The Predator (2018) by Shane Black
Review by Zach Dennis and Lydia Creech
ZACH: I saw this at the TIFF Midnight Madness screening in front of a cheering audience on Thursday night, but Lydia, I want you to join in on this conversation since you saw it the following night. It was a kind of loaded screening on Friday as news of a sex offender, who was friends with Shane Black, were circulated on the web and the complete disregard of Olivia Munn, who brought it to the attention of the studio, had yet to begin as she was at the showing with fellow cast members, who in retrospect are all jerks.
Black, who was an actor in the original Predator, helmed and co-wrote this update of sorts and enlisted Boyd Holbrook, Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Keegan Michael-Key and Trevante Rhodes among others to be the latest iteration of the team. We talked extensively about this on our Day 2 diary, but this just wasn’t a blockbuster that worked. It has been documented previously that there were shooting and set issues that caused it to find some delays and it seemed to show in the final edit. I described it twice in our diaries as a mix between the 80s action movies that Predator was among but merged with the more tongue-in-cheek sensibilities of Black, to an extent, but also the rise in popularity of irreverent blockbusters such as Deadpool.
The combination doesn’t work as the movie is never sure how to tow the line between being a normal action movie and being a “comedy” of sorts. Mix that with the poorly shot action, boring characters and distinct fascination with being “edgy,” this was just a lot of things and none of them good. What did you think?
LYDIA: While certainly the least of my issues with The Predator, I think it was bound to fail right from the casting. Boyd Holbrook is certainly no Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I think if Black wanted to go for the quippy, non-PC, macho style of humor, he needed a much more charismatic lead. As is, the main character is just an unsympathetic, violent dirtbag.
ZACH: Yeah, I have to agree with that. Holbrook feels like a version of a Jai Courtney, Sam Worthington, insert straight white male name that we tend to see in franchise movies. The rest of the cast though is littered with random inclusions like Brown, Michael-Key, Munn and Rhodes. Did anyone else work for you to make up for Holbrook?
LYDIA: Trevante Rhodes was actually really good (other than being disappointingly silent re: Olivia Munn speaking out), and I’d have much rather have seen him given more to do. The Predator also just fails to recreate the group dynamic from the original, or perhaps it’s not really interested in doing so…
I think my problem with Shane Black is that I don’t vibe on the same level of (oh gods) Irony. I can’t tell if he likes the genres he works in (compare to the Halloween reboot, which clearly loves horror). It seems like he’s more interested in punching down than making any sort of satirical point. For example, is the main character such a POS because he’s critiquing the 80’s style of action hero, saying, “hey, these guys aren’t really so heroic,” or does Shane Black honestly think audiences should relate to characters like that?
ZACH: I’m not totally sure. I’m hit-or-miss with Black. Our thoughts as a podcast are well documented in the episode on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but I thought The Nice Guys a few years ago was very enjoyable. We talked about this on our TIFF diary, but maybe something like Nice Guys works because it includes characters that are clearly not supposed to be role models and both Black and the characters themselves are aware of their shitty-ness.
As for his critiquing of the 80’s action hero, I’m not sure there is really any critique here, right? Like, Holbrook and these characters are just sort of more aware of their surroundings but nothing seems very intelligent in the form of a riff on the trope. I said it before, but it follows the same path as Deadpool in that the meta-commentary is supposed to be the critique and it works more as just a form of delivering jokes and doesn’t have any true commentary to it. Maybe we should just retire this style of joke-making (I blame Family Guy overall for this reliance on self-reflexive or meta humor in modern comedies) and just make an entertaining action movie with fun characters???? But that may be too much to ask for.
LYDIA: And that’s why I skipped Deadpool…
I know Black has done a fun riff on 80’s action with Last Action Hero (actually starring Schwarzenegger!), but I’m afraid to go back to it considering how I feel about his recent output. I agree, I don’t think Black is thoughtfully doing anything.
ZACH: Between the actual movie and what happened with the cast while we were in Toronto, I don’t see anymore Predator movies coming down the pipeline anytime soon. I’ll also be interested to see what Black does next as it seems like he is relegated to more genre studio fare rather than larger properties like this and Iron Man 3, which wasn’t unsuccessful but isn’t seen as one of the highlights of the Marvel oeuvre.
I also would LOVE to see you watch Deadpool. Can we make that happen, please?