnect with his mostly absent father, tries to figure out how the alien technology works.

Into this broken-family dynamic, Black introduces a group of veterans suffering from PTSD. These characters, who include the snarky Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key) and tough guy Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes), are there for a little comic relief — a little too much, in fact — and never seem to come together as a team.

Humor is Black’s signature.

One scene involves an argument about whether it’s appropriate to call the aliens “predators.” However cool the moniker, they hunt less for survival than for sport — “like a bass fisherman,” explains Olivia Munn’s Casey, an evolutionary scientist recruited to evaluate a captured specimen of the alien race.

Such jokiness is well within the bounds of the series’ formula, as are the buckets of blood. Still, “The Predator” lacks the electric charge that made its predecessors pulpy fun.

Mystery and mayhem

Black, who appeared on-screen in the original “Predator,” was reportedly cast in that movie because producers were hoping that the “Lethal Weapon” writer would help fix the screenplay. (He refused, so his character was the first to be killed off.)

How ironic, then, that Black’s new screenplay is short on two things: the tantalizing distance that lent the creatures a sense of mystery in the first film, and the mood of delirious mayhem that made “Predator 2” an enjoyable, if over-the-top, popcorn flick.

In a recent interview, Black opined that “You always feel yourself to be roughly 25” (his approximate age when he wrote “Lethal Weapon” and appeared in “Predator”). It’s a strange comment, coming from someone whose filmmaking chops have shown real maturity, especially in “The Nice Guys,” Black’s 2016 return to his buddy-movie roots.

With “The Predator,” something’s different. The alien invaders may have evolved, but Black’s writing has taken a step backward.

Pat Padua is a Washington Post writer.

Getty Images for IMDb
Jacob Tremblay (left) and Olivia Munn of “The Predator” attend The IMDb Studio presented by Land Rover at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 8 in Toronto, Canada.
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.