The Predator (2018)
Rated R for gross stuff and absolutely insane language. Like, Shane Black loves language and using it in all kinds of combinations. Then he gave a character Tourette's. This is the funny, probably not real world version of Tourette's where every vulgar thing is timed perfectly with the worst possible time that it could be said. It's pretty out there. But remember, this is also a Predator movie, so that means we get some spines and tearing and violence. Lots of gunplay. A kid swears at one point, I'm pretty sure.
DIRECTOR: Shane Black
Um...I messed up guys. I watched too many movies and now I'm really far behind on my reviews. I write one of these a day, but I also have had time to watch movies. That's on me. Completely on me. So on the day that they announce The Academy Award nominations, here I am writing about The Predator. It's bad timing. It's just bad timing and I'm not going to apologize for it right now. I'm going to power through and write a long essay about, you know, The Predator.
One of my students told me that he absolutely loved this movie but it was also the dumbest movie he's watched in a long time. I don't know if that's dead on the nose (is that a phrase?). I get where he's coming from. The Predator made me realize something pretty profound that I wasn't ready to admit to myself. You're going to be all, "Well, duh." But I'm sure you haven't verbalized it in the way that I'm about to verbalize it. The Predator movies are actually pretty dumb and it's ridiculous that we have expectations about them. I probably hit the nail on the head for a lot of you, but some of you might be coming to the Predator movies' rescue. "The first one was really smart!" I wouldn't say that. The first one was really smart in how it was executed. (pun intended). The first movie works really well as a movie. It probably is the most functional of the bunch. It's been a while since I've watched it so I can't pretend to be an expert on it. But I do want to say that the reason that the OG Predator works is because it gives us almost no information or mythology. It's the same thing with Alien. There's a reason why those two properties are thrown together. They both start with a barebones understanding of what we're dealing with. We know that the Predator is extremely deadly and is hunting the guys. We know that it only kills things that it considers worth fighting. Heck, even that last statement is kind of vague. But with a sequel to a really stripped down movie, the only place that it can go is into exposition. Now, I've never seen Predator 2. But I have seen the Alien vs. Predator movies and Predators. My student's insight into The Predator is kind of accurate. It's remarkably fun. I had a really good time watching this, despite what most critics have said. But the reason I had a good time at it is because I had practically no expectations set on it. I don't want a deep mythology for the Predator movies. I want them to be simple entertainment and The Predator does that really well because it makes characters funny.
It's biggest mistake is that it tries to build on previous movies. I won't even call it a mistake. Predators tried to keep it simple as well and people forgot that the movie even exists. When you forget that a movie exists, something had to happen wrong. But The Predator's biggest missteps happen when they start guessing what the monsters are doing. And the monsters have a plan. I always liked that the monsters in Predator were kind of single focused. They were international game hunters. They were on safari and we were the target. That's all you really need. But The Predator adds a layer that is frankly kind of stupid. I don't know if I'm going to go into spoilers or not, but I'm going to try and avoid it. There's this whole plan to quickly get the greatest and strongest human. That's pretty on message, but it gives it a reason why they need the greatest and best. That's what I don't need. The reason is so convoluted and it is an excuse to introduce a new version of the monster. Part of me hates this and part of me loves this. So, a typical predator is in the six to seven foot tall range, right? The new predator is eleven feet tall. I'm pretty sure we didn't need that. But yet, I fell for it at times. Mainly because the eleven foot one ripped apart the seven foot one. That's absolutely ridiculous because it's what sequels do. By presenting a stronger, impossible to kill version, it just nerfs all of the characters. It was difficult taking down the eleven foot one, but it seemed like less of a chore than Arnold taking down the original sized one in the first film. Basically, I feel like The Predator is an impossible movie to make. Making the same movie as the OG Predator is forgettable, as proven by Predators. Making the movie bigger and badder is pretty stupid because it becomes overly complex and the OG Predator was already to the max.
But the movie works, in an odd way. Shane Black is hilarious to me. He hits a pretty sweet spot. I don't want to seem regressive because I'm always shoehorning sensitivity into these reviews, but Black seems to toe the line of what is and isn't offensive. Shane Black and Fred Dekker are kind of the old guard and it's amazing to see that Black can still get into the movie making game without completely alienating everyone. Oh, and don't get me wrong, I kind of cringed at some lines in the movie, amazed that he could get away with saying that kind of stuff. I don't know why, but having Keegan Michael Key say a lot of that stuff made it okay. I know, it's not. But Keegan Michael Key somehow gets a pass when a lot of other people don't. Do you know why it works mostly? (Again, it doesn't completely work.) The other movies really lacked relationships. The character dynamics are actually kind of fun in this movie. McKenna is the fish out of water in this story of a bunch of psychiatric patients / soldiers. He's the McMurphy to the rest of the inmates of the sanitarium. But they're all soldiers, so they seem to be able to hold their own against a predator with little issue to credibility. I'm trying to think if the other movies really had that dynamic. In the OG, we don't really get that dynamic. They are all professionals who mostly act professional or flex arms when greeting each other. Rather, McKenna trying to maintain the group while solving this whole predator debacle is kind of interesting. The inmates give the film a whole chaotic vibe. Yeah, the humor with the inmates is a bit too broey for my liking at times, but it also really fits with the feel of the rest of the film. The only character I have problem with is the tropey son of McKenna. He's got magical autism. I'm not trying to dismiss autism. If anything, I'd like to stress how autism is a real thing and it isn't quite Rain Man. He's the kind of character who can solve any problem because he has autism. Besides being very dismissive about the life of a family of autism, it is also lazy writing. Any time the characters are backed into an intellectual hole, McKenna's kid can just solve something just by looking at it. He actually is able to read the predators' language because of his autism. That's no good. Can you see the problem there?
But the action is fun. I don't know how to explain this. I'm probably never going to watch the movie for the action ever again. It's got a fun cast and if someone wanted to watch it as a comedy, I would be down. But as fun as the action is, there's nothing that feels all that special in the movie. I'm thinking back to the OG Predator. I've seen it once and I remember that action sequence that closes the film vividly. It's so clever and so well shot. There's nothing all that wrong with how The Predator is shot. It's a fine movie with few aspirations. Maybe that's why I'm very cool with this movie. Oddly, it might be my favorite Predator movie. It doesn't take itself as seriously as the other movies in the series. I'm sometimes cool with a movie just being fun. I know that I don't seem the type and I think it comes on a case-by-case basis. But The Predator is simply cool being what it is. It is an entry in a long dead franchise that weirdly keeps coming back to remind us that it can sell tickets. I know that only a few people actually ended up seeing The Predator. I think that people see that as a failure on Shane Black's part. I used to have these Superman floor mats. When I'd get comments on those floor mats, I would assume that people were huge Superman fans and I'd start talking about the character. Then I realized that Superman made more of a cultural impact than simply the storytelling. I think the character of the Predator is extremely recognizable, but that's about it. Few people can honestly talk about it beyond the cultural talking point. That's the level these movies should be shooting for. From that perspective, Shane Black's The Predator is a slam dunk. It's a fun sequel in a series that really doesn't deserve to have fun sequels. I don't want The Predator to die off, but they should be mildly entertaining without expectation. Shane Black and Fred Dekker have a movie with a wildly entertaining script. Sometimes it gets bogged down by its own mythology, which is a bummer. But between having an absolutely great cast and some really good jokes, the movie works. I'm more there to see another Shane Black movie than anything. I know that there was some controversy surrounding this film and that really bums me out. I hate when I have to start distancing myself from auteurs that I enjoy. But The Predator entertained me when I wanted it to. It's better than critics say it is, but it is far from being great. Instead, a violent monster kills a bunch of people violently while comedians tell funny jokes. That's not the worst thing in the world for me.
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Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.