You’ll often hear people say: “They don’t make ‘em like they used to” when viewing the latest group of offerings at the cinema.
And, when considering the likes of the late, unlamented Police Academy or Confessions Of franchises, thank heavens for that.
However, that’s not to say that (ahem) golden oldies are done and dusted – sometimes, studios want to make ‘em just like they used to, hoping to capture lightning in a bottle a second time.
Thus, the Predator franchise is back, with a freshly reanimated (and now often computer animated) big bad alien back on earth in The Predator (Cert 16, 107 mins).
We’ve been here before – the Predator certainly has – not least with the 1987 original starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
There’s a reason why the original is a firm fan favourite and a classic of the genre, bringing two larger than life characters together: Arnie and The Predator (which sounds a bit like a buddy-buddy comedy).
That film’s mix of gruesome violence, uber-macho characters, black comedy and a firm understanding of creating a focused action film gave it enough of an impact to still resonate, decades later.
This reboot, however, doesn’t quite work as effectively, feeling like a franchise that the studio wanted to try and get some mileage out of again, rather than being a film with a clear reason to exist.
Here, a Predator ship crashlands on earth, and to cut the set-up short it’s not long before a Predator is captured, violently escapes, and it’s up to a small group of maverick soldiers to track it down.
Being a group of wild cards thrown together by circumstance, they share a loose brotherhood that the military powers that be lack, and with the family of one of them also in the mix (and thus, also in peril) there are two unconventional family units of sorts driving the film along.
Certain key plot points hinge on an autistic boy (with a solid, likable performance from Jacob Tremblay) but the family, and the soldiers, are secondary to the main driving force of the film: the Predators.
It’s not a spoiler to point out that we get an evolution of sorts with the iconic hinge-faced hunters, with the trailers making heavy use of showing different Predators (including what you might call a Predadog, although alas, there’s no sign in the film of a Predacat or a Predagoldfish).
It’s not long before there’s a dwindling group of humans running around as they’re relentlessly hunted down, giving fans a nostalgic look at some of the classic visual signatures of long-established Predator lore.
Ultimately, things have to rattle along towards the climax, but somewhere along the way – actually, around the middle of the film – the film begins to lose its focus.
Indeed, there’s a noticeable drop in quality near the end of the film, with things beginning to look and feel cheaper.
Add in some clumsy editing along the way, which also has the effect of suddenly dumping established characters’ narratives for no reason, and there’s a somewhat aimless nature to the plot, and the film’s momentum. Is it terrible? No, far from it. It’s fine.
However, when you have such a strong IP as the Predator, ‘fine’ isn’t good enough, particularly when directed by Shane Black, who had a small role in the first, classic film.
And, in a film that needs to be as razor sharp as the original film, this fourth Predator outing consequently just gets lost in the woods.