“I’ve held on too tight, I’ve lost the edge”, said Cougar (John Stockwell) to his commander (James Tolkan) at the beginning of Top Gun. After quite a mythology in Hollywood – inventing the buddy cop genre with Lethal Weapon, becoming one of the first billion-dollar directors thanks to Iron Man 3 and having a reputation for sharp writing in the Joss Whedon vein – the same notion could be applied to Shane Black. The Predator is an unfocused, unmitigated mess.
Not even the crackling, bravura writing from Lethal Weapon, The Nice Guys or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang can be found here, shunted aside by extended set pieces of shoddy CGI and a plot that goes every which way but forward. You might think it was the giant budget that got away from Black, but Iron Man 3 was as accomplished as polished as any blockbuster. The fact that Black both wrote and directed it should have resulted in something near-magical, which only sharpens the disappointment.
As far as the story goes, I think I have this right. The predators are returning to Earth because one of their species has realised there’s a new, giant, mutant predator that’s been mixed with human DNA and wants to warn the human race before the new breed wipes them out. But that doesn’t stop him killing everyone when he wakes up after they’ve taken him prisoner following his crash to Earth.
Mixed up in it all is a cadre of unhinged soldiers of fortune, led by strong, silent type hero McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), and a young, hot scientist Brackett (Olivia Munn, who seems a much smarter and feminist-aware woman than to fall for the farcical way the script treats her character).
The way the characters come together feels forced, action sequences jolting them rudely together for no reason other than because the script needs them to be. The subplot (or is it the main story? I still have no idea) about the uber- Predator and the two Predator dogs who stumble out of some spaceship or other made little sense while I watched it, and just weeks later I remember hardly any of it.
And if that’s not enough, for a movie they apparently spent real money on, there was some VFX shots that were cringingly awful.
Between the damp squib first sequel starring Danny Glover and the woefully miscast and unexciting reboot with Adrien Brody, there was no sign of anything in the property coming close to the way John McTiernan’s original so effectively mashed up sci-fi and action, and The Predator has done nothing to elevate the name anywhere near that level again.
Let us know what you thought of The Predator in the comments.