I’ve mentioned it before so indulge me as I mention it again: When I was younger and I was eager to have a career as a writer, one of my dreams was to write the Batman comic books.
Mind you, back then (we’re talking the late 1970’s and into the early-middle 1980’s) Batman wasn’t THE BATMAN, multi-billion corporate sold platinum/gold character. Back then, the books were doing decently but most people knew of the character from the purposely cheesy TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward or perhaps some of the cartoons released in the 1970’s. (You’d have to be really into culture to recall the two serials made prior to the TV show!).
Since that time and roughly beginning with the release of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and Tim Burton’s Batman, the character has become part of the global culture and is rightly one of DC Comic’s prized characters.
So if you have any dream of writing the character, be prepared to have plenty of editors/management/investors looking over your shoulder and making sure you don’t do anything bad with the character. Further to that, expect to be told (often) that you have to do this or that with your stories. And if fans express any disappointment in your work, chances are pretty good you’ll get the axe.
The point is: The character is corporate now.
I realized this and, further, realized the way I write requires me to have absolute freedom to do “my thing”. That and plenty of time to get the story “right”. The books I currently have available for audiences to read are, for better or worse, my creations from the very first word to the last. Whether you love, hate, or are indifferent to those books, they’re mine.
With that realization came the realization that I really can’t see myself becoming a contract writer for a character as big as a Batman or considerably smaller/less known. I have my way of doing things and unless given total freedom, I can’t see myself doing these characters with others looking over my shoulder and/or deadlines pushing me to hurry through the creative process.
I mention all this because having seen The Predator, I get the very strong feeling that if I were to make a film featuring a prominent character and under those tight deadlines and with corporate types hovering over me expecting me to do this or that and facing tight deadlines, that’s the type of sloppy film I’d come up with.
Shane Black (he directed Iron Man 3 and was one of the actors in the original Predator), co-wrote and directed this film. There were considerable controversies around the movie’s creation, word of the final act being re-done. Of the controversy when it was revealed a convicted sexual predator was in the cast -albeit in an apparently minor role- and actress Olivia Munn’s anger at realizing she participated in a scene with him without being told of his past. His scene was subsequently deleted.
When the film was finally released, the reviews weren’t terribly kind. However, I’m a fan of the original Predator and despite figuring the film wasn’t going to be all that good, I still wanted to see it. Shane Black has done some decent films in the past and, what the heck, right?
To say The Predator is a mess is something of an understatement. The film leans far too heavily on humor in the early going, with characters engaging in smart-ass banter while other red-shirts are being ripped apart via gory -but not terribly good- CGI.
The plot of the film goes something like this: A Predator is running away from another Predator. It escapes to Earth. It’s escape pod crash lands near a U.S. Special Op team engaged in… I really don’t know what they’re doing there, except killing off some random badguy.
Anyway, the sniper in the team, Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), has the running away Predator escape pod almost land right on top of him. He is the only survivor of his team and manages to get a couple of Predator items (the helmet and wrist band) and mails them to his wife and child back in the U.S. (why not?!).
He’s then taken into custody by black ops officers run by a man named Traeger (Sterling K. Brown, overacting pretty wildly) who intend to get information off of him then do away with him.
Meanwhile, Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn), some kind of super-biologist, is picked up by these same black ops people and gets to see the supposedly tranquilized Predator in a secret U.S. base that conveniently lies within a stone’s throw of McKenna’s home (where his ex-wife and child live) and, we find out a little later, also a stone’s throw from where that Predator’s ship crash landed.
Yeah, I’m feeding you SPOILERS here but consider the absolute absurdity of this scenario: We start in what appears to be South America with that Special Ops team and the escape pod of the ship (with the Predator) crash landing there, we then move to the United States, and it turns out that not only the SECRET BASE where the Predator is being held is near our McKenna’s home but also the crashed ship itself (which is what Traeger wants to get his hands on) is ALSO within close driving distance….!
How’s that for coincidence?!?
Anyway, it turns out the Predator that crash landed was running away from an even more fearsome (and taller) Predator. They are screwing up Earth -or at least allowing Earth to get screwed up- so they can come in and claim it for themselves. They like hot weather… or something.
Anyway, redux, McKenna winds up with a group of military misfits/mental cases, Olivia Munn’s super-biologist, and finally his autistic kid (who also figures, improbably -yeah, who would’a guessed?!- into the bad-guy Predator’s ultimate plans). There’s also an addled Predator dog. This is another element that looks like it was pieced together into the film while whatever sense the scenes made were cut to shreds.
Well, in the sequence where the Predator dogs first appear/attack, they menace McKenna’s autistic son, who happens to be on a baseball field (don’t ask) after he has befriended a regular/ordinary dog.
I suspect that sequence was originally a lot darker because that friendly, nice regular dog simply disappears from the sequence the moment the action starts and, at the very tail end of it and when our heroes are leaving, we have a brief clip of that nice friendly dog walking on the field and toward the camera, as if the director/editors took some old sequence/scene (perhaps when the dog originally appeared) and stuck it in there to assure audiences that dog -who, again, disappeared entirely once the violent action started) is actually ok rather than, as I suspect in the original cut, likely cut to shreds.
Further, what becomes/became of the addled Predator dog is also something of a mystery. It shows up toward the end of the film and attacks (I won’t get into spoilers as to who) and then is gone.
I could go on and on but let me add one final head-scratcher: Toward the end of the film, one of the film’s most prominent characters is killed. This is done in such an offhanded, long distance viewed way that as an audience of one I hardly even realized he was gone. It was until a few more sequences passed I realized he was no longer with the rest of the cast!
In sum, The Predator is, sadly, a giant mess of a film. In many ways it reminds me of Suicide Squad, a film which was also famously taken from the director’s hands and reworked into what was story-wise an incoherent mess. Thing is, at least Suicide Squad had a bunch of charismatic actors making you care for them even if what they were going through made zero sense. Alas, the cast and characters in The Predator are simply not as charismatic or interesting.
Alas, in the case of The Predator, we simply don’t even have that.
I can’t help myself: ONE MORE SPOILER!!!!
At the movie’s very end there’s a CODA which reveals what the “good” (I suppose its all relative) Predator brought with him.
I won’t reveal what he brought but if you do see the film, pay attention to McKenna’s autistic son and how he talks during this sequence. While in the movie proper he talked with great hesitation (suggesting his autistic nature), in this part of the film he suddenly talks perfectly normal and even shows emotions!
Could there have been another cut scene which showed the Predator messing with the kid’s head and making him more normal?
Not that it would have made the film any better.