The Predator movie opens with a Star Wars-type chase between two spaceships. We see one ship escape to Earth somehow, and it’s starts crash landing in what must be a South American jungle. Briefly, we notice that the ship is being piloted by the same type of Predator alien that we have known for more than 30 years.
In this forest, a group of mercenaries, including one played by Boyd Holbrook, is aiming to take out a drug cartel which is holding some prisoners hostage. The space ship crashes in the middle of this confrontation, and Holbrook’s character, Quinn McKenna, escapes. He finds the crashed ship, and the familiar alien battle armor that we’ve seen in other movies. McKenna takes it and runs.
Thus begins the setup of this film: The title creature wants his stuff back. The jungle setting is, of course, very similar to the original jungle-centered plot. A lot of this movie is very familiar. So, if you are looking for innovation, you are not going to find much. It’s basically two long, gory, murderous chase scenes stuck together.
Thrown into the mix are McKenna’s son, a child who seems to fit somewhere on the autistic spectrum, played by Jacob Tremblay. Brought into the mix is Olivia Munn, who plays Casey Brackett, a biology researcher. And then a band of prisoners on a bus. It doesn’t really matter who they are or what they’re their for. The most recognizable is Keenan-Michael Key, and he might be a decent actor, but casting him almost immediately removes any sense of gravity or importance, because his comedy-stage mugging expells any seriousness of the plot. There’s also a mysterious government operation at work which is used to make a loose connection between this film and the the past Predator versions. Trevante Rhodes plays the leader of whatever they are, and he pretty well conveys the nature of his character. The purpose of his organization, though, is totally amorphous as is their reason for inviting Olivia Munn’s character to be a part of it.
Munn is given more to do here than in some of her other film roles, but her personal charm does not get a chance to convey on screen. Her introduction to the alien world almost begins with a sense of wonder, but that is quickly spoiled by the fact that everyone else already knows about the predator aliens.
Things go wrong and the alien starts wiping people out. Would a follower this monster-movie franchise be disappointed if he/she were not presented with an array of maiming and grotesque killings? Down the line you find out what the original scene was about. But it doesn’t make much difference. All of the scientific claims made are silly and ignorable — they have to be.
As far as the action sequences and effects, the movie is pretty good at recreating it’s futuristic world, yet its just what you expect it to be. The computer-crafted critters are mostly realistic enough when not in bright lighting. There are still plenty of moments when the “uncanny valley” makes you grimace. A couple of new beasties show up, but they are mostly forgettable — actually, their plot usage and behavior makes me want to forget them. And I pretty much did within a day. The plot is an effect-heavy combination of rising body counts, explosions and “magic glowy things” (as Bill Maher once famously put it).
Munn is supposed to be the relatable outsider here, the heady science expert; but at one point she goes chasing after the bad guy and is doing high-flying stunts without a care. You have to wonder where this seemingly naive biologist suddenly got her dexterity. And you also have to wonder why all of the supporting characters and henchmen in all these cookie-cutter action movies seem to enjoy being plucked off, just so one hero can progress toward the task at hand. Late in the film, you see characters falling from heights onto rocks that would have easily broken their legs, but not in this world.
I had to go back and watch the end again, because I totally forgot what happened two days later. It’s not particularly important postlogue, though leaves room for another entry into the franchise. If you like the idea of humans battling the bad-ass alien, then you likely already seen this movie 100 times or more in other productions. It is okay as far as effects, but overall it is not affecting in any intellectual or caring manner. I never really liked the Predator series, though I think I’ve seen them all — just blood and guts and bombs and bullets — but I do still like sci-fi; and the design ideas involved. This entry did not change my mind.