The Predator is faced with a problem from the start. How do you reboot a franchise without alienating either the fans of the original and a new audience who see the original film as nothing but 80s shtick?
Growing up on a (un-)healthy dose of direct-to-video 80s sci-fi, from the likes of Romero, Carpenter and Corman, The Predator is the reboot for me. The film follows both the 1987 Schwarzenegger original and the 1990 sequel starring Danny Glover. There’s no mention of the various Aliens Vs. Predator movies or the Wayland and Yutani corporations. Being set on Earth, rather than the Predator’s world of the Robert Rodriguez-produced Predators from 2010, there’s no reference to that film, either.
This may, perhaps, be disappointing for hardcore fans. But the film is a fresh start for the franchise, allowing audience members to enjoy it without the need to have seen any of the others. That being said, there’s no doubt that the movie has the original film in its DNA.
The Predator starts with one of the titular alien creatures crashing on Earth whilst being pursued by a twelve-foot super-Predator. A tip of the hat to the first film, the Predator crashes right in the middle of a US covert operation.
The ensemble cast plays a tick box list of action-movie character stereo-types that’s hardly original, but somehow works. Boyd Holbrook plays Quinn McKenna, a gruff US sniper and father that’s separated from his wife. Quinn’s son, Rory is an autistic boy that’s also a computer genius. Olivia Munn is Dr Casey Bracket who, since she was a little girl, wanted to meet aliens. Then you have Sterling K. Brown’s ruthless businessman, Traeger, on scenery-chewing duties as the bad guy. Add to this a group of psychotic army misfits, that includes former Punisher, Thomas Jane and Game of Thrones’ Alfie Allen, and you’ve got a cast right out of the sci-fi playbook.
The idea of two Predators in conflict makes for an intriguing tale, better than the big game hunt McGuffin usual of these movies. The Predator does add a bit to the franchise lore, which I’m not going to spoil for you, and unashamedly sets itself up for a sequel that, personally, I’d like to see.
The movie has some great set pieces, featuring all Predator gadgets that you’d expect. This means load of dismemberment, blood and gore. It’s not a movie for the kids, but at the same time, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The interactions between some of the characters, particularly Thomas Jane’s PTSD-suffering Baxley and Coyle, played by the very under-rated Keegan-Michael Key, sometime boarder on comedy. It actually a refreshing change of pace from Holbrook’s brooding leading man.
Fans of the series will likely appreciate a cameo from Jake Busey, playing Sean Keyes the son of Peter Keyes, played by his real-life father, Jake Busey in Predator 2. Other than this, a throwaway line a third of the way through, that’s all you get tying the film into what has gone before.
The Blu-Ray extras include the obligatory deleted scenes, but unfortunately no sign of the rumoured appearance of Alien’s Ellen Ripley. The Shane Black featurette discusses the impact of the veteran film-maker on the 80s action movie genre, his role in the first movie and how he approached this new movie. Predator Evolution follows the development of the Predator creature, from the Stan Winston original to the Predator in the movie, as well as the hybrid uber-Predator and the Predator dogs. The Takedown Team featurette gives some background to the ensemble cast and their characters. There’s also a featurette consisting of key scenes from Predator, Predator 2 and The Predators to get the audience up to speed. The extra also include a gallery of production art from the movie. Unfortunately, there’s no director’s commentary.
The Predator is certainly better than I though it would be. It’s nowhere near the original, drawing more on the second movie’s urban setting than the first. There is some clumsy plotting, and very improbable situations, but hey, it’s a film about space aliens. The is fun, the action is solid and the effects great. The cast work well together, with some genuinely touching and humorous moments.
The Predator is great as a stand-alone movie, as well as a solid entry in the franchise. The Blu-Ray transfer is crisp and the extras, whilst uninspired, are entertaining. The package is a worthy addition to any sci-fi fan’s movie collection.