Release: 28th January 2019
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
Decades after the first, fateful encounters between elite American forces and the extra-terrestrial Predators who hunt humans for honour and sport, Special Forces Captain Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) encounters a Predator marooned in the Mexican wilderness. But soon after the captive Predator becomes the centrepiece of a top-secret study under evolutionary biologist Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn), a deadly new breed of Predator arrives on Earth, with plans that could threaten the entire planet’s future. Now Brackett, McKenna, his son, and a squad of military misfits have to band together to fend off both the alien threat and a human conspiracy – making surprising allies in the process.
The biggest issue that Shane Black’s instalment of The Predator series faces is not angry fanboys, or sci-fi nerds, or even a lack of audience anticipation. Rather, the main reason why The Predator fails to land is because it is a morally inept throwback with the social politics of a BNP manifesto.
As many people have proved, it is hard to make a decent Predator movie. That balance between the ridiculous, the gratuitous, and the endearing is what makes the 1987 Schwarzenegger vehicle so much fun. But for all its “you son’uva bitch” muscle pumping pomposity, no one ever offered to fellate Elpidia Carillio’s POW, Anna. Jesse the Body Ventura, might have been lacking time to bleed, but he certainly had no time to mockingly shoot the breeze about autistic kids. And Bill Duke might have favored a Chapstick in his down moments, but never was that an opportunity to jokingly worry about his sexual orientation. Sadly, the opposite is true here. Ok, it could be argued that Black’s off-colour humour is harmless enough; let’s not get in a twist and pretend we are all delicate. But its place here is compounded by its lack of necessity. This is not a comedy; not even an ill-judged out of touch one. Predator was funny because it was ludicrous, but it was predominantly an action film. With The Predator, the tables have turned somewhat, as Black brings out the wrong kind of big guns; peppering the film with his signature patter of frat-level humour. The most telling moment of this is when Olivia Munn’s Casey awakens to find herself captive in a room full of male convicts. Fearing for her life, she is humiliated, mocked, and finally embarrassed; all the while being laughed at and talked about by her captures. Granted, we know there is no threat, we know these are the ‘good’ guys, but all the jokes come at her expense. Saying that, 20 minutes later they are all fighting 15-foot mutant alien dogs; so, I guess one cannot take it all that seriously.
When Black removes himself from the equation long enough to let Predator lore out, the film still fails to deliver. There are one or two decent moments, namely a prison break from a laboratory, and a final act ode to the jungle terrain of the original; but for the most part, the action is tame, the violence uneven, and the excitement levels low. The cast fizz and seem to have fun, but one cannot help but feel they would be better suited in an original property rather than trespassing in a universe that is clearly not in keeping with their style. As a result, when it comes time for the characters to start dying, it is hard to feel any sense of loss.
Upon its release, there was controversy about Black’s employment of a friend who turned out to be registered sex offender. The actor and his subsequent scene have been cut, but what remains is a lingering sense that such an event is indicative of the film’s overarching tone of unpleasantness.
So, what of the format? The Predator, according to IMDB, was processed on a 2K master, which means that this 4K transfer is an upscale. However, the original print was near enough 4K, so all of the original data and colour science is there. The result is that The Predator looks great. The graphics are nominally better than its HD counterpart, with scene detail and shadows really holding their own. The sound detail as well, is stunning. Listen out for the dense soundscapes, such as the previously mentioned laboratory breakout, for a pretty immersive experience.
Film Grade: D-
There is a lot of meaningless guff to wade through with the special features; all of which are featured exclusively on the blu-ray disc. There is a recap for those unable to remember the three previous Predator films, and a decent look at the evolution of the predator over time. Shane Black gets his own retrospective EPK and the cast have fleeting moments to talk about their own experiences. The best of which is Keegan-Michael Key geeking out.
Special Features Grade: C-
The first rule in creating a sequel should be, “why?” Had that exact question been thrown around the soft production meetings for The Predator, a very different and more engaging film might have appeared.