Depending on the viewer, The Predator will either be a howling laugh riot with the occasional instance of shocking, bloody violence. Or it will play like a tedious, tone deaf and persistently erratic revival of the B-movie franchise. Count me in the second camp. Trying to explain the plot would be akin to weaving a narrative out of the various body parts of Frankenstein’s monster.
But here goes nothing. In essence: A biologist, small boy and group of ragtag soldiers all team up against an improved Predator, who upgrades itself with DNA from other species.
The Predator is a film that dies the slow death of a thousand cuts. Some of these include grossly overlong comic interludes, poor aping of Spielbergian sentimentality and bewildering plot points. The film feels like it has a profound identity crisis and from scene to scene revels in it.
Conceptually, the film is pitching itself as Close Encounters of the Third Kind. There is even a scene where two characters are framed like the long-limbed aliens (via a blurring effect in a long shot), from the 1977 picture. However, it lacks the awe and sheer tragic nature of that film.
Crucially, director Shane Black doesn’t harmonise the film’s various disparate elements together. In his other films, Black has been deft at balancing wonder, postmodern joshing and vicious violence. Even Black’s usual postmodern riffing feels desperate rather than sharp. A gag about the definition of the franchise’s name is bandied about at least three times.
The problem partially comes from the material itself. Predator has always been a one-note franchise. It has been about humankind embracing its primal nature to fend off creatures that consider our race to be prey in the galaxy-wide pecking order. The 2010 entry, Predators, peaked in an ever engaging genre picture that paralleled earthly predators against their alien counterparts.
Perhaps, wonderment in the vein of Close Encounters could not be achieved with a monster, we have collectively seen too much off. As it stands, there is a slice of three movies in The Predator. It’s a shame nobody knows which one to go for.