In 1987, wunderkind action screenwriter Shane Black appeared in John McTiernan’s “Predator” as the nerdy, dirty joke-spewing Hawkins, the same year his debut screenplay, “Lethal Weapon” took Hollywood by storm. Predator became a cultural phenomenon, spawning several sequels and a spin-off. Now, 30 years later, Black is back as the director of his own “The Predator.”
Back when it was announced, “The Predator” showed so much promise. The first image of the cast, which Black tweeted out, showed Sterling K. Brown, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn, Boyd Holbrook, and Keegan-Michael Key suited up and strapped. What a cast! What a director! The trailers teased military conspiracies and intimate, up-close-and-personal interactions with everyone’s favorite dread-locked alien creature. But oh, how “The Predator” fails to deliver on that promise.
Black may be a part of this franchise’s origins, but as the messy, chaotic, and convoluted “The Predator” proves, he’s not the right filmmaker to shepherd this property to its next evolution. The film has a serious identity crisis—is it a comedy or an action film? The original Predator may have had some memorably funny lines, but it knew what it was: an efficient, contained, and brutally savage supernatural action flick.
In “The Predator,” comedy and action are at war with each other. Characters spew rat-a-tat quips, while tussling with Predators and their pets, essentially neutralizing the effect of both the humor and the action. We’re given nothing to hook into, so it’s impossible to care about any of the events, which are wildly incomprehensible anyway. It devolves into a mundane mush of bullets and neon-green blood, hardly recognizable as one of Black’s usually slickly-plotted and stylishly-executed detective noir features.
“The Predator” starts out strong, and there are some genuinely funny lines, but it nosedives quickly. Black loses all control over the tone and the pace, which ruins the elements that we might actually care about—story and character. It’s a damn shame to think about what could have been with “The Predator.”