From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home. The universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and an evolutionary biologist can prevent the end of the human race.
Directed by Shane Black (The Nice Guys), The Predatoris filled with his trademark humor and broken but likeable characters. Having actually helped write (and cameo in) the original film, Black is clearly familiar with—and passionate about—the franchise. Whereas other entries into the canon have often deviated from the charm and energy of the original film, Black is determined to transport his audience into the past to give them an experience similar to Arnold’s iconic piece and, in many ways, he almost succeeds. Built on the charm of his band of military ‘Loonies’, the film is often engaging and funny in the midst of its trademark violence. Characters like Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), Nebraska (Travante Rhodes) and Baxley (Thomas Jane) are entertaining as the rag-tag band of misfits forced to take on their alien assailants. What’s more, the film has also delivered upgrades to the space-baddie himself, giving him an even more lethal edge. (And, of course, a highlight of the film remains the obligatory hunt in the woods, complete with shadowy kills and invisible attacks.) Packed to the brim with action and alien gore, The Predatoris a throw-back to the 80s action genre that Black knows the fans are craving.
Admittedly, this is where things get awkward. While Black’s film invites the audience to take a trip back in time, it also exposes so many of the issues that were prevalent in the films of that time. Led by Quinn McKenna, the ‘Loonies’ are engaging… but they also reinforce the gender stereotypes of a bygone era. Female characters, while usually intelligent, are frequently pushed aside by their masculine heroes. Whether it is the fact that Emily is left exclusively to her home or to take care of the children (as is Olivia Munn’s Casey on several occasions), the women simply seem… outdated. (In fact, while on a mission, Casey actually shoots herself in the foot with a tranquilizer at one point, a plot point that is used for laughs at her expense by the men.) The argument could be made that the film is poking fun at these stereotypes, there is no evidence to support the theory. While one is likely not looking for depth of feminist theory in a film about The Predator, it also showcases what was missing at the time when viewed in a post-#MeToo world. Since all films are a window into the culture, it’s hard to blame the original film for being ignorant of what we’re speaking about today… but Black’s film should know better.
In the end, The Predator mostly delivers what it promises and serves as a suitable addition to a franchise that is over 30 (!) years old. Black believes he knows what his audience wants to see: violence, R-rated laughs and invisible killers.
One simply wishes that he might have also upgraded his sensibilities as well.