By: Felix Felicis (Six Pack) –
[freeze-frame record scratch] You’re probably wondering how I got myself into this situation. Like most bad ideas, and hangovers… and pretty much every relationship I’ve ever had that wasn’t with Netflix, it all started with extreme overconfidence. Coming off a recent re-watch of Alien vs Predator (the best film in either franchise, I’ll die on this hill) and a simmering appreciation for Adrien Brody’s 2010 standalone flick, Predators (just a stellar use of mud for the laaaaaadies that sparked an odd week in which I was sexually attracted to Adrien Brody) I was ready to leap blindly when Shane Black’s Predator came up on the writer’s block for assignment. And, kind of like the time I got my third concussion wrestling in those giant sumo suits in college, I ended up crushed under a shit-ton of toxic masculinity.
I’ve never had a stroke but I imagine it feels like what trying to coherently describe the timeline of events and/or core narrative for Predator ends up doing to your brain. I know this because when trying to explain why this movie was a shitbrick that deserved to be flushed unceremoniously out to sea (or launched into space, aimed directly at the sun), I stopped talking mid-sentence, stared at the wall in front of my face and just gasped for reason like a wide-mouthed bass scooped up in a net from an absolutely bugfuck crazy ocean. I’m going to try this again, someone slap me with a kitten or an Emmy winner if I don’t finish this sentence.
Predator opens on a jungle deep in Mexico where a military unit encounters ET’s much angrier, dreadlocked cousin (who crash landed) during the course of duty and has a super vague/against type mission to complete. Bullets, disembowelment (pace yourself, they got a bulk deal on intestines), and a terrible idea to mail alien tech to your PO Box back home later, we see shady government figures trying to capitalize on and/or kill anyone involved with these events. Enter Leading Military Man (Boyd Holbrook) McKenna, his Merry Band Of Batshit Creepy-Crazies (most notably Keegan-Michael Key’s “Coyle” and Thomas Jane’s “Baxley”), plus Science Girl Who CAN SCIENCE (Olivia Munn) Casey Bracket, Autistic Kid Genius (LMM’s son “Rory” aka Jacob Tremblay), and LMM’s Wife Named Emily Who Isn’t Allowed To Kick Ass (a criminally underused Yvonne Strahovski). Oh, also, Teeny Predator and Hulk Smash Predator are here hunting each other, humans, and probably a bulk discount on 3-ply at Costco because only on Earth do we buy in bulk.
I don’t know if what I did by battling a FUCKING HURRICANE last weekend to go screen Predator would count as dedication to duty so much as desperation to escape the house after days of captivity and one too many games of Monopoly after the power went out (one, one game is too many). There were five other people in the theater with me (we gave the “yeah, I see you were seconds away from stabbing a family member, friend, or loved one with a tiny metal horse, as well” nods to each other while finding our seats.
That said, I haven’t laughed at a movie this hard in YEARS. Actual human years (as opposed to Paul Rudd years – that man is aging backwards in the most ab-tacular way). Predator wasn’t intentionally a funny movie, though there *were* times they tried to inject small amounts of humor into the narrative and failed in a disturbingly unnerving way (more on that later). It may have been the Stockholm Syndrome setting in, or the fact that Keegan-Michael Key exudes hilarity and satire from his pores, but the final scene between “friends” played by Key and Jane (there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it conversation where homosexual subtext is implied- *cough* queerbaiting *cough*) has a moment when, doomed as they are, the men look at each other one last time and the EXPRESSION on Keegan-Michael Key’s FACE absolutely SLAYS ME. I’m talking hysterical laughter, tears-rolling-down-my-face hyena cackles. It was amazing. Totally not intended by anyone involved with the movie, and not totally appreciated by my fellow theater brethren but ya takes ya cackles where ya gets ‘em, folks.
Trying to find a coherent narrative throughline in Predator is kind of like trying to find a particular dick in a haystack of dicks while fighting your way through a tornado of dicks on Planet Dick which is solely constructed from dicks. Not gonna happen. Nothing makes sense. Much like Planet Dick, this movie was fueled purely by hostile masculinity and ego, truly awful dialogue and terrible jokes like, yeah, the Predators look like someone who has dreadlocks, so obviously, LET’S MAKE A WHOOPIE GOLDBERG JOKE HERE – because she’s the only person in the world who’s ever had dreadlocks and this isn’t even a little bit racist-
There were also multiple jokes about how these aren’t actually “Predators” because they don’t eat their kills- they take trophies- which by definition makes them “hunters” HAHAHAHA GOOD ONE THAT’LL DEFINITELY MAKE THEM PAUSE BEFORE RIPPING OUT YOUR SPINE. Who wrote this? Two thirteen-year-old boys locked in a room with an unlimited supply of Four Loco and Beavis and Butthead Do America on repeat? That’s the only reason I can think of for including the bastard child of Medusa and Space Bud (alien dogs that help Hulk Smash Predator track his prey that, once one of them is shot in the head and the half-assed “lobotomy” excuse is given, assists our intrepid heroes like a lethal golden retriever).
Here are a few gems captured, verbatim, from Predator:
“Hey, when this is over, you and me are gonna dance.”-McKenna (to a wildly misused Sterling K. Brown/shadowy government-type villain aka Traeger)
“Got my shoes all picked out.” -Traeger
“What’s that?”-Generic Scientist Who Should Know What *That* Is
“That’s my new suit, Bubba.”-McKenna (looking at Predator tech)
“Hope they got it in a 42 long.”-McKenna (with a cowboy lip curl)
Speaking of incoherent dick tornadoes (fun review drinking game, take a sip every time I use the word “dick”… dick dick dick – you can’t be surprised, if you’ve made it this far in the review, or happen to be a regular reader of mine, you should already have a pretty-dick-solid-dick-baseline-dick- on my-dick-maturity level… dick) the inconsistent editing (try and make sense of that narrative G’HEAD I’LL WAIT) and uneven tone (are you an action movie? Comedy? Family drama?!) and lack of tension (honestly by the time the third routine disembowelment happened I was typing out my grocery list)/pacing (this movie spends an hour fucking around with chase me chase me! Science! Chase me! before getting to what we all came for- Man vs Predator in the forest like nature- or better screenwriters would’ve- intended) make Predator about as easy to understand as that last paragraph was to read. Boom. Mic Drop. Mic Pick Up And Neatly Put Away Because MANNERS.
Shane Black’s version of The Predator does NO favors for women, minorities, anyone on the spectrum, or basically any other under or misrepresented group. Let’s discuss.
The world at large, and action movies in particular, don’t really cater to the idea of equality between the sexes (there are exceptions to this, see: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and/or Alice from the Resident Evil franchise, both of these women, though, real *and* fictional, faced enormous opposition from life in general, and men specifically, before achieving their ultimate successes). Predator gleefully relegates both women, yes, there are TWO WHOLE WOMEN featured in this movie, to the background. McKenna’s wife (a so-much-better-than-this-role Yvonne Strahovski) Emily exists for about five minutes in the movie and only to serve as a mother figure and wife. She has no independent action and, when Emily attempts to take agency over her actions by joining the search and rescue of her son by grabbing a shotgun off the wall and cocking it LIKE A BADASS, McKenna walks over and takes the shotgun away from his wife and tells her to stay home, he’ll take care of this (stopping short of patting the little lady on the head like a good girl). I’m sorry. WHAT. IN. THE. ACTUAL FUCK.
Not only are women in this Predator denied the opportunity to be fully realized characters, when they ARE given more agency, it’s as a manic-pixie-action-movie-dreamgirl with completely unrealistic and inconsistent traits. Olivia Munn’s character (the scientist Casey Bracket) exists purely for brief exposition dumps -just don’t expect the science to at ALL be actual science because this girl breaks an alien genetic modification racket WIDE OPEN with a fucking microscope and a small vial of amber goo THAT’S NOT, THAT’S NOT HOW SCIENCE WORKS THAT’S NOT HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS- and to be objectified (she’s hit on multiple times by men while just trying to DO HER GODDAMNED JOB AND SAVE THE WORLD BUT SHE HAS TITS SO SUCK IT UP CUPCAKE AND BE GRATEFUL SOMEONE EVEN WANTS YOUR NERDY SEXPOT ASS- don’t worry, though, Casey has all the grace of a baby giraffe learning to walk so her intellect doesn’t threaten the big strong menfolk yet she mysteriously gains insane action movie chops by the end of the film- brb rolling my eyes FOREVER).
Not to mention that, during what can, GENEROUSLY, be perceived as an attempt at quirky charm, once Casey’s character runs into the rogue military unit led my McKenna (after being leered at- FUCKING LEERED AT- by Teeny Predator while fully nude hiding in a shower (no nude bits were seen and this is one of the badly edited parts where you know some shit hit the cutting room floor) she accidentally tranques herself with a dart gun while trying to shoot Teeny Predator. Casey is then rescued(?) by the Odd Squad and taken TO A MOTEL ROOM and LEFT ALONE and UNCONSCIOUS (like Snow White with five deeply deranged dwarves) with MENTALLY UNSTABLE MILITARY MEN who’s ethical baselines have yet to be established while the sanest members of this raggedy band sit outside next to a pool and WONDER OUT LOUD to each other if she’ll be safe alone with the rest of the group. But wait! There’s more! After a MEDIOCRE ASSURANCE that she’ll be fine, we cut back to the room where the men have gone through Casey’s purse and laid all of her crap in a circle around her so she’ll “feel comfortable when she wakes up”. The menacing undertones in this outwardly ‘comical’ scene are chilling and left me disturbed long after the credits on this flick rolled.
And to round out the terrible representation in Predator, there exists the GROSS oversimplification of mental illness and autism. Mental illness, assorted disorders, and the spectrum BARELY impedes the flow of cinematic events as McKenna’s unit are used as a quirky-band-of-broken-men trope to a stereotypical tee. They’re JUST damaged enough to be useful as a plot device but not so broken that they can’t all eventually die as cannon fodder in service of the narrative and DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED on using an autistic child as the foil to showcase the “next step in evolution” and impetus that drives the narrative to its conclusion. McKenna’s son, like the military men, has noticeable social and real-world impediments to deal with when we first meet him (note: the spectrum comes in all shapes, sizes, and severities so it’s not like Rory’s character isn’t a genuine possibility) but, by the end of the film, those difficulties almost completely fall away to leave Rory and McKenna’s unit able to do whatever the movie needs them to do. It’d be nice if life actually worked like that. It doesn’t.
All of these clichés, genre tropes, and franchise fallback standards can’t hide the fact that this Predator was lazy. Just look at the Fast and Furious or Mission Impossible franchises (or even Adrien Brody’s standalone Predator flick) to know that you rarely have to reinvent the wheel in a franchise vehicle to make a fun and entertaining installment. When I complain about the lack of creativity in this movie, I’m not expecting some Get Out-level of psychological fuckery to blow me away. I’m frustrated because Shane Black had all the lego blocks to build an epic fucking castle and he lit them on fire and roasted the last of my goddamn goodwill toward the Predator-verse on a stick over it, instead. Introducing the concept of genetic modifications has been done and done to DEATH, not to mention the “global warming/imminent demise of humanity” angle is played the fuck out. Predator didn’t even serve us leftovers well. I just… I need a nap. I’m just so tired.
There’s not much more I have to say about 2018’s Predator but, other than the unintentionally hilarious dual death scene with Keegan-Michael Key in it, there wasn’t anything remotely redeemable about this movie. Shane Black’s Predator was a pointless exercise in consumer exploitation at the expense of customer confidence in the Predator franchise.
And on a stylistic note, the one new element added completely wrecked any murderous mystique these movies initially had going for them. One of the most terrifying things about Predators past was the impassive, impartial, absolute dedication of purpose (killing us real deadsies). The unknown is the scariest thing you can possibly imagine. Why are they doing this? What’s the point? Do they think in human terms of enjoyment while hunting us? Wonder no more! This flick has the Hulk Smash Predator speak through a computer interface during the finale fracas and it’s a maaaajor let-down. Picture Darth Vader communicating exclusively though the medium of interpretive twerking and/or mime.
Die hard Predator franchise fans and men’s rights enthusiasts will blow a nut on this film, which is very much in its own self-pleasing wheelhouse. Buy a blender, throw in every bad idea you’ve ever had, and hit puree until you’ve lost the will to live. Congrats! You just wrote the sequel.
The Predator (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every Predator/Hunter/Whoopi Goldberg joke.
Take a Drink: anytime humans use alien tech/for each franchise callback ex. “Get to the choppers!”
Take a Sip: whenever they casually use the word “pussy” as an insult (yay! women = weakness!) and/or for each outburst of Thomas Jane’s Tourette’s.
Do a Shot: every time they use warp technology/hang and bust someone open like a human piñata.
Shotgun Your Beer: when shit gets real… real Monty Python (And The Black Knight).