The Predator

 

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The sixth instalment in the Predator franchise brings a fresh modernity and social awareness to the genre, although it’s all a bit much.

  

Predator, The

Evolutionary upgrade: Boyd Holbrook and Jacob Tremblay

 

According to the Oxford dictionary, a predator is “an animal naturally preying on others.” Well, there’s nothing natural about this mother – it’s a cold, green-blooded exterminator from outer space. The new film, with the addition of the definite article, is a reboot of the 1987 Predator that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the interim, there have been four further instalments, including the last, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, in 2007. The eponymous exterminator is a seven-foot tall alien with a fancy array of slicing and firing mechanisms and thermal vision. However, it is its strength, technological know-how and ability to blend into its surroundings that makes it such a formidable adversary. For the sixth outing, Twentieth Century Fox and Davis Entertainment have made the smart move of hiring Shane Black to co-script (alongside Fred Dekker) and to direct. Not only did Black appear in the very first film, but he has gone on to write the screenplays for Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys, among others, as well as directing the last two titles.

 

Shane Black knows the genre for which he writes and is at pains to bring a modernity and post-ironic slant to his material. Hence, the only character in The Predator who really knows what's going on is the kick-ass biologist Casey Bracket, played by Olivia Munn. And the other know-all is Rory Declan McKenna (Jacob Tremblay), a ten-year-old boy with autism, who represents the next step in the evolutionary human cycle. Rory also happens to be the son of Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), a former soldier who is witness to the aliens’ crash landing and who steals an extraterrestrial helmet and gauntlet from the site, something he lives to regret. It transpires that the visitors are keen to harvest our DNA before we become extinct from the wanton climate change of our planet. Environmental message: tick.

 

As an ultra-violent, action-packed sci-fi thriller, The Predator certainly understands the expectations of its demographic. However, its busy, frequently confusing narrative provides not so much a thrill-ride as a sufficiently engaging distraction until the next Alien arrives (in 2019). It is reasonably smart and funny, although its wise-cracking, broadly hewn caricatures never lifts it out of the comfort zone of its B-movie mentality. Jacob Tremblay, who starred in the critically lauded Room (2015) and Wonder (2017), is an inspired casting choice as Rory, but this time much of his dialogue is unintelligible. However, there are strong supporting turns from Yvonne Strahovski as Rory's mother and Trevante Rhodes (star of Moonlight) as a tough, charismatic former Marine. And for even more PC awareness, there’s Thomas Jane as an Afghan vet with Tourette's. Of course, it’s all a bit much.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Sterling K. Brown, Augusto Aguilera, Yvonne Strahovski, Jake Busey.

 

Dir Shane Black, Pro John Davis, Screenplay Shane Black and Fred Dekker, Ph Larry Fong, Pro Des Martin Whist, Ed Harry B. Miller III, Music Henry Jackman, Costumes Tish Monaghan.

 

Davis Entertainment-20th Century Fox

106 mins. USA/Canada. 2018. Rel: 12 September 2018. Cert. 15.