Ca­reer in­jec­tion

It is, fa­mously, one ugly mofo. Worse, its is­sues with se­quels are no laugh­ing mat­ter. Should the Preda­tor re­fine its at­tack?

Total Film - - Contents -

The Preda­tor gets called into HR for a thor­ough per­for­mance re­view.

In the orig­i­nal Preda­tor, Shane Black’s char­ac­ter de­liv­ered a lot of close-to-the-bone jokes to his man-bud­dies. As the co-writer/di­rec­tor of 2018’s The Preda­tor, he over-com­pen­sates some­what, em­pha­sis­ing splat­ter-gun silli­ness over sur­vival­ist sus­pense. Be­tween the bursts of ran­dom quip-fire, the more press­ing chal­lenge nags away like gnash­ing mandibles: can the Preda­tor’s men­ace and mag­netism be re­stored?

Clearly, com­edy hasn’t helped the Yautja hun­ters’ cause. Black’s would-be re­boot strug­gled with both au­di­ences (box-of­fice tak­ings stand at $127m) and crit­ics (Rot­ten Toma­toes score:

33 per cent), which ei­ther means the gags weren’t funny enough or au­di­ences wanted some­thing a lit­tle scarier from their car­ni­val of alien evis­cer­a­tion.

Or some­thing more fo­cused. Like Sch­warzeneg­ger emp­ty­ing his bar­rels, Black’s gore-spilling, mirth-mot­tled se­quel didn’t lack ammo. But it strug­gled to lock sights on a tricky tar­get. Es­sen­tially, Black served three films in one, lurch­ing er­rat­i­cally be­tween Spiel­ber­gian fan­tasy, ma­cho ac­tion­com­edy and lab-based sci-fi hor­ror. What it lacked was con­nec­tive tis­sue, be­yond the in­co­her­ent ac­tion and mixed-to-grim jokes. (The gag with the kid and the shoul­der can­non landed, but “gay­lord”? Ouch.)

Per­haps the tis­sue needed to bind so un­ruly a hy­brid doesn’t ex­ist, which gives the Preda­tor one op­tion in the fran­chise jun­gle: it needs a strat­egy. Com­edy is one way of sug­gest­ing (smugly) we’re all in on the gag, too genre-savvy to fall for the orig­i­nal’s cheesi­ness. But it also sug­gests a lapsed faith in the Preda­tor’s abil­ity to stoke sus­pense. The orig­i­nal was funny, yes, but the gags were care­fully sprin­kled around a ten­sion-bast­ing core. It worked be­cause of the clipped, cruel sce­nario that Dutch’s men be­came en­tan­gled in.

Therein lies one so­lu­tion. A lot of sassy self-aware­ness has been writ­ten into Preda­tor movies, but if we yank out the meta-snark and fo­cus on char­ac­ters we care about (not just potty-mouthed perv-grunts), the fran­chise could fight again. Strip­ping the Preda­tor back to ba­sics and dis­arm­ing it might also help; that way, you can re­duce the CGI over­load and po­si­tion both Preda­tor and prey on an al­most-equal foot­ing. If the Preda­tor is tooled to the max, most ver­sions of vic­tory will look daft any­way. And then we’re caught in the quip-fire again, which helps no­body. KH

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