The Predator: review by Stars and Popcorn
The Predator Get’s this Franchise Fan’s Seal of Approval
The Predator is about as far away from “high art” as you can get, but that’s exactly what you’re paying for with this film. Summer might have come and gone, but The Predator is a film I’ve been excited about all year and it gave me everything I could have wanted from it. It manages to gather up an incredibly talented cast and crew (probably even more talented than the franchise deserves) and focuses on all the right elements from previous movies to create a welcomed addition to the franchise. It’s not the best movie of the year, but it’s one that does everything right when it comes to pleasing its audience without pandering to them.
The reason I enjoyed The Predator so much is that it’s a film made for people who love the previous films. It’s clear from the get-go that Shane Black understands what fans want from a new Predator movie and he sets out to give us exactly what we’re looking for. While it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, Black picks the best parts of the past movies and adds just enough spice to them to make them fresh again. It’s clear that he loves the giant intergalactic big game hunter as much as fans do and sets out to do right by us and succeeds beyond my wildest expectations. Just to add a cherry on top though, he offers plenty of easter eggs slyly tossed in by some outstanding characters.
Look, we’re all fans of Arnold from the first Predator movie (yes, I mean all of us). However, he pales in comparison to the variety of characters Shane Black and Fred Dekker created this time around. At the core is Boyd Holbrook who is a Special Forces sniper who encounters a Predator while on a mission. In typical sci-fi movie fashion, the government decides to cover everything up by claiming he’s batshit insane (which he might be). Luckily for old Boyd he finds himself in good company when he encounters a group of traumatized soldiers who reluctantly find themselves joining up with him. While so many other movies create cannon fodder around the hero to throw at the villain, The Predator takes time to dive into all these would be sidekicks to make them both memorable and valuable to the overall story of the film. Of course, that’s always been a trademark of Black’s films.
Best of all the cast assembled for The Predator have more charisma than you can shake a stick at. It features the likes Keegan Michael Key, Thomas Jane, and Trevante Rhodes among Holbrooks merry little band of mercenaries. Needless to say there’s a lot of talent sitting right there, but what’s a hero without a villain? Of course, there’s the actual Predator, but there’s also Sterling K. Brown (fresh off of Hotel Artemis from earlier this year) who plays a government spook who knows more about the Predators than anyone else on the planet, which is saying a lot. He’s essentially a man who has gone up against these bad boys more than a few times and managed to stay alive, a feat that has left him more than a little cynical and pretty damn pragmatic in the worst possible way. It’s because of this talented cast and these rich characters that The Predatormanages to make itself one of the more memorable alien movies I’ve seen in years.
While Black doesn’t set out to reinvent the franchise with The Predator, there are some interesting new elements he plays within it. Of course, there’s a lot to pick and choose from and he sticks to a lot of the technology and tactics we’ve seen predators use in the past. This time around though he gives us two breeds of predators who have very different approaches to hunting. Black’s theory is that these aliens are a lot like the xenomorphs in that they gather genetic material from their most dangerous prey in order to create new breeds of predators with the traits. Like I said, he doesn’t reinvent the wheel but he manages to up the stakes in all the best possible ways. I might be a bigger fan of the traditional predators we’ve seen in the films before, but this new breed is downright terrifying and it’s going to be exciting to see what else can be done with this new element added to the mythos.
The Predator is a wild ride of a film that firmly earns its R rating. There’s plenty of blood, gore, and dirty jokes to keep you enthralled for the nearly two hour run time. I know that it’s not a film that critics are likely to have nice things to say, but given the reactions from the rest of the members of the audience, I would say that it succeeds as a great popcorn flick. The Predator is probably the most fun I’ve had at the theaters since The Meg, and I’m honestly on the fence over whether it’s the best of the franchise. However, I certainly won’t mind going back to watch it again in theaters to figure that one out.