As the latest entry in the series written and directed by Shane Black, The Predator crash lands with a spectacular dud instead of reigniting a fiery enthusiasm for the franchise, a massive misfire that's ultimately sleep-inducing and a chore to sit through. On Ultra HD, the fourth or sixth sequel, depending on what you consider canonical, arrives with an excellent 4K presentation and a satisfying Dolby Atmos track. But a lackluster set of supplements makes the package Worth a Look for those willing to a chance on this massive misfire.
Even with the lowest expectations imaginable, The Predator somehow still manages to fall well below that while simultaneously surprising audiences with its degree of badness. Given the talent behind the production, the bigger mystery of this latest installment to the popular sci-fi horror franchise is trying to figure out where the filmmakers went wrong. In terms of pure action fun, the movie delivers the visual goods but significantly lacks the fun or the rippling muscular stamina of the 1987 original classic, looking like the sort of big-budget, edge-of-your-seat feast for the eyes that should be more satisfying. Yet, it all feels empty and mind-numbingly tedious — more likely to make viewers nod off in spite of the ear-piercing pandemonium erupting all around. The third entry to the series — technically, the sixth if we count the two Alien vs. Predator features — may come with a few visual delights, but saying it's about as good the AVP spinoffs is not much of a compliment.
In fact, a case could be made that those aforementioned universe-expanding entries — as much as I personally think them god-awful — are arguably better than this clunker, which crash lands with a spectacular dud instead of reigniting a fiery enthusiasm for the franchise. Coming from a script by Fred Dekker and Shane Black, The Predator never once makes audiences care about the characters. Admittedly, the ragtag platoon of military rejects, which includes Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane and Alfie Allen of Game of Thrones fame, comes with an animated camaraderie that's at least amusing to watch. But the endless, back-and-forth infantile mockery and mom jokes feel more mean-spirited than character developing. Ultimately, it's a rather weak attempt and desperately ham-fisted intimation of Black's Rick Hawkins' raunchy humor.
Things only turn for the worse when we realize there is absolutely nothing unique or interesting about these men, who suddenly choose to fight against a completely unknown alien adversary because, you know, reasons. These soldiers are a foul-smelling potpourri of clichés, imagined from a wide selection of archetypes that might as well as be portrayed by life-size cardboard cutouts that would still achieve the same effect. Their reluctant leader is Army Ranger sniper Quinn (Boyd Holbrook), whose wife (Yvonne Strahovski) makes a point of listing her estranged husband's decorated military career during a clumsily tacked-on grandiose speech. He oozes the typical surly, mean, crusty, disgruntled soldier vibe that camouflages a wounded soul whose only care is his son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), which is where the movie simply goes horribly bad. The filmmakers rely heavily on stereotypes to convey the kid possesses natural talents for the fight against the aliens, but everything could have been accomplished just as well without that particular character trait.
Ultimately, The Predator is a complete misfire, and its failure comes down to the script and a lack of empathetic characters. It's loaded with tons of explosive, sometimes eye-catching action, but the plot is nonsensical about two different-sized Predator creatures, evolution, and climate change while neglecting to engage viewers. Black and Dekker (no pun intended) obviously favor an attempt to recapture the spirit of John McTiernan's beloved classic while belaboring audiences with supposed witty allusions. Olivia Munn's evolutionary biologist Dr. Bracket is made to painfully utter the line, "You are one beautiful motherfucker." Later, former Marine officer "Nebraska" Williams (Trevante Rhodes) yells the infamous line "Get to the choppers!" but is actually referring to a pack of Harley Davidsons. Real helicopters transport the baddie Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) across various locations to the non-diegetic iconic tune of the original film, guaranteeing either endless eye-rolling or undeserved gleefulness from a few fans. In either case, such forced references are emblematic of the production as a whole, making for a boringly miserable watch.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brings The Predator to Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital Copy, which can be redeemed via FoxDigitalMovies.com or Movies Anywhere, unlocking the 4K HDR10 version with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio. The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-cutout keepcase. At startup, the UHD goes straight to the main menu screen with full-motion clips, the usual options along the bottom and music playing in the background.
Aliens battle over being predators versus hunters on Ultra HD with an excellent and very satisfying HEVC H.265 encode, though it's not a leaps and bounds upgrade over its Blu-ray counterpart. Coming from a 2K digital intermediate, the freshly-minted transfer definitely shows an appreciable uptick in overall definition, but the differences are rather minor. Facial complexions and the sweaty alien bodies are a bit more distinct and revealing, but the stitching in clothing, the predators' outfits and background information are not really any sharper. In fact, the 2160p video comes with a few instances of very mild aliasing along the sharpest edges and much of the CG visuals are softer than in the HD version.
A more notable improvement is the brightness levels, and since a majority of the movie takes place at night, the inkier, richer blacks are greatly appreciated. Some of the finer details tend to be slightly engulfed by the darkest, murkiest corners, but shadow details are strong nonetheless, providing the 2.35:1 image with a beautiful cinematic quality. Larry Fong's interestingly stylized photography also appears to have translated well to HDR10, as contrast is noticeably brighter and hotter without also blooming or washing over the finer aspects. The picture displays crisper, more radiant whites in the various light fixtures throughout while allowing slightly better detailing within the hottest spots. However, specular highlights give metallic surfaces a welcomed, realistic shine, but the difference is not really anymore dazzling or sparkling.
Nevertheless, the more dramatic improvement in this upscaled 4K presentation comes by way of the richly-saturated and rapturous palette animating the action. The electrifying blues and candy-rose reds of the alien language and holograms, in particular, pop with captivating enthusiasm, creating a weirdly amusing 3D effect. The orange-teal cinematography is also made more apparent as several sequences are bathed in an unmistakable blueish green tint, and wide shots of the afternoon and morning skies are a beautiful display of pinks, soft purples, and cerulean blues. Meanwhile, secondary hues have an eye-catching brilliance, making flesh tones a bit more natural and rosier while giving explosions a deep fiery orange, and making the predator blood glow with an intense neon chartreuse. (Video Rating: 84/100)
The ragtag troop of ill-prepared outlaws go head-to-head against the Super Predator equipped with an outstanding Dolby Atmos soundtrack, adding a few welcomed enhancements to the reference-quality 7.1 DTS-HD track found on the Blu-ray even though this mix doesn't quite match the best-of-the-best in terms of Atmos.
As with its 7.1 counterpart, the Dolby Atmos mix's rears are continually employed with subtle ambient effects that play almost non-stop throughout the film's runtime, creating a wonderfully satisfying environment. Even more surprising is the seemingly unceasing noise of the local wildlife, especially the chirping of birds in the distance during the last quarter of the movie, enveloping the entire listening area. A few of those same effects pan across the overheads fluidly and flawlessly, effectively generating a satisfying hemispheric soundfield for a good portion of the movie. Action erupts with bullets whizzing in all directions, explosions reverberating all around and debris raining down from above, making this a terrifically satisfying soundtrack.
The object-based track adds to the excitement with a slightly wider soundstage, delivering impressive accuracy and cleanliness within the upper ranges, giving each predator's signature roar a sharply different feel and every explosion extraordinary intelligibility. Dynamic range is astoundingly extensive and broad, exhibiting the smallest detail with superb, crystal-clear clarity. Every zing, voomp, and sizzle of the alien weapons are distinct with incredible precision, and some of that noise echoes across the three front and top height channels, hitting their target and creating a highly engaging half-dome wall of sound. Henry Jackman's score keeps the excitement going as it lightly bleeds into the surrounds and overheads while dialogue remains lucid and well-prioritized amid all the pandemonium. Although it never truly hits the ultra-low depths with any meaningful impact, a powerful and robust low-end nonetheless provides a palpable, occasionally room-shaking presence. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 92/100)
From a script by Fred Dekker and Shane Black, the latter of whom also directs, The Predator manages to fall well below the lowest of expectations while simultaneously surprising with its degree of badness given the talent behind the production. Despite featuring the sort of action-packed visuals that should thrill and excite, the spectacle of alien pandemonium is all for naught and ultimately sleep inducing thanks to a lack of emphatic characters and a conflict that makes little sense. The whole cockamamie mess crash lands on Ultra HD with an excellent 4K HDR10 presentation that provides a few noteworthy improvements and a highly satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack that should satisfy the few fans out there. Sadly, a lackluster set of supplements makes the overall package worth a look for those willing to a chance on this massive misfire.