The Predator (2018) — A brutally fun throwback

“Know who Whoopi Goldberg is? It’s like an alien Whoopi Goldberg.”

Justin’s rating: Clawing its way into my attention

Justin’s review: It was a weird moment when I realized that over the decade that I pretty much took off movies, Hollywood went and released new entries in nearly every major scifi/horror franchise born out of the ’80s. Alien got Prometheus and Covenant, Terminator got Genisys and Dark Fate, RoboCop got that unholy 2014 reboot, and Predator got Predators and The Predator. For the sake of completion, I knew I had to touch on this last one, but the fact that I’d never heard of it until now probably isn’t the best sign that it was some sort of sleeper hit, eh?

Plus, and this genuinely excited me when I saw it, The Predator was co-written by Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight) and Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps, The Monster Squad), while also being directed by Black. And did I mention that Shane Black also had an acting role in the first Predator? These two guys are responsible for some great cult movies, and I was interested to see what they could do with the Predator franchise.

Let’s also give Black some credit for wanting to do right by the franchise: He resisted studio pressure to turn this into a reboot or something less than a hard R. I’m not bloodthirsty by any means, but I feel strongly that movie franchises need to not compromise what made them special in the first place.

And it’s a good think Black and Dekker didn’t, either, because The Predator is a sheer thrill ride of fun, action, and humor. I was surprised just how much I was enjoying this film — you know, where you get that irrepressible grin on your face because you’re having a great time and anticipate this continuing right through to the end.

Apparently the Predators have been making Earth their private game reserve a little too much, because now there’s an entire government agency devoted to tracking down their incursions and swiping the aliens and their high-tech gear. One such crash landing nets them an alive — and very grumpy — Predator as well as the attention of Quinn (Boyd Holbrook), a sniper who makes off with some of the alien tech himself.

Quinn’s captured (after he mails the tech to his wife Emily and autistic son Rory) and the alien brought to a unit known as the Stargazers for further study, but it’s too late. Rory plays with the tech and basically activates a homing signal for all the Predator’s friends, the captured alien itself breaks out of the lab, and Quinn’s mentally unstable inmates and he get swept up into the fracas. Also present for said fracas is Casey (Olivia Munn), a scientist who’s not afraid to grab a gun when the situation calls for it.

So now we got the government scrambling to get a handle on this situation, the military vets becoming unwilling intergalactic fighters, the autistic kid figuring out the gadgets, the escaped Predator trying to E.T. it out of there, and a gigantic Predator coming get some stolen items. It’s messy, but it’s messy in a way we haven’t seen before from these movies.

With a whole lot of moving parts and a snappy running time, The Predator wastes no time giving us all sorts of carnage and quips. I appreciate that this time around, we’re not retreading the same mystery angle — what’s attacking all of our heroes? — but instead are seeing an actual continuation and expansion of the Predator mythos. That’s kind of rare in franchises, as sooner or later, Hollywood likes to start all over for no good reason.

And it’s funny. Holy cow crud is it funny. It’s not a comedy film, but neither was the first Predator, and both of them had great characters with a lot of memorable lines that had me rolling. The VA guys here are off-kilter in a delightful way, bringing weirdness into a situation that’s already plenty weird. I appreciated that.

No, it’s not quite as good as it should be. This film had some ugliness happening behind the scenes, and the final act was completely reshot (and isn’t quite as good as the first two-thirds), but don’t believe the “this is the worst movie eeeeever!” histrionics that critics and fans threw at it. It’s a great throwback to ’80s-style action filmmaking and a spot-on addition to this scifi franchise.

Didja notice?

  • Predators have cool spaceships
  • It’s not a Predator movie if it doesn’t start with a jungle motif
  • The blood dropping to reveal the Predator is a wonderfully freaky moment
  • Kind of makes sense that this takes place during Halloween
  • The very ham-handed character introductions
  • Nice Haunted Mansion reference! “Is this room actually stretching…?”
  • Hey, it’s Keyes’ son from Predator 2!
  • Those face mandibles are formidable weapons by themselves
  • I like the way the Predator fires the assault rifle, just like he’s flinging bullets around
  • The guy promising to catch the girl jumping off the roof of the bus and then getting distracted so she fell made me laugh pretty hard
  • “Get to the choppas!”
  • The Predator using the soldier’s amputated arm for a thumbs-up
  • The soldiers putting niceties around the sleeping girl and then taking bets on what she’d do when she woke up
  • Aha he wore the Predator’s mask for Halloween!
  • Whoa, did that kid just laser-kill that jerk? DID THAT JUST HAPPEN.
  • Yeah, you’re going to want to double-tap alien predator dog heads
  • She just wanted a sample!
  • Aaaaand now there’s an even bigger Predator. Excuse me, I’m spent.
  • This team does seem to get a whole lot of unbelievable transport on the fly
  • Yeah, you can kill guys with a tranq gun
  • The big Predator on fire is a neat visual
  • Could’ve done without the kid swearing, though

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