The desire to ground The Predator, a franchise entry about a technologically advanced alien ninja, in a paternal relationship between McKenna and his son already seems questionable. In the same way Ridley Scott has taken the Alien franchise off the rails with grand concerns about creation and Paradise Lost allusions, Predator flicks don’t need to be anything more than a will to live in the face of overwhelming odds. Who cares how a dad is relating to his neuro-atypical son when a monster just shot through a wormhole? Black and co-writer Fred Dekker continue to put too much thought into the themes of the film with mentions of climate change, such that the Predators are assumed to be visiting earth because the clock is ticking and they want to get as many skulls as possible. The last straw is the Jenny McCarthy-levels of misinterpretations of autism, wherein Rory is some kind of indigo child who represents the next step of human evolution. This presumes that autism hasn’t always existed and is instead some kind of X-Man-esque superpower. None of this is necessary and only serves to make what should be an easy assignment into an irritating chore.
Black compounds things by making the bread and butter action scenes into incomprehensible clouds of darkness and arterial spray. Having directed Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys, one would think that he could build a setpiece, but instead, I was prompted to rewind scenes to ascertain what happened to important characters. No viewer should ever be confused as to which famous actor’s head just exploded. The film also takes a brute force approach that turns the action away from the stealthy nature of earlier Predator entries and therefore neutralizes what made the franchise unique. Between action scenes, Black’s signature rapport-based humor is present but infrequently, allowing for a mere handful of laughs from a director best known for action comedies.
For Black to assemble the likes of aforementioned actors plus the likes of Trevante Rhodes, Keegan Michael Key, Alfie Allen, and Thomas Jane amongst McKenna’s squad of escaped convicts and deprive them of repartee and inventive set pieces is especially disappointing. Brown is having the most fun as a Nicorette-chomping utilitarian, but the rest fail to make much of an impression outside of action flick tropes. The Predator can’t even measure up to the schlocky fun of Paul WS Anderson’s Alien Versus Predator, a film with a quarter of the star power. How this movie wasn’t a success is a mystery that could only be solved by some kind of make-believe autistic genius. C-