An alien space ship gets damaged in battle and seeks refuge on Earth, where it crash lands in the jungle. It’s immediately found by American sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) after the alien inside – a Predator – kills the rest of his special ops team. McKenna manages to knock the creature unconscious and escape, allowing a secret organization run by the shady Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) to swoop in and capture the Predator alive. Traeger then calls in biologist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) to study the “specimen” and help them come up with answers about its origin and how to use it. When the beast escapes capture, Traeger puts a hit out on her, wanting to tie up all loose ends with no witnesses.
When McKenna was escaping his confrontation with the Predator, he managed to steal a couple pieces of its tech, including a helmet and arm bracer. He mails the artifacts to his home stateside, where it’s discovered by Rory (Jacob Tremblay), his Asperger’s afflicted son. Rory, a savant, figures out how to work the alien technology which signals the much larger/deadlier upgraded Predator that attacked the first Predator in the beginning.
After being captured by Traeger’s men, McKenna is forced on a prison bus with a handful of other ex-soldiers they want to make disappear. These include: funnyman Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), formerly suicidal team leader Nebraska Williams (Trevante Rhodes), Tourettes-inflicted Baxley (Thomas Jane), Lynch (Alfie Allen) and awkward end-of-dayer Nettles (Augusto Aguilera). Together, this ragtag team of highly trained – and a little psychotic – misfits save Casey Bracket and work together to go looking for McKenna’s son before the Predators or Traeger’s men can find him.
Full disclosure: I’ve never seen any of the original Predator movies, so I had no preconceived notions going into The Predator, and likely missed out on a bunch of Easter eggs and other fan service. I’m also not sure how this movie ties in with the previous films other than a quick reference to these man-hunting aliens visiting Earth in the past (at least 1 of the years mentioned was from John McTiernan’s original 1987 film that starred a pre-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of its two actors who would assume gubernatorial duties in the future). That being said, here’s what I thought about the movie:
I thought it was, for the most part, pretty fun. It kept me engaged and entertained with lots of action and ‘splotions! It had an interesting cast of characters that had great chemistry to play off each other. And it had jokes for days!
Which brings me to point 2: I actually thought it was “too funny”. I had this complaint last year, too, with Thor: Ragnarok. An action film with some jokes here and there is a good thing. The occasional laugh is good as it breaks up the tension and shows the movie isn’t taking itself too seriously and can have a good time. But in The Predator, there were so many jokes thrown around it often felt more like a comedy that just happens to have some brutal kills in it.
There’s also a pretty unbelievable storyline with Rory that had me rolling my eyes both a) that it was happening at all, and b) the explanation for why it was happening… but telling you that story and why it was happening is a pretty big spoiler, and I try not to pass spoilers out if I can help it. But it was ridiculous enough to shove me out of my enjoyment of the movie until that point.
Oh, and there’s some pretty big plotholes and logic flaws running throughout the movie. Again, I can’t really talk about them without spoilers, but the one that annoyed me most came early in the movie when one of the leads should have been killed right then and there but wasn’t. This mystifying turn of events is later mentioned again, but there’s no closure about it.
The Predator is pretty entertaining, as long as you don’t actually give the plot or the film’s logic any real thought. It’s flashy fun with lots of jokes – maybe too many jokes – making for an enjoyable, if disposable, way to spend some time in a theater. I can’t say how longtime fans will react to this one, even with the inclusion of Shane Black at the helm, but the moment you start going “wait, really? That just happened?!” is when you’re going to start hating it. And that’s not a good thing for an action blockbuster to have you thinking.