Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.

When this latest film in the Predator franchise was first pitched, it was expected to be a complete reboot of the series that began with the John McTiernan-directed original in 1987 starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Then the studio hired writer/director Shane Black to make the film and he immediately insisted that his film would be a sequel, not a reboot.  This stands to reason, given that Black co-starred in the original film as Hawkins, the oversized-glasses-wearing teller of dirty jokes among the macho cast of the 1987 movie.  It could be said that Black’s Hawkins was the silliest character in that movie and so it should come as no surprise that Black’s new chapter, specifically titled The Predator, is a heck of a lot sillier than its predecessor.

The movie opens with a military sniper’s mission in the jungle going sideways when an alien spacecraft crashes down to Earth.  Amongst the wreckage, the sniper, Quinn McKenna, discovers the helmet of the alien creature along with some weaponized body armor.  He manages to mail these devices back home before he is taken into custody and held for questioning by a top-secret military organization determined to keep the existence of these alien creatures under wraps.  At home, his middle-school-aged son begins fiddling with the devices and winds up triggering a signal that will attract not only the alien pilot of the crashed ship, but the more powerful creatures that are hunting him.

Meanwhile, Quinn finds himself on a bus of military rejects when the crashed alien that had been under observation at the base escapes and begins wreaking havoc.  Quinn fears that the Predator will be tracking down the equipment he sent home and so he hijacks the bus and recruits its passengers to help him hunt down the creature.  They are joined by a scientist who was initially brought to the base for her professional opinion of the creature, but once it escapes, she realizes that the people in charge do not plan to let her leave the facility alive.  Together they hunt the Predator, not realizing that they are not the only ones on the hunt, because it turns out that even Predators have predators.

Silly might seem like a strange word to use to describe a bloody, R-rated Predator movie, but it absolutely fits in this case.  From the very opening shots of The Predator, you know you are in for a different kind of ride than the original film.  Both films open with an alien spaceship heading towards Earth, but while the original was a quiet, long shot of a model spacecraft cruising through space, the new film is a loud, in-your-face, computer generated action set-piece that feels straight out of a cheesy B-movie.  And while the original film broke up many of its violent action with characters staring silently up into the trees and acting macho, the sequel breaks up its action with non-stop quips and comedic antics.

In many ways, the movie works as a parody of itself, including the running joke about how the name “Predator” is actually a misnomer for this creature that hunts for sport.  It is very self-aware, even casting Jake Busey to play the son of the character his father played in Predator 2The Predator is the kind of movie that you might say is “so bad it’s good,” but even that description does not fit because it is not a bad movie.  The production values, special effects, and acting are all quality.  It is more that the movie is just so silly and plays directly into that, from having Jacob Tremblay wear the Predator helmet as a Halloween mask right up until the bonkers final scene.  Perhaps a better description would be “silly enough to be entertaining.”

The movie does fall into the typical sequel trappings of simply taking what came before and making it bigger; quite literally in this case.  The first Predator we see is approximately the same size as the Predators we are told visited Earth before in 1987 (Predator) and 1997 (Predator 2), but halfway through the movie (no spoiler, it’s in the trailer) an alpha Predator nearly double its size shows up to hunt the other, bringing along with it some Predator dogs.  The Predators we have seen in the past may have been predators but this is THE Predator the movie’s title is referring to.  But the movie is so different in tone from its predecessors, that it still feels fresh despite its use of sequel clichés.

For a movie in an action franchise, The Predator’s action scenes may be the most forgettable part of the movie, but it is clear from the very beginning that this movie is leaning more towards comedy than any film in the franchise before it.  Some of the jokes work, while others don’t, but the movie is so energetic that it keeps pushing forward, never letting any joke get too stale whether it works or not.

The Predator has plenty of callbacks to the previous films as the series, but definitely stands out as its own unique chapter.  Shane Black has done that before with franchises. Whether you are for or against Iron Man 3, there is no denying that its style was unique from the first two.  The same can be said for The Predator, and as with Iron Man 3, I’m guessing the opinions of its franchise’s fans will come down on both sides, depending on whether or not they buy into what Black is doing.

The Predator opens today at the AMC Kent Station 14, the AMC Southcenter 16, and the Landing Stadium 14 in Renton.

Find tickets and showtimes on Fandango.
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