The Popcorn Periodical
“The Predator” explodes back into action as a comedic Halloween gore fest
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is in full swing, and some of the year’s most buzzworthy films are being debuted all across Canada’s largest city. As award season inches closer, the majority of these hot new motion pictures are in hopes of impressing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – Bradley Cooper (Avengers: Infinity War) and Lady Gaga (American Horror Story: Hotel) swooned fans at their screening of this month’s A Star Is Born, Ryan Gosling (La La Land) rubbed shoulders with Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, at the premiere after-party of October’s First Man, and Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby) screened his highly anticipated gay conversion-therapy drama Boy Erased, to name only a select few.
It seems everyone is vying for their 15 minutes at TIFF but a couple of surprise selections turned more than a few heads: Jamie Lee Curtis attended the “Midnight Madness” world premiere, and only screening of Halloween, and Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse) made #MeToo headlines at the premiere of The Predator.
TIFF is known for its prestigious programming, so the sci-fi/horror selections are usually indie films looking for distribution. They don’t usually generate the same attention as award contenders or international releases. But over the years, genre films have grown to be just as popular, and it’s important for movie festivals, especially ones of international acclaim, to outstretch their reach to cater to all genres of film. The Predator was looking to crash land and make a kickass comeback; this fan-favourite alien chose Toronto to do it!
Directed by John McTiernan (Die Hard) and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator) as “Dutch” (a military soldier hired by the U.S. government to rescue a group of politicians trapped in Central America), the original Predator was released in 1987. Long before Shane Black was sitting in The Predator’s director chair. Black did, however, have a role in the original film as a radio and communications expert named Rick Hawkins who famously fell to the Predator’s mercy as the first victim in the series. The Predator (2018) is an addition to this cult franchise, but the plot, setting, actors, producers, and visual effects have all changed. The Predator (2018) is boisterously entertaining in a way Predator (1987) couldn’t be (at the time). The original is a classic, but over the years, after Predator 2 (1990), Predators (2010), and two crossover films with the Alien franchise – Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Alien vs. Predator: Requim (2007), it seems as though 20th Century Fox had hung up the Predator’s armour for good. Nobody asked for a new Predator film, but boy did we ever get one anyway!
From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, “the hunt comes home” in Shane Black’s explosive reinvention of the Predator series. Every minute of this film is packed with off-the-wall comedy and 90’s action/adventure nostalgia mixed with top-of-the-line CGI and VFX. So much of Shane Black’s finesse is splashed across the makeup of this film. Some aspects are cinema gold, others are heavy on the cheese-factor, especially when it comes to the zingers and one-liners. From crude and slapstick to darn right corny, the jokes are neverending.
As for the actors, everyone had their charm and wit about them. Some of their screen times were cut short but it’s only because there were too many characters to develop or their head was ripped off by a large Predator dog. Olivia Munn, on the other hand, fought a predator offscreen as well, vocalizing her experience having to act alongside a registered sex offender (Steven Wilder) to the better of her knowledge. Scandal aside, Munn delivers some of her best work as Dr. Casey Bracket, a biologist trying to figure out the pathology of these intelligently vicious alien invaders. Munn holds her own amongst an entirely male cast – Boyd Holbrook (Logan) as Quinn McKenna, a former Army Ranger who first discovers the existence of the Predators, Jacob Tremblay (Wonder) as Rory McKenna, Quinn’s intelligent and tech-savvy son, Sterling K. Brown (TV’s This Is Us) as Will Traeger, a CIA agent with an agenda, and a motley crew of misfit criminals a la Suicide Squad: Keegan-Michael Key (Keanu) as Coyle, Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight) as Nebraska Williams, Thomas Jane (The Mist) as Baxley, Alfie Allen (TV’s Game of Thrones) as Lynch, and newcomer Augusto Aguilera as Nettles.
Overall, The Predator is a fun mess of adrenaline. Laced with comedy, gore and visual effects, the film takes place during Halloween, allowing for the movie magic to latch itself onto the season. The plot loses its way within its own complexities, and it’s been revealed the entire third act of the film was re-shot in British Columbia earlier this year. Multiple scenes from the trailers are missing from the final cut, as well, so who knows how much of the original footage was left on the cutting room floor. There are some macho one-liners that left me rolling my eyes and laughing for the wrong reasons but I appreciated the homage to classic action/adventure/sci-fi/horror so much, I was willing to look past them.
Blink, and you’ll miss the “LGBTQ+ alliance” poster in the hallway of Rory’s school, an appreciated nod to us queer fans. This sentiment is akin to the rainbow flag making headlines in the gaming community: Spider-Man is seen taking selfies with a pride flag draped across the side of a building in the new hero’s video game for PlayStation 4. Visibility is important, and seeing it in instances like these are not just appreciated, they help integrate and embolden the LGBTQ community. We’re a major part of all of these fandoms and industries, there’s no question, so it’s disappointing when an awkward “Gaylord” joke in The Predator uncomfortably levels out the initial message of equality. The film’s R rating allows for multiple “jokes” that border on offensive.
The Predator is either overwhelmingly enjoyable or incomprehensibly unbearable. Perhaps it’s a bit of both. Some may find it hard to support because of it’s connection to an actual on-set sexual predator, the very same actor Olivia Munn unknowingly did a scene with then asked producers to cut. She’s on record saying she felt iced-out from the rest of the cast and crew after criticising production for hiring Steven Wilder to begin with. She says Sterling K. Brown was the only one who reached out to her, writing her a letter of support. Shane Black has since publicly apologized for hiring Wilder.
Some others may find Munn’s role in and out of this male-dominated action flick to be inspiring, even unintentionally empowering women in Hollywood. Some may want to support it for that reason alone. And some people just love Predator. What remains is a choppy sequel with blockbuster-worthy highlights – a hard and fast cannonball of a movie that knows how to throw and take a punch. It’s like a parody of itself, and Shane Black isn’t taking himself too seriously. I’m rooting for a bigger and better sequel!
“That’s not a predator; that’s a sports hunter,” Dr. Casey Bracket says in the first act of the film (referring to the universe’s most lethal hunters, now stronger, smarter, and deadlier than ever before).
“Well, we took a vote,” says agent Will Traeger. “Predator is cooler!”
3.5 Popcorn Kernels / 5
About the Author
Joey Viola is the Co-Founder of MoJo Toronto and an LGBTQ community leader who utilizes his passion and flair for the art of writing by bringing a fresh perspective in reviewing entertainment and advocating for equality, tolerance, and social/political justice.