The Predator is the worst film I have seen not just year but in years. It didn’t quite topple The Spirit, but it was one of those films that were so bad that I left the theatre irritated.
Do you know the kind of irritated that I’m talking about? The person in front of you keeps adjusting their seat. The “person just skipped the entire queue and got served to boot” kind of irritation. It feels like you’re justified in your rage. If you were to tell someone the story you’d stand accused of first world problems. That’s the kind of irritation that I felt. Unbridled rage of the first world variety.
This post is going to be a rant. You’ve been warned, don’t feel like you have to read on, it’s just going to be going off one bit.
You know what it might be best if you didn’t read on because it’s going to come across that I’m being petty, like, really petty. As in the Heartbreakers might consider hitting the road again.
Did that scan OK? If it was shite tell me.
Before we go further let me be clear, this film was so bad it took someone who wanted it to be good and pissed them off no end.
To show you where I’m coming from I’m going to talk about the original Predator, which is a classic. Not like in an “it’s so cheesy it’s good” but as in it stands up there alongside Citizen Kane, Vertigo Casablanca etc.
After that, I’m going to talk about Shane Black, the guy who wrote and directed this abomination. I’m a big fan and have loved everything that he has done, that is until this. Now I’m calling it all into question.
Then I’ll proceed to kick the thing while it’s down.
Exit stage left pursued by a bear and scene.
That’s the order of play. Last chance to back out now.
The original Predator is an excellent example of one of that lightning in a bottle moments in filmmaking. Everything slipped into place at the right time. None of it should have worked, and yet it did.
The film is perfect. It is a masterclass in suspense. Predator crosses genres deftly. It goes from action film to thriller to horror and back again. The script is tight, but it is under John McTiernan’s direction that the production takes flight. McTiernan may not be remembered like James Cameron or Paul Verhoeven. He is equally deserving of recognition. His use of camera movement and editing are excellent. For my money, McTiernan comes into his own when it comes to blocking of scenes. As a viewer, you always know where you are in the scene. McTiernan uses the planes of action so that his scenes are always dynamic and well staged. It’s never just people standing to look at each other flat on.
Why the film works
The structure of the film works well because there is a crossing of the genres. McTiernan knows that the actors aren’t characters but caricatures in an action film. These tough guys haven’t been told they’re in a sci-fi horror film. There is the first section of the film which plays out like the standard action film.
There is the opening shot of the ship which divides fans of the film. Is it necessary? It feels like it is, there needs to be some set up for the science fiction aspect of the film. A rare example of studio meddling done right. There is the ragtag group of tough guys who meet and are dispatched on their mission which is a success. You know that these guys are badass. Then it starts to go wrong. One by one they are picked off slasher film style until only Arnie is left. The last section plays out as a silent film. There are a few lines here and there, but the visuals become the primary focus. If you love cinema, you love Predator.
Shane Black was a favourite writer/director of mine, that was until The Predator. Black carved himself a little niche in cinema history. All he had to do was burrow deeper into that niche. He’s the cinematic equivalent of Oasis, the same but different. Shane made his name practically inventing the buddy cop action film of the 80s and 90s.
He’s probably most well known for his script for Lethal Weapon. That’s the kind of film that Shane Black makes and when he does that he does it very well. His movies are about two people who brought together by circumstance. The two are usually at odds with one another. The odd couple has to solve a mystery. Along the way, there is some violence, some nudity and funny jokes. It ends with it being a guy they met in the first scene was the bad guy the whole time. Both of our heroes end the film maybe not as friends but with a new found respect for one another.
Even when Black got to make Iron Man 3 he made a Shane Black film in an Iron Man suit. Again just to reiterate, when Shane Black does that I love it. I must have watched The Nice Guys at least five times, twice at the cinema at least.
With all that being said you now understand that I was going into this film rooting for it to be good.
Oh ye of moderate faith
The Predator sucked so hard.
You know there is a part of me that is trying to figure out the most effective way to approach this.
For the sake of argument, let’s go at it in a series of questions.
- Did the hero just take a Predator out in the first couple of minutes?
- The hero knows how to work Predator technology?
- If the Predator came here to help us why did he wake up and then immediately start stabbing everyone? Like, if I wanted to warn you about a fire is the best way to do that to break your neck?
- Why did the heavily sedated predator wake up?
- Why was the predator sitting out in the middle of the lab with no real restraints?
- How is the kid able to disable a ship using a different predators armband? That’s like me switching channels on my TV, and your heating gets turned off.
- Are we supposed to care about these army dudes?
- Did anyone do any research into Tourettes before giving this the green light?
- “Your mama jokes” as a plot point?
- Religious dude, who knows the Bible, is that it for his character development?
Does the kid know that he murdered someone? The kid killed someone.
- Did they use Tourettes guy to drive the plot forward again?
- Why when it comes to monster movie sequels is the only addition is “There’s a bigger one”? That’s all that happened here, there was a more significant predator, wow.
- How did shooting a predator dog in the head make it loyal or friendly or whatever? Also, why do the dogs look like Predators, do humans look like dogs?
- If the “good” predator got its head ripped off why is it reattached in the next scene?
- Did she just say “Autism is the next step in evolution” is this a half-hearted apology to all the autism jokes they made? When does Tourettes get its turn?
- Predator takes the skulls of mighty warriors? How did they think that would go down? Was the Jamaican gangster from Predator 2 that good? Bill Paxton?
- Are we really going to push a global warming message into this as well? I dislocated an eyeball when I rolled them at Pacific Rim’s cack-handed attempt. This cliche needs to die.
The kid isn’t going to realise he killed someone, is he?
- Hey, the heroes are in a tight spot, why don’t they use Tourettes guy again?
- Did the main human villain blow off his own head by accident? What a satisfying ending to that arc.
- Are we supposed to care about “yo mama” and Tourettes guy dying?
- Are people getting wiped out because of their own stupidity? Would they have been better off not doing anything?
- Was that religious guy who died?
- Was there any surprise that he was after the autistic kid? Is that a twist?
- Oh yeah, the suicidal guy have I mentioned him yet? Anyway, he’s dead now.
- How did she catch up with the ship flying over the forest when she was clearly ON FOOT?
- Is this the end? No, more to go.
- Hold on, so the autistic kid has a job with the American government in a top-secret lab? The father and the mother are OK with this? Does he have his own office? I take it he has to attend workplace HR meetings? Does he have to go to seminars? You know what this bit, right at the end, probably has me asking the most questions? Child labour laws anyone?
- Is Dutch going to make a cameo? Oh wait, Arnie said no because he said the script was shit. The guy who said yes to The Last Stand, Terminator Genysis and Killing Gunther said The Predator wasn’t up to standard.
- That kid murdered someone, will he ever face justice?
There you have it, you know what, this isn’t even that extensive. I’m going off memory. Hated, hated, hated this.
I’m going to end on a pithy pun, brace yourselves.
After this, I’m going to think twice before I go back to Black.