Shane Black’s The Predator has been mired in doubt (how can you revive this classic franchise that’s stooped to battling Aliens?) and, recently, controversy. So it may have seemed unlikely that the film could break away from these trappings to please everyone, especially diehard fans. But, as the film opened the Toronto International Film Festival and the reviews started pouring in, it seems that Black has beaten the odds.
With a plot we knew would turn the franchise on its head and plenty of funny cast members, there was never a question about the film’s potential, but even most the mixed reviews for the gory R-rated film admit that it’s a lot of fun.
Let’s let the critics speak for themselves:
According to RogerEbert.com’s Brian Tallerico (who gave the film 3 out of 4 stars), the film “is a fun, brutal, fighting machine that wastes no time getting down to business.” Instead of using its sequel status to mock or approach its ‘80s action aesthetic with its tongue in its cheek, the film simply does Predator and does it well. “This is a movie that keenly understands what its audience wants and endeavors to provide that, which is something more action filmmakers could learn from Black,” Tallerico writes. After praising the action and editing (aside from a bit of a sloppy ending), Tallerico concludes that the film will please anyone excited by the mere idea of Predator hounds.
IGN’s Jim Vejvoda agrees with Tallerico about that final act (“messy” is the descriptor used) but also agrees that the film “does a lot right to reinvigorate the 31-year-old series.” By “bringing his signature blend of dark, profane comedy, and offbeat familial dynamics to the material,” Black manages to make a satisfying entry into the series -- thanks in part to the charming cast of Loonies fighting the alien hunters.
Slashfilm’s Chris Evangelista had plenty to say about the jokes, comparing the film to the equally humorous Thor: Ragnarok -- a film that some say weighed its comic elements over its action setpieces. He praises Keegan Michael-Key and Thomas Jane (though laments the overplay of the latter’s Tourette Syndrome as a joke), and focuses on Trevante Rhodes as a standout. And it’s all very funny. Perhaps too funny for some hardcore fans, Evangelista muses. Even then, he writes, “while you’re watching the movie, it’s hard not to get caught up in all the fun.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Jordan Mintzer says much the same, allowing that even though the film “strays rather far from the original film… [it] also takes things in a fun direction.” Applauding “the snappy dialogue, gross-out gags and tongue-in-cheek camaraderie of the cast,” Mintzer explains that the story plays second fiddle to, well, all the cool and nasty stuff going on -- as it should in a franchise as over-the-top as this. After lauding that huge mega-Predator from the trailers, Mintzer concludes by mentioning that the film sets up a sequel -- if enough people are equally-minded and go see this long-coming sequel.
Even Twitter had some nice things to say:
Although, that said, some critics were less charitable.
Variety's Dennis Harvey calls the "mixture of the flippant-knucklehead-machismo species with frantic comic-book action" a movie that ends up being "silly, borderline senseless, lively, and without any real rooting value at all." He wasn't impressed by the film's horror-less action take on the film, concluding that the disappointment was merely a childish bauble "which ultimately works on the level of a disco ball. It’s shiny, it moves, and is accompanied by much noise."
Some Twitter critics agreed:
Fans will have to decide who to trust when The Predator hunts theaters on Sep. 14.