Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown
Directed by: Shane Black (“Iron Man 3,” “The Nice Guys”)
Written by: Shane Black (“Lethal Weapon”) & Fred Dekker (“The Monster Squad”)
The original “Predator” movie, released in 1987, is arguably the pinnacle of the ‘80s action movie genre. With a mix of shooting bad guys in the jungle, science fiction and pre-megastar Arnold Schwarzenegger, its no-bullshit, all-action approach makes it essential viewing. Hell, the greeting between Arnold’s Dutch and Carl Weathers’ Dillon and the “get to the choppah!” line are basically perfect. The other movies in the series, including a couple of sequels and a pair of crossovers with the “Alien” franchise, are best left unwatched.
Anyway, here we are 31 years later, and director Shane Black—who played Hawkins, the first guy the Predator killed in ’87—is at the helm of “The Predator,” a self-referential sequel that goes for laughs, but ends up with few surprises and far too many characters to remain interesting or entertaining, even with some ‘80s-level gore.
Set in a world where only the first two “Predator” movies happened, one of the dreadlocked aliens crash lands on Earth, essentially on top of sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) as he’s taking out some random bad guys in Central America. A firefight ensues with the Predator, and he’s knocked out. Quinn steals the creature’s helmet and gauntlet, which he then mails to his family for safe keeping. He then swallows (for some reason) the ball thing that allows the Predator to become invisible, which gives him the power to cloak himself. Meanwhile, a mysterious government agency led by Traeger (Sterling K. Brown, all quips and honestly lots of fun) swoops in and steals the sedated Predator away to the United States, where he calls in Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), whose specialty is space animals because she wrote a letter to the president about it once.
Also, Quinn’s son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who is on the spectrum, opens the box containing the Predator mask and gauntlet and somehow figures out the complex operating system and turns the helmet into a Halloween costume, possibly ushering in a “Magical autistic kid” trope in the process.
Anyway, Quinn is arrested by Traeger’s men for what he knows, and is packed onto a military prison bus with the “Loonies,” a rag-tag team of soldiers with differing levels of mental issues, including characters played by Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key and Thomas Jane. When the Predator escapes and kills a bunch of lab techs, Quinn and the Loonies set out to kill the Predator, only to run up against an even bigger Predator.
While there are admittedly some laughs and groan-worthy meta-callbacks (“get to the choppers!” in reference to a bunch of street motorcycles on a military base, for some reason), “The Predator” is mostly a mess of goofs, gore, and muddled, incomplete character arcs. After three decades, everything new just keeps getting worse and worse in this franchise. Please, as with “Alien” and “Terminator” movies just…stop.