In the 80s there was a clutch of VHS tapes which performed the function of “films to put on when we’ve come back from the pub”: Robocop, Spinal Tap, Quadrophenia, Blade Runner, and Predator. The requirements for these films is that they appeal across tastes, had quotable dialogue, some cool deaths and rattled along reasonably quickly before we fell asleep. And let’s face it, they were blokey films, I mean no women ever came back to the various hovels I shared with other students.
The original Predator was good fun, with a sense of its own ridiculousness. Arnie was essentially a ridiculous actor, and Alien meets Platoon was such an obviously drunken idea that you had to admire it. But through various sequels and spin-offs, the idea seems to have formed that Predator was more than this, some form of sci-fi classic, instead of a cartoon action flick.
Shane Black’s reboot lacks this sense of its own ridiculousness. It is at best, boring, and at worst offensive. It features sniper Quinn McKenna teamed up with other members of the ‘looney bus’, soldiers with various mental health issues: Tourettes, self harming, religious fervour, maintaining a varying Irish accent. McKenna’s son has Aspergers so the film is making a play for the alternative abilities take, which is perhaps taken to an extreme when Olivia Munn’s doctor declares people on the spectrum are the ‘next step in evolution’. Most of these mental health conditions seem to manifest and disappear as the plot dictates. The Tourettes take is nowhere near as funny as Black thinks it is, and this goes for most of the banter between the team. It’s also lucky that the world’s most renowned expert in evolutionary biology is a hot, kick ass woman instead of, say, an overweight sixty year old male who has never handled a gun before.
If the original Predator worked at all it was because it placed a small group in a closed setting with the alien. The action in this version is too diverse, so any claustrophobia or threat is lost until the final scene. Throw in some bad acting, shaky CGI and cringeworthy dialogue and the film is a mess. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to rewatch this after an evening of cider and black at the students union (do students still do that by the way?).