Just in time for your monster loving partner’s stocking is The Predator, the latest iteration of everyone’s favorite Schwarzenegger fighting monster. This time he’s up against a motley crew that includes Olivia Munn as a scientist and a bunch of has been soldiers. Oh, and there’s bigger and badder Predators, too. This movie didn’t do so well with critics or at the box office, but here are my three major takeaways from watching the Blu-ray edition.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled scientist can prevent the end of the human race.
Why does this matter?
Co-writer and director Shane Black returns to the series he actually acted in way back in 1987. Since then he’s written his fair share of action films with the best one-liners (Lethal Weapon, Last Boyscout, The Nice Guys) as well as Iron Man 3 so you know there’s a lot of talent behind this film. It’s also a hard R rated film with plenty of violence in an age where everything seems to be PG-13.
Attempts to make a cohesive universe
From the very first shot, it’s immediately obvious the studio did not skimp on the budget. The Predator spaceship opens the film as it attempts to avoid an attack deep in space. The Predator is a prey of other predators, which is shocking given they usually stand as one. As the story unfolds you learn more about the Predator race’s plans and there’s a solid explanation as to why they keep coming to Earth. That’s helpful since up until this film Predators seemed to be vacationing on Earth to kill humans for sport. A somewhat silly premise.
There are also interesting reveals as far as human characters. It’s quite obvious the studio was hoping to kick-start a franchise with this film and, for the most part, those pieces are in place and work. Unfortunately, the film isn’t perfect for editing, pacing, and story reasons.
More action than you can shake a stick at
There is so much action in this film one might wonder if they should have saved some up for the next one. There is a Predator escape scene, a Predator chase scene, a Predator vs. Predator scene, and even spaceship battles. That includes plenty of ultra-violence with blood splatter, limbs being cut off, and lots of that neon green blood getting everywhere. If you dig horror flicks for the gore you’re going to love certain kills in this film. We’re talking heads rolling fun here people.
There is also an excellent action scene with multiple humans setting a trap for the evolved Predator. Given how powerful this thing is they lay on the violence quite thick and it’s fun to see how many ways they can attack it. Of course, being the final boss much of that violence does nothing, but it’s fun none the less.
I viewed the Blu-Ray edition which the cover boasts as having over an hour of special features. I actually quite liked the special features which include deleted scenes (which actually help flesh out certain moments), a fantastic and lengthy documentary about making the new Predator, its ship and weapons, and interesting documentaries about the mythos and writer/director. Overall I’m happy with the extras which show off a lot of the art revealing how imaginative a movie like this can be from an artistic perspective.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The film is awkwardly edited at times which pull you out of the film. Olivia Munn’s character, in particular, is introduced in the strangest way seemingly smash cutting to her and having her say nothing. The character develops well from there, but it’s a rough start. That’s particularly glaring when all the male characters get some character trait and backstory (and they’re all played excellently too). There are many scenes that seem to linger too long or cut too soon leaving you grasping for straws. This, in turn, makes you care less about the characters and their journey. Take for instance a scene with the main character’s child. We know he’s a bit on the spectrum, you gather that rather quickly, and after some bullies knock the chess pieces off a bunch of boards he proceeds to put the pieces back. He puts them back in an agonizingly long scene. It might only last 40 seconds, but it could have easily been trimmed to 10 since it’s immediately obvious what they’re trying to convey.
There’s a valiant attempt at making you like these characters and for the most part you do, but you won’t care much whether they win or lose since the stakes don’t seem all that important. At one point the main human villain points out the Predator’s plan and it’s a plan that won’t affect humans for many years. That’ll make you say, “So what, let em go, they’ll just keep coming anyway.” It’s not until late in the narrative that it’s made clear what this movie is building to which could have added some urgency to the greater purpose of the film if revealed earlier. Instead, most of the movie is focused on watching these characters bumble their way out of danger and protecting the MacGufin.
Is it good?
A fun action film for what it’s is, but a failure at what it’s trying to be. Lot’s of gore, action scenes, and interesting anti-heroes you’ll root for? Check. A world-building narrative setting up a franchise you’ll care about? Not at all. In fact, you won’t care much about the narrative here either, but if you dig action, sci-fi visuals and a couple one-liner laughs hunt this one down.