While it might seem like a modestly clever attempt to revive a flailing franchise, The Predator winds up an assembly-line creature feature that doesn’t bring the heat.
Whether it’s a sequel or a remake or a reimagining or whatever of the 1987 original — which was conceived primarily as a post-Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle — this follow-up is a welcome attempt to introduce a more tongue-in-cheek approach to the material. Yet it fails in part because it indulges in the same action clichés it seeks to satirize.
At least director Shane Black (Iron Man 3) doesn’t waste any time giving fans a glimpse of what they want to see, dropping us immediately into a jungle sequence involving the bloodthirsty, heat-seeking, perpetually pissed-off title character looking for prey.
It got there via a crashed spaceship, some pieces of which are secured by McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), a sniper trying to wipe out some drug smugglers. He sends the high-tech toys to his autistic young son (Jacob Tremblay) who’s curious about such matters. However, that lands McKenna in trouble with the authorities, who ship him off to a military prison with a collection of quirky misfit ex-soldiers. Naturally, they never reach their destination.
From there, it boils down to a high-stakes battle between high-tech monsters and some equally high-tech weapons, plus the rather dimwitted humans who operate them. The obligatory scientist (Olivia Munn) in the group dispenses some biological mumbo-jumbo about “spontaneous speciation.” But that doesn’t much matter once it transitions into a series of man-versus-beast chases and confrontations.
The screenplay by Black and Fred Dekker (RoboCop 3) — insert power-tool jokes here — doesn’t offer much nostalgic value for those trying to connect the franchise dots. Chronologically, it’s apparently set somewhere in-between the prior installments.
The film is technically proficient, with stylish visuals and seamless visual effects. That helps to compensate for the expected lack of narrative logic or character development. The shapeshifting, growling, green-blooded antagonist fares better mostly because he doesn’t say anything.
The Predator provides some bloody, mildly tasteless fun for a while, and of course it finishes with an obvious ploy for a sequel. Yet as the film continually fluctuates between cartoonish camp and a darker survival saga, it’s neither funny nor frightening enough to generate much of a rooting interest, at least not for our human counterparts.