“The Predator” has been in the news this week, and not just because it’s opening this Friday. Like many other Hollywood productions, this too has beenmired in scandal, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it before getting to the review itself.
Briefly: “The Predator” star Olivia Munn alerted 20thCentury Fox to the fact that director Shane Black had cast a buddy of his, Steven Wilder Striegel, in a brief role; Striegel is a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty to “trying to entice a 14-year-old girl into a sexual relationship on the internet” in 2010, but has since appeared in Black’s other films, “Iron Man 3” (2013) and “The Nice Guys” (2016). Black issued a statement saying that he was “misled by a friend I really wanted to believe was telling me the truth when he described the circumstances of his conviction. I believe strongly in giving people second chances — but sometimes you discover that chance is not as warranted as you may have hoped.”
Munn pointed out to The Hollywood Reporter that she’s wrongly taking heat for calling out Black: “I do feel like I’ve been treated by some people that I’m the one who went to jail or I’m the one that put this guy on set.” Once again, blame is being directed at a woman who called out someone else, rather than at Black, who made the casting choice, or Striegel, the person in question who tried to have sex with a minor and pleaded guilty to the offense. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements aren’t just about calling out predators (something something, that’s the name of this movie! Jokes! Etcetera); they’re also about calling out those who shield predators or continue to cast them in their movies when there’s thousands of other actors they could cast who, you know, haven’t tried to rape a pubescent child. I applaud Munn for speaking up.
Munn’s criticism has also extended to her castmates, who she feels have not supported her while they’ve been on the press circuit. Sterling K. Brown and Keegan-Michael Key have responded via social media with support for Munn, as well as lead actor Boyd Holbrook, but that doesn’t explain their lack of support during the press tour itself.
The scene in question was deleted, so viewers won’t have to waste their time wondering when Striegel will pop up on screen. Munn hopes this scandal won’t put off viewers from the film, as she’s proud of the work and wants everyone to see it. Unfortunately, scandal or no, there’s little reason to catch this movie in theaters unless you’re still riding the slowly sinking ship that is MoviePass, and Munn’s performance didn’t wow me — like many female characters, she just didn’t have a lot to work with.
We haven’t had a Predator movie in eight years (“Predators,” 2010), so it’s time once again to visit this franchise, I guess. I don’t mind sequels, reboots or even soft reboots.Our ancestors had myths to explain why the sun sets at night; why can’t we have stories that help explain why a big scary boi comes out of the sky and rips people’s spines out?
I love schlock, and I love a good, cheesy action movie. Unfortunately, “The Predator” can’t quite decide if it wants to be a campy gore-fest or a straight-up action film, and suffers because of it. The tone is all over the place, and although there are solid jokes and genuinely interesting action sequences, the oscillation between serious and campy just didn’t work for me. I want an all-out campfest or nothin’.
Additionally, it seems like the budget went mostly to the cast, with little left over to be spent on CGI or the soundtrack. The Predators of “The Predator” look no more detailed than video game characters, and the score sounds like a bad John Williams impression (lots of “bum bum bum bum bum baaa na na naaaahhhh bum bum bummmmm”s).
As with many action movies, the main character, Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is unfathomably boring. He’s reading lines like he’s in a dead-serious action flick — but not in a meta way — and has little to no charisma. Again, this is our lead actor, and I couldn’t care less about him. Sorry, Boyd Holbrook. You have nice hair and I’m sure you’re a very nice person.
The crew of ex-army misfits he joins up with — played by Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alife Allen and Augusto Aguilera — steal the movie. As does Sterling K. Brown (who also stole scenes in Black Panther), whose main character trait is that he’s always chewing gum. That’s that good shit I want to see in a movie like this. “What’s this guy’s character trait?” “Uh … he likes gum?” “Perfect.” They all seem to be aware of what “The Predator” is; a chance to chew scenery and have a little fun. The rest of the cast didn’t get the memo. The biggest laugh of the movie for me came from a security guard (Eduard Witzke) who only had a couple lines, not the main characters themselves.
The plot is sort of inconsequential. A lil’ Predator crashes on Earth; a big boi Predator comes looking for him after being accidentally summoned by McKenna’s young son, Rory (Jacob Tremblay). McKenna, his band of misfit buddies and a scientist (Olivia Munn) attempt to stop the Predator and keep the government (headed up by Sterling K. Brown) from getting there first.
Rory has autism and is some sort of puzzle mastermind who can understand and unlock Predator technology. We know Rory has autism because the movie spends scene after scene showing us that he has autism in such a heavy-handed way (he doesn’t like loud noises! He loves chess! A barking dog scares him!) that it felt like an after school special. We get, he has autism. It’s irritating enough that a movie written and directed by the guy who wrote “Lethal Weapon” has to rely on a dumb and insensitive crutch like autism-as-superpower … until you realize that movie was about suicidal depression turning Mel Gibson into a super cop. Sensing a pattern? When a movie tries this hard to be overly “sensitive” about a character, it basically does a 180; Rory doesn’t feel like a real autistic child, he’s simply A Kid With Autism, and it felt overly showy to the point of offensiveness.