Film review: The Predator – Let the hunt commence

1987 feels like a long time ago doesn’t it? In fact, some of you reading this I imagine weren’t even born way back in the late 80s. I mean, I was only a twinkle in my parents’ eyes at that time. But I digress.

What’s so special about 1987? Well, it was the year that Arnold Schwarzenegger kicked serious alien butt in the first Predator movie. Of course, the franchises now infamous fall from grace is the stuff of legend, and along with Alien, the original remains a true high point in the sci-fi horror genre.

Rebooted for 2018 with Iron Man 3 director Shane Black at the helm, The Predator aims to revitalise the public’s interest in this flagging horror franchise. Looking at Shane Black’s unusual resume, he seems a strange choice to take charge here, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now. But just how good, or bad, is The Predator?

From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home. The universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and an evolutionary biologist can prevent the end of the human race.

The aforementioned ragtag crew of ex-soldiers includes Boyd Holbrook, a vastly underused presence in last year’s Logan, that thankfully receives much higher billing here. Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane and Augusto Aguilera make up the rest of the team and whilst their backstories are limited to one scene on a bus, they feel fleshed out enough to carry the film.

Less successful is Olivia Munn’s Casey Bracket. Biologist and when required by the screenwriters, experienced military personnel, she’s probably the most badass biologist you’ll see on screen this decade, when the script requires it of course.

Finally, we have the ridiculously talented Jacob Tremblay as Holbrooks’ son, Rory. His subplot which surrounds his daily struggles with autism is poorly realised but should be praised for bringing awareness to the condition in a mainstream Hollywood film.

Thankfully, Shane Black injects his trademark dark humour throughout and surprisingly, it works better than I had anticipated. The jokes are well-placed across the running time and each one manages to at least raise a titter.

Now let’s get to the part everyone reading this is interested in; the Predator’s return. Portrayed by stuntman Brian A. Prince, this Predator is virtually identical to the 1987 original in every way. And that’s a good thing, because when the 11ft hybrid shows up, it spoils the party a little. Rendered in CGI, rather than practical effects, its movements are a little too fluid and lack that sense of realism you get with a real man in a suit. The addition of the Predator Dogs however is an inspired choice and they work well despite some sloppy CG at times.

Nevertheless, the film is shot very well and the copious amounts of gore are both restrained and animalistic. It earns its 15 rating most definitely as the Predator works its way through a massive number of victims, but it never crosses the line in which you’d have people saying ‘enough is enough’.

The special effects are on the whole, very good indeed. Considering a relatively modest $88million budget, there are only a few instances of poor CGI and the practical effects used throughout are a nice touch. There’s some incredibly poor editing in the film however. A couple of character decisions will leave you scratching your head as you wonder how on earth they knew that.

But this is very much fan service to the original and for that, you’ll either love or hate it. There are many references to its predecessors, some subtle, some smack you in the face obvious. The classic Arnie line “get to the chopper” is there, but that’s definitely in the latter camp, and it’s one reference that doesn’t quite hit the spot.

Overall, The Predator is definitely the best film since the original, although that really isn’t saying much. And that’s a little bit of a disservice to what Shane Black and the cast has managed to achieve. It’s a confident film with a cracking sense of humour, good special effects and just enough call-backs to please series diehards. Is it a horror movie like the original was classed to be? Absolutely not. But it’s worth a watch for both Predator fans and those looking to scratch their sci-fi itch.

The Predator rating: 6.5/10