Director Shane Black has a bizarre history in film that starts with the production of his script, Lethal Weapon. During production of that film, he appeared in another Joel Silver film in production at the time… Predator. He played doomed soldier Rick Hawkins, the first member of Dutch’s platoon to encounter the alien menace and have his spine and skull ripped from his body. He’s had many hit films along the way, but only made his directorial debut with the modern noir “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang”. He had a hit with “Iron Man 3” and completely blew audiences away with the sleeper hit and modern cult phenomena “The Nice Guys”. So with the announcement of his work on the Predator franchise it was hard to see how the film could go wrong.
With amazing visual effects and a stellar cast, The Predator starts with a bang and brings the audience along on a thrilling ride with a group of rag tag soldiers teaming up with an xeno-biologist to face off against both the alien creatures and a covert Government Agency that wants them dead for reasons. More on that later. We love these characters- irreverent and sometimes tragic, they are a group of mentally unstable soldiers on their way for treatment with a number of disorders ranging from PTSD to Tourette’s. Thomas Jane and Keegan-Michal Key display a brotherly relationship that is at times antagonistic and loving, Trevayne Woods is the father figure of the team, and the bland Boyd Hollbrook is the lead whose earlier encounter with a crashed Predator ship starts the ball rolling. Blood, guts, action, and great dialogue pepper the film and is very satisfying to watch.
There is the twelve-year old kid inside of myself who was high on blood, guts, irreverent humor and kick ass awesomeness. BUT…
The Predator franchise, for all its ups and downs, has always been a pretty simple concept- The Predator is here to trophy hunt. They are hunters, they are tracking and killing prey, and they are not going to waste their time with unarmed chaff. The first film makes a strong point of this. The subsequent films, no matter how much of a failure some have been, have never tried to delve much deeper into the premise. But the latest film attempts to answer a question that no one was asking- Why do the Predators collect trophies? And what we get is an answer that then leaves the rest of the film under a blanket of “So, wait, why is this happening?” And, regardless of the answers, we are still left wondering “So, wait, why did all of this happen?”.
And, make no mistake, it’s a bit of a convoluted mess. I turned to my wife this morning and asked, and she had answers that she interpreted and I was still left a little confused. Shane Black even goes back to his trope of “kidnapping” characters in several moments (watch any Black film), only to leave us scratching our heads as to why? The Government agency wants to kill the loons, who have proven themselves effective in fighting and tracking the Predator because the Government Agency is written to be antagonistic and we don’t need a logical reason, goddamnit! Olivia Munn’s xenobiologist seems less like a character and more like a tagged on diversity hire (And no, I’m not touching the controversy surrounding the film with a ten foot pole). Her whole purpose seems to be answering a question that nobody was asking. Not even the film’s lead, who takes her “revelation” with a dismissive shrug because it really DOESN’T MATTER!!! Oh, well, we also get to shoe-horn some environmentalist messages about pollution and the self-destructive nature of humanity and yadda yadda blah blah. Holy shit, there’s a whole lot of preachy bullshit scattered throughout this kick-ass film about an alien that hunts humans. The end builds to an almost satisfying finale only to dash it with an epilogue that may have seemed totally “cool” in conception but still leaves us wondering “Wait… WHY?!?!?!!!”
7 out of 10, though I’m probably being overly generous for the camaraderie displayed between the “Loons”.