The only good thing that can be said about 2018’s “The Predator” is that it finally explains what the heck Predators are really up to.
The first film (1987), starring Arnold at the height of his pioneering, charismatic movie-bodybuilding-ness, had a completely stupid premise. It didn’t matter, though.
It’s very dated now (that ’80s music!), but at the time, the whole movie was cutting-edge innovative, visually stunning, and grabbed you by the neck and didn’t let go. It had pre-gubernatorial Jesse Ventura carrying a giant Gatling gun and drawling lines like: I’m a sexual Tyrannosaurus. That was some excellent, young-man nonsense.
It was so compelling, it carved an immediate niche in American pop culture; little kids have been Halloween Predators for lo, these past 31 years.
But the ‘Predator’ Premise!
The original premise went like this: Outer-space aliens are here, hiding in jungle trees, because they hunt humans for sport. At some point it dawned on everyone that, well, they’re not terribly sporting, are they?
Because the deck is seriously stacked in their favor. First off, they’re 7-foot-tall, ugly, bipedal, amphibious-reptilian thingamabobs. Then, they’ve got body armor. Then, they’ve got a pop-up shield that renders them invisible. What human can compete with that? The answer was Arnold and his muscles. It was the perfect Arnold vehicle.
Furthermore, Predators have advanced alien technology gauntlets and helmets that give body-heat signature/cryptic hieroglyphic readouts that can triangulate your whereabouts. Everything on the Predator armor suit can triangulate your whereabouts, especially the three red laser dots projected from that swiveling mini-cannon on its shoulder pad. That thing was cool. Remember how cool you thought that thing was? Then, there’re the throwing items: the spears and the hazmat-symbol-shaped boomerang thingy.
Predators have all that going on, and what do we hairless humans have? Nothing, that’s what. OK, a Gatling gun. How is it remotely fair? How is it sporting?
Predators: Oversized Alien Losers
Like those inane big-game hunters who show up on Facebook and incur the wrath of millions by posting photos of themselves posing beside various magnificent, slaughtered animals, as though they did an adventurous, risky thing. Not a fair fight. Losers. Predators are losers too. And dumb.
Because even with that massive advantage, they couldn’t take out Arnold, who beat them at their game by smearing jungle mud on himself and using primitive skills to make a wooden bow and arrow, trumping hi-tech with low-tech.
But the new premise finally makes sense. It just took 30 years. You know how everyone kind of believes in karma nowadays? Because millennials have heard the term since they were born, and Boomers and Gen Xers have been reading Eastern philosophy ever since “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and “The Dharma Bums” came out?
Well, the same thing goes for belief in aliens. Most people nowadays believe in aliens and believe the one Will Smith beat up in “Independence Day” is one of the many variations on the alien look.
The new premise of this new “Predator” movie is that the real reason they hunt humans is to collect DNA from the most evolved individuals among us, and use it to evolve themselves. That’s the reason they rip your spinal cord out: not for trophy-hunting purposes, but to extract DNA. They’ve clearly been evolving themselves with our DNA for a while now; the new Predator is a revved up hot-rod version of the old one—it’s 11 feet tall, for starters. They must’ve gone through a phase of bagging our basketball players. Has anyone seen Shaq lately?
This New ‘Predator’
It starts off with egregiously bad CGI: A plastic-toy-looking spaceship rends a fake-looking hole in the space-time continuum. The Predators have arrived. The music score is egregious. The acting is egregious. The egregious storyline is egregiously hard to explain.
In a nutshell: Predators crash-land and get knocked unconscious. A secret U.S. government agency is probing a Predator on a lab table. Then it wakes up and Hulk-smashes everything.
Then, an army sniper (Boyd Holbrook) accidentally gets roped into the proceedings, plus a very pretty biologist (Olivia Munn).
The agency tests the sniper in a psych lab, decides he’s got a screw loose, and puts him on a special bus full of former military personnel, in various states of PTSD. This is where the bulk of the bad acting takes place. Example: the normally stoic Thomas Jane as a tic-ridden Tourette’s syndrome-suffering goofball. All played for laughs.
Eventually, they overcome their PTSD afflictions to meld back into a unit composed of the former fearsome fighting men they used to be and go shoot some Predators.
As bad as it is, it actually won’t bore you. Like so much showbiz product out there now, it’s a sloppy, hyper-violent, gross, cynical popcorn movie that knows just enough about keeping tension present throughout to keep your attention and take your dollars.
What it’s good for is to highlight the alien situation. They’re out there, folks! Especially “the Grays.” Google it. They’re waiting to pounce! Meanwhile, they’re collecting data off all our tablet devices, trying to piece together what it is that makes humans tick. They want to clone our godlike bodies. Be afraid. Be very afraid of their dimension-hopping flying saucers. It’s not by chance that we’ve all lately developed this deep addiction to having our faces sucked down into our smartphones, every waking minute. We need to wake up! Smiley-wink emoticon.
Director: Shane Black
Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Sterling K. Brown, Trevante Rhodes, Olivia Munn, Jacob Tremblay, Thomas Jane, Jake Busey
Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Release Date: Sept. 14
Rated 1.5 stars out of 5