Blu-Ray Review – The Predator (2018)

The Predator is the most unfairly maligned film of last year for several reasons. It ended up being a bit of a bomb. It’s by Shane Black, one of my favourite writers and directors, who actually appeared in the first Predator. That’s because he could do rewrites on-set, a sort of two-for-one deal that Joe Dante has also pulled off. The amount of work he put into that script is unknown, but apparently key aspects of the original film were his work, making him the logical choice to pen a reboot/sequel. Black has always somewhat denied that he “rewrote” the original, but he certainly had an impact on many lines.

The film has the usual set-up: there’s a team who are up against a Predator when one of their ships crashes on Earth. The government is interested, they manage to capture one, and it gets away and goes on the run. The leader of the team is an Army Ranger/sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook).

The team has been made as diverse as possible, including a guy with Tourette’s and an ethnically diverse cast (the original was similar in that regard). The hero of the film is McKenna’s autistic son, which has been criticised by some (again, I think unfairly). Unfortunately, some Rain Man clichés are there in the portrayal, which is hard to help since that portrayal is cemented in the public consciousness. But he is the one who figures out the puzzle. I like the fact that in the film people with autism are considered the next stage of the evolutionary cycle, a hotly debated idea in the real world (for which there is some scientific evidence) and good idea to try out in a science-fiction film plot. He has a typical meltdown in school, which is overplayed, but hey it’s a Predator movie, not a movie about autism.

Some people were very critical of the character Baxley (Thomas Jane), who has Tourette syndrome, because there are jokes about it. But the thing is—Shane Black has Tourette’s himself. And most people with TS make jokes about it, because it’s a way of coping.

Lots of Black’s films are set on holidays, usually Christmas, but this one breaks the mould by being set on Halloween. This plays nicely into the plot, helping the story rather than being a cheesy tie-in. The group is very much a throwback to the original, although the bond between the characters in the first film is stronger.

It delivers what you expect from a Predator movie. By all accounts, there were some problems with the initial test audience reaction. The last act was scrapped and reshot as a result. It would be interesting to see an alternative last act, to see if the first version was better, as I suspect it was as I’ve heard it was a lot darker. It gets a bit CGI-heavy at the end, and it feels like they just threw in a lot of things blowing up, resulting in a messy final series of sequences after a strong second act. But I still think it’s a good film despite its flaws, that feels like a movie that’s not super-PC and could have been in made in 1988 (which is as it should be, as it’s important to respect the original material). There have been so many reboots made recently, and this one actually works.

The disc includes seven minutes of deleted scenes, and a handful of featurettes.

★★★½

Ian Schultz

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