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