2:46am PT by Abid Rahman
'The Predator': What the Critics Are Saying
The Predator is back on the big screen, and the reviews are in for Shane Black's take on the iconic alien hunter. The critical consensus seems to be that the film is fun, funny and flawed — but mostly fun.
Having appeared as an actor in the original, Black occupied the director’s chair and co-wrote the screenplay for the fourth installment of the Predator franchise. The new story stars Trevante Rhodes, Sterling K. Brown, Boyd Holbrook, Jacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn and Keegan-Michael Key.
In Black’s film, the alien hunters return to Earth after a boy in the suburbs triggers their return. Serving as the human race's only line of defense are a group of former soldiers and a science teacher.
Jordan Mintzer of The Hollywood Reporter found the film to be "bigger, meaner, gorier, funnier," and says it was enthusiastically embraced by the Midnight Madness audience at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Mintzer praises Black's humorous approach to directing the new entry, which "strays rather far from the original film." "It’s a totally gonzo method that mostly pays off because of all the snappy dialogue, gross-out gags and tongue-in-cheek camaraderie of the cast, with Boyd Holbrook proving to be a capable lead and Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane and Olivia Munn providing worthy, and often funny, accomplices," Mintzer writes.
The critic notes that the movie is vastly different in terms of tone from previous entries in the sci-fi franchise. "While the other Predator films tried to remain dark and tense, tossing in a decent one-liner here or there, Black’s movie is so cleverly over-the-top that it’s easy and pleasurable enough to watch, though never exactly scary or suspenseful."
Jim Vejvoda, writing for IGN, says The Predator's "bawdy sense of humor, disorderly cast of characters, and hardcore kills and action" go a long way toward reinvigorating the series. The film brings a "humanity that’s been lacking in the series for some time, and the solid ensemble cast Black has assembled bring his (and co-writer Fred Dekker’s) battered creations and sharp dialogue to life with verve and conviction."
But, Vejvoda feels the film comes unglued in the third act, an issue cited by other critics. "The last half-hour is not only choppily executed at a breakneck pace, it just looks bad to boot. The visual effects take a noticeable dip in quality during an aerial battle and the climactic showdown is too easily resolved given all the buildup," he writes.
Slash Film's Chris Evangelista isn't entirely sold on The Predator, giving it a 6.5 out of 10, and comparing the film's use of humor to Thor: Ragnarok. The movie is fun to watch but flawed overall. "While there have been a handful of amusing moments in the Predator franchise as a whole, no single film goes for as many wall-to-wall jokes as Shane Black’s The Predator," he writes. "Anyone worrying that Black wouldn’t bring his trademark quips and witticisms to the script (the trailers have been considerably light on this element) need worry no more: The Predator is loaded with jokes. In fact, there might be too many."
Evangelista isn't entirely sure whether the cavalcade of gags will put off purists, noting that "some may long for the franchise to return to its serious roots." But then again, "after you exit the theater into the real world, the flaws of The Predator become more and more apparent. The plot doesn’t make sense. A lot of the jokes fall flat. There’s a pointless sequel set-up. But while you’re watching the movie, it’s hard not to get caught up in all the fun. Black and company are having a blast here, and it’s infectious."
Digital Spy's Hugh Armitage says "Black's smart script and a charismatic cast" make The Predator the best film in the series since the first. "Black is known for his witty dialogue and doesn't disappoint, building the relationships between a large cast and making it look easy."
Armitage concludes that the film is fun if you don't take it too seriously. "The Predator is a flawed actioner, but a strong cast and some Shane Black magic give it a sparkle that has been lacking from recent attempts to revive the killer aliens. It's not Black at his best, but it's a fun diversion as long as you don't think about it too hard."
Benjamin Lee of The Guardian calls the film a “mostly enjoyable revamp” that “doesn’t feel hemmed in by studio limitations.” Because Black appeared in the original, Lee notes that it is conspicuous that “familiarity swamps” this entry, as the filmmaker features familiar "tropes and character types as well as a grand throwback score.” Lee applauds Black for approaching the “franchise with love” and for having the “determination to please fans while also avoiding overly smug fan service.”
Though Lee credits Black for a sense of fun and paying nod to the “past and his plan for the future,” the critic argues that the film fails to have a “genuine jaw-dropper of a set piece.” “There’s something forgettable about its freneticism, and I struggle to imagine in 31 years if it will be thought of at all.”
Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com praises Black’s revamp, crediting it as film that has “razor-sharp pacing” and a “fantastic cast,” ultimately giving the audience what they would want from such a production. “This is a movie that keenly understands what its audience wants and endeavors to provide that, which is something more action filmmakers could learn from Black,” writes Tallerico, who also notes that it can be easy for the audience to take the film's rhythm and structure for granted, as it is much harder to pull off than some moviegoers realize.
Further supporting the film, Tallerico applauds Lee and co-writer Dekker for accurately managing the overall tone while playing with '80s action-movie staples like the kid who knows more than the adults about aliens. “Yet The Predator never plays like a pure parody,” he writes, admiring the film's ability to pay homage to the era without appearing to mock it. Despite the movie losing “a little bit of steam” after its climax, Tallerico encourages moviegoers to see the film for they will still be “happy” with the finished product.
The Predator hits theaters Sept. 14.