The Hunter or the Hunted Pt 12 (The Predator, 2018)

The_Predator_PosterShane Black, writer and director of the terrific films Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and the Nice Guys returns to the franchise he was part of at the very beginning. Black played Hawkins…who told terrible jokes to Sonny Landham’s Billy that he constantly had to explain and Billy only finds funny once.

Predators did not reignite the franchise, and so eight years later we have an attempt to reboot the series.  This film is firmly set in the continuity of the films Predator and Predator 2, with references and imagery to them, but not in a way that would be confusing to someone going in blind. It never acknowledges the third film, but it makes sense that nobody is aware of those events as they took place on another planet.

The film opens on Quinn McKenna, a military sniper with PTSD. He is on a mission when he comes into contact with a predator. The military tries to silence him by sending him to a military psychiatric hospital. There he meets a group of troubled soldiers. Meanwhile Dr. Casey Brackett is brought in to help study a captured Predator. She wants to speak with Quinn, so the prison bus is routed and they arrive as the Predator is breaking out and…well, okay…so the film is a bit all over the place in the beginning.

By this, I mean they introduce a ton of characters and that means it takes awhile to get to the meat.  But when all the threads come together, the film begins to pick up.  The finale is crazily packed with action and violence.

I like Black’s attempt to deal with human situations like Autism and mental illness.  Admittedly, at times the conditions of the soldiers can feel a bit more like they are jokes, but I still found myself liking the characters enough that when the carnage starts, I wanted them all to make it out alive.

The film has a pretty solid cast. I always like to see Thomas Jane pop up and Olivia Munn gets to be pretty badass and have more character than her role as Psylocke a couple years back in X-Men: Apocalypse.

The Predator tries to give the Predators a larger goal than simply hunting people, and it is not terrible. It is good enough to work anyways. While it is a bit slow on the start, it eventually becomes a fun action sci-fi movie.

It is too bad that the film is mired in a controversy that was brought about by Shane Black. He skipped over traditional casting and gave his friend a small role hitting on Munn. What nobody, including Munn, knew was that he was a convicted sex offender.  He had attempted to “entice” (legal term) his 14 year old cousin into a sexual relationship. Black knew his friend was an offender. Munn petitioned the studio to cut the scene, which they did. Munn faced little support in the beginning (with Black and the rest of the cast backing out of a press junkett, leaving Munn to be interviewed alone).

The cast has, since stepped up and Black apparently had been unaware of the seriousness of his friend’s situation and has apologized. He has said he is working with Munn privately to try and repair the damage.  Considering the film clearly left open for a sequel, I would like to see Olivia Munn return. Black really dropped the ball with his actions, as he did not at least make cast mates aware.

That said, I still really did enjoy the film, and in spite of flaws, it is certainly an entertaining entry to the franchise.

The Hunter or the Hunted? Pt 11 (Alien vs Predator: Requiem, 2007)

AVP_Requiem_PosterWhile critics and plenty of fans pummeled the first film, it was more than successful enough to get a sequel greenlit.  Directed by the Brothers Strause (that is what they direct under), Requiem is a real mess in more ways than one.

The cast is immense, so you start figuring out who will die sooner than later based on how much attention they get.  The film picks up right after the first film, with a xenomorph bursting from the body of a predator.  It has the predator mouth and dreadlocks., so it gets nicknamed the Predalien.  It rapidly makes trouble for the Predator ship crew and their ship crashes in a forest.

The predator and a couple face-huggers escape, a new Predator comes to earth after getting an emergency alert from the crashed ship.  Soon the town is besieged by Aliens.

It is all pretty much what you would expect, unfortunately there is little to set it apart.  Oh, the “Predalien” looks big and aggressive, and instead of laying eggs, the Predalien shoves it’s secondary mouth in your throat and feeds live larva into your stomach.  It gets pretty gross when the Predalien takes over a hospital and assaults multiple pregnant women.  The vast majority of characters are there to be alien fodder.

Time has no meaning in the film…the Predator make it from his planet to Earth in a couple hours, aliens grow to full size in a couple hours…as usual, the practical effects are the high point and the digital a bit dodgy.  This film also messes with the timeline, at least the first film ends in a way you could argue humanity is not aware of the Xenomorphs.  That is wholly implausible in this film.  I can understand why Scott blew this crossover off for Prometheus.

The Hunter or the Hunted? Part 10 (Alien vs Predator, 2004)

AVP_PosterThe Predator films went quiet after the second film, and Alien films were stalled by Resurrection seven years earlier.  In that time, there had been a series of successful Alien and Predator comics by publisher Dark Horse Comics.  In 1990, Dark Horse brought the franchises together, which was one of those crossovers that you never knew you wanted until you were given it.  The Alien vs. Predator comics were very popular and fueled desires of a crossover movie from the fans of the franchises.  There were attempts to bring this to life, but it seems nobody could settle on a story idea.

After the first Resident Evil was somewhat successful in it’s box office, Director Paul WS Anderson was brought in to guide the film to fruition.  Rather than adapt the comics, they came up with an entirely new story (though they did adopt a few ideas from the comics).  Set in 2004, a Weyland (eventually becoming Weyland Yutani, the company from the Alien films) satellite discovers a unique structure buried below arctic ice.  The company assembles a team of historians, geologists, survivalists and so on to investigate (and lay claim to the discovery).  Lance Henrickson returns to the Alien franchise as Charles Bishop Weyland…the human on which his character from Aliens was based.

They discover a pyramid that seems to be a combination of structures from around the globe.  The film suggests this pyramid was part of the cradle of civilization and people worshiped the Predators as gods. Ridley Scott borrowed this notion for Prometheus (but it was language and cave art).  The humans are unaware of the arrival of the Predators, and inadvertently activate the dormant temple.  An alien queen is revived and starts pumping out eggs.  A bunch of nameless characters are attacked and birth aliens while the Predators discover they are not alone.  There is the standard misunderstanding where the people are hunted by both Predator and Alien, but eventually the last human and Predator team up.

The visual effects (especially the practical effects) are quite good, though Anderson relies to heavily on the “Transition Through Hologram” set up, which he used in Resident Evil.  Considering how large the cast is, very few characters are well defined, resulting in the majority of characters simply being monster fodder.

This is the first film set in the present for the Alien films.  The Predator films were always in the present, so the idea that people are running into Predators is not much of an issue.  For the Aliens, the idea that they are already on earth seems pretty problematic.  The film tries to resolve this and as a one off film, this would probably be sufficient…but then they made a second film…

The Hunter or the Hunted? Pt 9 (Predators, 2010)

PRED_B-ALT_Eng1sht (Page 1)After the second film, the Predator series went dormant.  The alien hunters only saw the screen in the “team up” Alien vs Predator films.  It was not until about 2009 Predator was announced as getting it’s own new film.  It was spearheaded by Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, From Dusk Til Dawn, Sin City) and was referred to often as a reboot.  The problem with the tendency to treat every film as a remake or reboot is that it is not always clear what a particular entry is.  These days, people tend to refer to a new film in a franchise as a reboot, even when it is in continuity.  Admittedly, it is a little unclear here.  Nothing discounts the previous two films, but they are not really acknowledge in reference (# 2 made reference to the first film).

It does however feature the original Predator design along with a much bigger and more aggressive version.

Anyways, whether this is a new start or simply a new installment is not that important.  What we have is a group of people who find themselves falling from the sky.  They apparently had not planned this themselves.  As things unfold, we find that the most common trait the group has is they are mercenaries, soldiers, mob enforcers and so on.  There is one odd man out named Edwin who is a doctor.  He seems meek (but very smart).  He is played by Topher Grace, so, you know something is up with him.  Adrien Brody plays mercenary Royce.  Royce takes on the role of defacto leader, convincing everyone they need to work together.

After encounters with strange animals, they start to try and find safety, only to realize they are not on earth.  Unlike the previous films, the people being hunted have been dropped onto a planet that functions as a big game hunting preserve.

This does make for an interesting idea, though it is basically a jungle like the first film.  The new Predator design is good, building off the previous design in a way that is sleeker and more threatening.  While the film strives to have lots of surprises, in the end, there is not much new here.  The humans are picked off by the predators in violent and bloody fights.  But it is pretty straight forward action, and pretty predictable.  Frankly, it feels like the franchise may have hit a wall, and truthfully, I don’t know that people will care all that much about it.  The second two films are not strong enough to pretend this is a trilogy.  It is just a decent action film followed by two okay sequels.

The Hunter or the Hunted? Pt 8 (Predator 2, 1990)

Predator_2_posterDirected by Stephen Hopkins (Lost In Space, Nightmare on Elm Street 5 and Race), Predator 2 is an attempt at being very different.  Instead of a jungle, we are in “the Concrete Jungle”.  Instead of a heavily muscled soldier, we have have a team of police.  The film tries to be different by being very opposite.  There are vicious gang wars that are tearing up the street.  Captain Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) and his team are the cops on the front line.  They start to find dead and mutilated gang members.  Soon the cops find themselves as much targets as the gang members.

This sort of works well, and the film acknowledges the first film with Gary Busey as head of a task force trying to capture the Predator explaining it all to Harrigan.  The film also establishes what draws a Predator to a location.  Extremely hot weather in volatile areas.  It also expands the previous film’s rule that Predators do not hunt and kill the unarmed to not killing pregnant women (even if they are armed).

Predator 2 is competently made, but Hopkins is not as strong as McTiernan.  It has it’s charms (such as a very late 80’s action cast including Bill Paxton, Maria Conchito Alonzo, Robert Davi and Ruben Blades) but does not rise to the entertaining levels of it’s predecessor.

There is a throw away moment towards the end where Glover’s Harrigan is on the Predator ship and looking at the trophies on a wall…one is clearly a xenomorph skull from the Alien films.  Although just a “wouldn’t this be fun” gag, it set fire in the imaginations of fan who soon wanted a crossover between the franchise.  For a long time, this only occurred in the comics.  It took fourteen years (seven from Alien Resurrection) to get to the Alien vs Predator films.

The Hunter or the Hunted? Pt 7 (Predator, 1987)

Predator_posterPredator is from Arnold Schwarzennegar’s action movie heyday.  Directed by John McTiernan (Die Hard, Die Hard With a Vengeance and the Hunt for Red October) it is a capable action film.  It is a simple plot, a mercenary group hired by the government goes into the jungles of South America on a rescue mission.  Instead, they find themselves up against an unseen and unearthly killer.

Arnold is the leader, hired by an old friend (Carl Weathers) for the mission so the American Government can keep it’s hands clean.  At first they believe they are just up against warlords…but soon discover they are being hunted like animals.  The killer seems to be invisible and unstoppable.

We learn it is an alien, an intergalactic creature who lives for the thrill of the hunt.  There is nothing particularly unique, hunting humans is a longstanding plot for thrillers.  But McTiernan (who would direct Die Hard only months later) shows he has the chops for telling effect action thrillers.

The cast is pretty ideal for a testosterone romp through the jungle.  Along with Schwarzennegar, there is Jesse Ventura (who went on to be Govoner), Bill Duke and Sonny Landham.  The effects still stand today, as McTiernan does not try and get overly complex.

Predator is a worthy and minor sci-fi action classic that is a lot of fun to watch.

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