The Predator franchise hasn’t had as much bad luck as its studio stablemate the Alien. Sure they both clashed in a pair of adequate/ terrible movies but at least our favourite extra-terrestrial trophy hunter hasn’t appeared in anything as aggressively stupid as “Alien: Covenant”…until now, that is.
When a renegade Predator crashes to Earth, hotly pursued by a bigger, badder Predator, it’s up to an elite team of commandos who are being sent to prison by a military court for crimes they may or may not have committed. These men promptly escape from a maximum-security stockade to the local suburbs. Still wanted by the government, they survive despite multiple misfortunes and a script that’s as improbable and cobbled together as anything bolted together by B A Baracus in a suspiciously well-provisioned barn.
It’s hard to believe “The Predator” is written by the same person who gave us “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, “Iron Man 3” and “The Nice Guys”, so poorly is it written. There’s none of the sly black humour, incisive wit or well-rounded, insightful characterisation that Black usually brings to the table in this ignorant, crass Frankenstein’s monster of a movie.
It flip-flops back and forth between the monster hunting humans and humans hunting monsters until it plays it’s trump card half-way through, revealing that the Predator we’ve been predating is just a baby and we should really be worrying about his bigger brother, who’s basically the Steve Rogers of the Predator race. He brings with him some Predigree chums who look like Zuul and Vinz Clortho would if they turned up on an episode of “Botched” but they seem of little use to either the character or, metatextually, the story. Desperately holding all this together like narrative store-brand duct tape is some ludicrously undercooked scientific MacGuffin involving a Predator conspiracy to hunt us to extinction, an extinction caused by our own reckless environmental practices which will allow the predators to simply move in once we’ve warmed the planet up to their tastes. So…it’s a real estate scam? A real-estate scam worthy of Scooby-Doo.
Equally as ignorant of and offensive to Autism as anti-vaxxers, there’s also a breathtaking glibness to the way the story treats disabilities and the characters who have with them. Not only is the needlessly Tourette’s suffering soldier mocked, belittled and attacked for his condition, but the worn-out trope of the autistic savant trotted out to be flogged like the dead horse it is and then, to add insult to injury, we have the ‘scientist’ character spout the most egregious nonsense about autism being thought of as the next step in human evolution, as if that helps explain the Predator’s cockamamy plans any better.
Ah yes, the ‘scientist’, Dr Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), an evolutionary biologist who is astonished to find out there are actually aliens only to, a moment later, be a leading expert on Predator physiology, biology, politics and sociology. She’s also inexplicably combat trained to the same, if not a higher, degree as the five howlin’ mad Murdoch rip-offs the story sees fit to offer us as ‘heroes’ but then I guess being a teacher in the American education system does require additional skills these days.
With a tone that’s all over the place, Black squanders an immensely talented cast which sees the likes of Sterling K Brown, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Jacob Tremblay, Alfie Allen and Yvonne Strahovski slumming it in this big-budget blockbuster that feels more like it’s the SyFy original knock-off than the genuine article. All the CGI blood and gore in the world can’t cover up just how threadbare this franchise has become, with “The Predator” making its title character’s iconic fishnet tights look like 1,000-thread count Egyptian cotton.