The Predator was always kind of destined to be weird, wasn’t it? It’s a Shane Black movie—yes, the same Shane Black who had a role in the original Predator back in 1987 and has since become a fairly prolific writer and director—which should have been our first, second, and third hints. And then add on the cast, which consists of actors who rarely if ever have been tasked with carrying a film but contribute well in smaller roles, and you’ve got the makings of something that is going to be anything but dull.
And if there’s one thing that can be said about The Predator, it’s that it isn’t boring. It’s overplotted and underdeveloped, often feels like something that was more ambitious and trimmed in order to fit into a mandated running time, but it’s entertaining. And considering where the franchise started and has gone since then, that puts it right in the middle of the pack—especially if you count the times the central monster fought the Xenomorphs.
There are something like three or four plot threads to deal with in this movie, all of which probably could have supported a full feature if they were given the time, depth, and development they needed. As a result, The Predator feels like there’s too much going on and we don’t get to explore any of it enough. “I want more of this” isn’t exactly the most damning critique but it’s how I feel about this film. As it is, it’s an entertaining but shallow movie that’s paced like a jet engine and the only points at which we’re allowed to breathe are exposition dumps and quip exchanges.
The latter of those is the most “Shane Black-y” element of the film. He’s one of the best in Hollywood at having characters go back and forth at one another, and the various personalities on display here—the idea is that all of the protagonists have “something” different about them; one has Tourette’s, one has autism, at least one has PTSD, etc—allow for some great moments. But, having said that, most of the characters are also relegated just to their “something,” meaning they never come across as fleshed-out individuals.
Essentially, what you get is a movie with some solid action, a good amount of humor, and more than enough to keep your mind constantly engaged—but you won’t care about much of it or the people to whom it’s happening, and it’ll lack staying power because of its constant jumping around when it comes to plot threads and characters. Fun in the moment? Sure, but it could have, and probably should have been so much more than it is.
The Predator will go down in history as a decent but disappointing installment in its series—which, let’s be honest, is either about the same or better than all of them but the original. It’s overplotted and underdeveloped, features a good amount of solid action and jokes but has a plot that’s difficult to follow and characters that lack depth and development. It passes the time but it doesn’t have any staying power. It has a cool central monster, though, and if you’re a fan of the franchise you’ll want to see it just for what it does with that.
Conclusion: The Predator is a moderately entertaining but also disappointing entry in this series.
Recommendation: Only fans of the Predator franchise or of Shane Black need to bother with this one.