No Arnold, no suspense in this comedic spin on the classic movie franchise.
If it bleeds, we won’t notice the gaping plot holes in this ’80s reboot.
“The Predator” arrives with all the bells and whistles writer/director Shane Black can summon. For fits and starts that’s enough to distract us from the silly sci-fi theatrics and a narrative veering from PC to “problematic.”
Plus, few action scribes care about the spoken word as much as Black. The “Nice Guys” auteur had a small role in the 1987 original. Now, he’s best known for his work on the other side of the camera.
So why does someone with intimate knowledge of the Ah-nuld classic think we wanted the comedy dialed up to 11?
“The Predator’s” first 10 minutes are so rushed, so clunky we fear the worst. A predator’s alien vessel slips through a hole in space and ends up on Earth. Once on the ground, he wipes out a small group of soldiers save for a Special Forces sniper named Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook).
Now, the authorities want to shut Quinn up, hoping to keep their investigation into the creature a secret. Why? It’s all hush-hush, evil military stuff.
You know the cliche.
Quinn eventually teams up with a rogue’s gallery of antiheroes including Thomas Jane’s Tourette Syndrome afflicted soul and Keegan-Michael Key playing … Keegan-Michael Key. They join a tougher than nails biologist (Olivia Munn) to avoid Johnny Law and protect Quinn’s son (“Wonder’s” Jacob Tremblay) from the Predator’s clutches.
They might just save the day in the process.
Black’s “Predator” glibly connects to the past films in the franchise. The tone? It couldn’t be more different if Arnold Schwarzenegger made a cameo wearing a tutu. The jokes are fast, furious and almost always on target.
The pace? You may need to take a yoga breath between action set pieces.
Where’s the mystery, sense of danger or chills? You’ll have to rewatch the original, which holds up beautifully in case you were wondering.The new film’s opening scene shows a Predator lumbering about, instantly negating any sense of wonder we might have for the rebooted species.
And boy do this film’s missed opportunities hurt.
Take Sterling K. Brown’s character. You never know which way he’ll zag, and that’s not because he’s playing an unpredictable soul. The actor leaves a vivid impression. It’s just not consistent from scene to scene.
Our hero is more direct, a Mel Gibson ripoff from the actor’s ’80s heyday. Holbrook has the requisite swagger, and his brand of personal responsibility is refreshing. So, too, is Black’s affection for soldiers, the heroes who risk it all for the rest of us. They’re never happier than, seconds before certain death, they realize their sacrifice won’t be in vain.
Tremblay’s character captures that sentiment while chatting with the local postal carrier about his Pappy.
“He kills people so you can be a mail man.”
Why, it’s like “Toxic Masculinity: the Movie.”
Munn’s character represents Hollywood’s course correction for treating women so shabbily for so long. While action movies once relegated fine actresses to perfunctory roles like “the wife,” now they’re darn near superheroic. Munn’s character is a scientist by trade, but watching how she hangs with the professional soldiers requires some sizable belief suspension.
Other female characters are equally strong, as if auditioning for the inevitable sequel(s). There’s even a reverse Al Franken moment played for laughs.
The film also clumsily introduces, and that’s being generous, a gay couple for no other reason than o check off some Woke Points. Those touches are joined by a snort-worthy plot point Al Gore might cheer.
Then again, the film plays Jane’s profane outburst for the cheapest of laughs. Black, who suffers from Tourette himself, is too good a scribe to fall back on such lazy bits..
Finally officially acknowledging that I have Tourette’s… yup, for real. Anybody out there on that page? pic.twitter.com/Kfg7oirYJQ
— Shane Black (@BonafideBlack) June 29, 2018
If you guessed there’s too many elements in this brand extension, take your pick between the fluffy bunny and the neon teddy bear.
The film gives Tremblay’s character Asperger syndrome, a novel twist that ties smartly into a third act reveal. Otherwise, the film is all kinds of stupid, with sci-fi mumbo jumbo we allegedly moved past in the 1980s.
The scientists here either know way too much or too little. The anti heroes suffer a similar screenwriting tick. Their personal motivations make little sense.
Add some alien dogs and a finale that begs for a sequel and you’ve got a cinematic mess. You’ll laugh and savor some action beats, but otherwise you’ll pine for the original.
HiT or Miss: “The Predator” brings the laughter and some thrilling action. What’s missing? For starters, you’ll forget much of the movie by the time your car leaves the theater’s parking lot.
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