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“When this is over, we’re gonna dance!”

Our macho sniper lead character tells off the government liaison/gum (or mint) chewing operations jerk at the start of the climax. Before the final action can throw down, the response to a potentially fatal fight is a mere friendly “atta boy” type slap on the shoulder. They’re pals in this moment, it seems, united against the hyper-advanced alien at the center of the The Predator. It’s an awkward moment, one that I’m uncertain on whether it’s meant to parody or replicate the famous muscular hand shake of the original or not. What it represents, to me, is an 80’s action genre absorbed machismo, implanted into the minds of modern day men, who behave as Arnold would, logic be damned, living like everything is “cool”.

Shane Black’s return to the franchise is indeed “cool”, in the same way that a jock who has figured out poetry has an “enlightening” moment when reading lyrics to a Fred Durst song. This sounds harsh — Shane Black’s dialogue and whip fast witticisms are better than a Limp Bizkit ballad — but I’m going for overall feeling here. On those terms, The Predator is quite pretentious, without much reason for being that way. It’s a clunky mess of an edit, cut to ribbons for maximum pace and little to no breathing room for story to explain itself or people to be … people.

Something about Predators landing on Earth to save us, only to be chased by trackers, only to run into a bus of PTSD consumed soldiers and a boy on the spectrum who has figured out their technology. It’s hard to gather what’s happening beyond green goo explosions and computer generated limbs flying apart. There’s a moment when two of the good guys, dying in front of one another, share a touching salutation. And then there’s a gesture about remembering the fallen, which is one unearned bit of emotion on top of many.

Fun action, funny lines, nonsense narrative. Thematically, The Predator has an interesting attempt at a hook, being perceived weaknesses becoming strengths. The soldiers deemed “The Loonies” — each with combat induced impairments — find the mettle within to fight once again. Attached is a sub-plot about an autistic boy who is bullied for being “different”, but hailed by a scientist for possibly being the next stage of human evolution. Both stories feed into each others manliness, only to falter under the weight of a sped up sci-fi tale. Had things slowed some, had the wide-eyed nostalgia for spiffy action and weird space mystery been allowed to shine, maybe these elements could’ve been fleshed out. Maybe.

Oddly, Olivia Munn — who is at her best here, in the midst of inexplicable stuff happening — shares a scene with a Predator, while nude (for the alien fighter, not the cameras or audience). It doesn’t really serve any explainable purpose other than to establish a funny line later on. Maybe in the lore it has to do with the creature having human DNA? Showing recognition for something familiar to it and expressing vulnerability? Nah, just a waste of several seemingly meaningful shots and takes for a one off gag. Why? Cause “cool”?

RATING — 2 / 5

Written by

Independent film critic. Progressive po’ boy, moviegoing romantic. SEFCA member, 🍅 - approved. Newsletter at ofthosewho.substack.com

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