Movies

The Predator quenches that nostalgia thirst with its ‘80s sci-fi vibe

In the realm of science-fiction films, there are reboots,
remakes and re-imaginings. But director and co-writer Shane
Black’s The Predator is something else. Revenge,
perhaps?

Back in 1987, Black was an up-and-coming writer (Lethal
Weapon
) and an actor with a single credit to his name.
“Hawkins,” in the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle
Predator, comes to an ignominious end, turned inside
out by an alien kill ray.

Over the next three decades – and far be it from me to suggest
some calculated plan – Black amassed a decent portfolio of
writing and directing credits, including 2013’s Iron Man
3.

Munn.
Kimberley
French/20th Century Fox via AP

Which brings us to The Predator, sixth in the series
if you count such silly spinoffs as Alien vs. Predator:
Requiem
. Drawing on Black’s more-is-more ethos, the alien
hunters don’t bother much with camouflage this time out,
preferring to run around in the open, looking like the cosplay
version of an unholy union between Slipknot’s drummer and an
extra from Battlefield Earth.

The film’s ’80s sci-fi vibe starts early, with the deliberately
low-budget crash of a UFO in Mexico. American sniper Quinn
McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) witnesses the mayhem that follows, and
makes off with a few choice bits of alien tech, which he mails
to his estranged son (Jacob Tremblay) and wife (Yvonne
Strahovski); shades of the recent movie Kin can be
seen as junior uses it to scare away some neighbourhood
bullies.

As to what happens next, just imagine if you took a cellphone
from a grizzly bear, but she had the Find My Phone app. Quinn
now has to keep ahead of the aliens, find his kid and, for good
measure, rescue a bio-geneticist (Olivia Munn) who’s been
brought in by the government to assess the threat. Hint: It’s
very high.

Quinn is aided by a bunch of quirky soldiers with a variety of
mental issues, as if the A-Team was made of nothing but
Murdochs. (Hey, if this film is going to ’80s out, critics
should be allowed to do likewise.)

Never mind that the screenwriters – Shane and Fred, also known
as Black and Dekker – play fast and loose with Tourette’s, PTSD
and a host of other problems. The Cuckoo’s Nest of sidekicks
provide enough snappy patter to keep you giggling and take your
mind off the excessive violence. The Predator is rated
R for blood, sweat and tears – but mostly blood.

And perhaps this is asking too much of space aliens whose inner
fluids glow green, but there does seem to be a convenient lack
of resolve when the Predator faces off against someone the
story needs to keep around a while longer; it kills except when
the plot demands that it doesn’t. Also, note the expedient
arrival of a predatory space-dog, which proves remarkably
trainable.

Finally, there’s an ideal sense of timing when the film sets up
the inevitable sequel, which I can almost guarantee Black will
not be directing, if it happens at all. He’s proven he’s better
than the franchise that started his acting career. No need to
flog a dead alien.

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