The Predator

Catching up with the film that will cap off the Franchise look back on the next Lambcast. These films have a varying array of quality and entertainment value, but we will be discussing rankings and the other movies on the show. For that you have to download next week. Right now it’s time to take this Shane Black directed episode and turn it inside out. Or rather, I’m going to yank it’s spinal cord out, hold it up for examination and then display the results here as a trophy.

“The Predator” is basically a stand alone film that aims to create a continuing story line. The events of earlier films are only marginally referred to. If you had not seen any of the other films you could easily slip into this one and have a perfectly fine time, at least for the first two thirds of the movie. The final act has some issues but I will get to those in a minute. Basically, one of the Predator species has escaped a band of fellow Predators who are in some way different, and crashed on Earth with a Macguffin that ends up in the hands of a wet ops Army Sniper. He in turn, passes the material to a P.O. box but of course, it ends up in the basement of his house where his autistic ten year old son begins to discover the secrets of alien weaponry.

The set up is the start of the weaknesses of this film. This is so much more complicated than any of the other films which are almost entirely focused on the confrontation between men as prey and aliens as their hunters. This movie is a political pamphlet on Predator evolution and genetic manipulation. Oh, and just to insure that it is contemporary, Black and his co-author have included the most worn out trope in modern science fiction. That’s right, Global warming is what precipitates all of the mayhem. So in addition to bullying, PTSD, drug wars, and Asperger’s syndrome, we have the specter of climate change as a boogeyman to accompany our alien hunters. You would think those would be enough antagonists to keep the story going, but wait, the secret military intelligence unit charged with discovering the alien technology is also an evil organization that randomly kills people that they perceive as a threat.

Although the plot is quite convoluted, it is set up with reasonable efficiency in the opening act, and the main characters are all introduced. A psychotic A-Team is drafted to try to save the little boy and hopefully end the current threat. The characters in this group all have unique quirks, designed to make them sympathetic or humorous. Thomas Jane and Keegan-Michael Key get the lion’s share of jokes while Trevante Rhodes gets all the personality that tough guy lead Boyd Holbrook lacks. Olivia Munn is a biologist who goes from being a critical part of the investigation of the Predator aliens, to a nuisance targeted for elimination for no reason what so ever. Sterling K. Brown heads up the secret team and he twirls his mustache just fine, with a sense of entitled superiority that is never justified by his cleverness as a character.  The chase by the escaped Predator, with the team coming together over bad jokes and ass kicking, makes up the most entertaining part of the movie. However, once the trailing eleven foot Predator shows up, the movie becomes something less effective than most of it’s predecessors. Translating alien language so that the Predators communicate is a mistake. The mano a mano showdown featuring CGI effects, gets a little tiresome, and the plot line gets completely screwed by the resolution.

I enjoyed this movie while I was watching it, but it also irritated me with the dumb choices that it makes about character and story. If the whole point of the movie is correctly identified at the end of the film, than the middle third makes no sense. The opportunity to create a united front against the Predators is squandered by the usual government conspiracy mistakes. The element that makes young Jacob Trembly’s character important, is largely shunted aside and turned into a device to create short cuts in the story rather than enlarge the story as it should have. The climactic battle on the alien ship looks like it was added to make the movie feel “big” and it is something of a snooze. It’s the individual confrontations that work, unfortunately they are not very consistent.