This is the first of two reviews for The Predator from Scified. Throughout the journey toward the movies release both Chris and myself have offered opposite opinions toward the new Predator movie - whereas Chris, currently in his early twenties, has been supportive and hyped for the recently released sequel, I, having recently turned forty, have been much more skeptical and disillusioned by The Predator. To that end, this review is an old man's review of The Predator, which will be followed by Chris' young man review.
When Predators came out in 2010, director Nimrod Antal commented that he wanted the movie to distance itself from the crossovers with the Alien franchise. Despite this, the movie featured three concepts lifted directly from 2004's AvP, that had never been seen in the first two movies - the Predators hunting in a group of three hunters, the Predators gauntlet displaying 3-dimensional holograms, and the Predator spacecraft using the same optical camouflage used by the Predators themselves. The Predators portrayed in Predators also retained the shiny, glossy, and armored tech style for the Predators which was first introduced in AvP, deviating the franchise ever further away from the gritty, brutal, and tribal killers we were introduced to in the first two movies.
From the imagery seen of the Predators in the first two movies the deadly alien hunters, though obviously capable of interstellar space travel were presented as savage, visceral, battle-hardened warriors. Their technology although frighteningly advanced compared to our own looked and felt aged, worn, and prized. Yet since the crossovers, the Predators have become alien super-soldiers adorned with all of the latest, coolest and most powerful technology that looks like it has been mass produced. As was evident in the trailers for The Predator, fans of the gritty Predator will have to wait even longer for a true return to form for the franchise. But of the newer, shiny Predator movies how does The Predator compare?
One thing that really bothered me before The Predator was released was the apparent recycling of already explored elements from previous installments. What is worse than the fact that director Shane Black chose not to explore new possibilities or even return to the gritty style of the original two movies is the fact that the elements copied and pasted from the franchises predecessors are mostly those that didn't work the first time around - Set in suburbia (previously seen in AvP-R), a group of misfits (Predators) are joined by a soldier that defeated a Predator (Dutch, Harrigan, Royce) after it crash landed (AvP-R) and was captured by Operation Stargazer (Predator 2's OWLF), to which the Predators send to prevent contamination (Wolf from AvP-R) an allegedly superior Predator (Predators' Super Predators) which battles the "Fugitive" Predator (Predators).
Having now seen The Predator my concerns were sadly not only validated but deepened. Not only does The Predator repeatedly recycle from its own franchise it borrows heavily from the bad ideas of other sci-fi movies. The climax aboard the Predators vessel reminded me of The Thing (the 2011 prequel, at that), the well-publicized "Iron Man Predator suit" looked like a rejected concept from Michael Bays' Transformers and came in a pod filled with black goo (an unused concept from AvP), and Jacob Tremblay's role was too reminiscent of Ty Simpkins' character from Iron Man 3.
With a wide selection of reviews already available for this movie, there really isn't much I can add that hasn't already been said. The positive reviews call The Predator a good action comedy with praise for the character development, while the negative comments call the movie too gratuitous in its depiction of violence and foul language while criticizing the movies direction, editing, third act, and ending. In all honesty, I would have to say that I agree with both the positive and negative reviews, but what I would also add is...
Of the "canon" movies, of which The Predator is the fourth chronologically it is also the fourth in terms of overall quality. As an action/comedy movie it is a well-made example of that sub-genre, which is no surprise considering that sub-genre is where director Black shines. But as a Predator movie, and especially when compared to the original movie The Predator is a very poor imitation executed with very little imagination or reverence for the antagonist or the franchise. Furthermore, the narrative is bloated and needlessly convoluted - many of beats of the story could have been better executed in a much more streamlined and simpler rendition of the storyline presented in the movie.
Some have also commented that elements of the movie that were criticized before the movie's release have been either omitted or played down and that as a result, the final cut of The Predator is better. To a degree, I would normally agree except for that the final act of the movie which is what was reshot is where the movie unravels into a needlessly dark, abruptly edited montage of generic action set pieces which is akin to watching AvP-R at 32 x speed, with the brightness and contrast turned down as much as possible. Director Black has commented that this was done to benefit the movie. However true fans will remember that most of the memorable set pieces of the first movie actually occurred in daylight.
Another less reported element of The Predator is that of the movies social politics, something that needlessly seems to be added to movies with increasing regularity. In The Predator there are two social-political statements that stand out. The first example of social-political platforming is the needless reminder that our planet is in the grip of global warming, which is used as justification to explain why the Predators genetically augment themselves. The second example of such platforming is in regards to mental illness and disability, a matter that (as I expect with most of you) is close to my heart. For the "Loonies", each of which suffers from various forms of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), it is used entirely for comedic effect, whereas Tremblay's character, who is afflicted with Aspergers Syndrome is used repeatedly as a plot device. As such both conditions are depicted with very little to no sensitivity toward these conditions, which only serves as another negative against the movie.
A lot of movie critics/journalists (both amateur an professional) have negatively reviewed The Predator, yet conversely many of the comments found in these reviews disagree, calling The Predator a funny and enjoyable action movie. As a stand-alone action comedy I would agree but as a fan of the Predator franchise that has been waiting for the character to rediscover its roots, I disagree vehemently. This is the Alien: Resurrection of the Predator franchise. Yes, the original Predator had humor, but it was not a comedy, it was a suspenseful science fiction action thriller, of which the new movie is not and as such left me disappointed and frustrated that one of Hollywoods greatest creations (alongside its contemporary, the Alien) continues to be marginalized with yet another step away from what made Predator such a good movie and even better movie antagonist.
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