Let me start by saying I was so excited to see this movie. I love Predators, always have. I love the way they look, though most people would consider their faces to be ugly. To me, their faces suggest they don’t deign to concern themselves with their physical appearance. They just care about being the best hunters they can be.
I also believe the Predators are at least part Black. I mean, those are locs, are they not? In the movie, Casey Bracket, played by Olivia Munn, hypothesizes that the Predators’ locs are some type of sensor. But the Predators have too much swag for those “sensors” to only serve a functional purpose.
In the creation of this alien, I also think it’s plausible these locs were added to this being to make it reminiscent of a Black person, thereby making it seem…even more alien, i.e. foreign or more removed from human beings. What? Too conspiracy theory-ish for you? Let it marinate. Before long, you’ll be agreeing with me. 😉
One of the writers of The Predator must agree with me because at one point in the movie, Nebraska Williams, an ex-soldier played by Trevante Rhodes, describes the Predator as “an alien Whoopi Goldberg,” to which some of the audience audibly gasped. Now, I think this comment does more harm than good as I’m sure it’s meant to be a mean joke about Whoopi Goldberg’s looks, but it let me know the thought that the Predator is Black has crossed someone else’s mind.
I’m sad to say the blatant sexism, racism, insensitivity and lack of plot development in this movie kept me from enjoying it.
In the movie, Casey is an evolutionary biologist who teaches at Johns Hopkins. She’s recruited by the government to provide insight into the biology/genetic makeup of the Predator. When she first encounters the Predator, it is sedated, but it quickly escapes from the facility where it’s being held. A motley crew of ex-soldiers near the facility decides they’re going to kill it.
Casey chases it with a tranquilizer gun in an effort to re-capture it, but ends up, literally, shooting herself in the foot. Now, if I was feeling generous, I would say this scene is meant to show Casey doesn’t have much experience with tranquilizer guns. But she’s an evolutionary biologist. It wouldn’t surprise me if in the extensive work she’s done with animals, she’d shot a tranquilizer gun before. So instead of making Casey look inexperienced, this scene makes her look like an incompetent woman.
In this movie, I learned the Predators have Predator-like dogs, which the Super Predator uses to help it hunt. When one of these dogs is killed by the ex-soldiers, Casey wants to take a sample from it to study. Nebraska grabs her and rushes her away from the animal as she protests and says repeatedly, in a somewhat high-pitched voice, “I just want a sample!” To which Nebraska responds, “Please shut up. Please shut up. Please shut up.”
So many problems here. Firstly, Casey could’ve just taken a sample and not said a word about it. There is literally no need for this dialogue. Secondly, I don’t believe a man should ever tell a woman to shut up, whether he says “Please” first or not.
Once Casey leaves the government facility where the Predator was being held, the government agent in charge of this operation, Agent Traeger, played by Sterling K. Brown, orders her to be shot, presumably so she doesn’t tell other people there are aliens on our planet. Once Traeger captures her, later in the movie, he tells her, “Shut the fuck up.” Shortly after Quinn, the white male protagonist in this movie, meets the mostly minority, motley crew of ex-soldiers on a bus, he tells them to shut the fuck up. The only other time a being is told to shut the fuck up is when Quinn says it to the Super Predator. A being we don’t want on Earth because it wants to kill us for sport. Is Shane Black, the director and co-writer of this movie, saying men want minorities/women to shut the fuck up about their oppression? Or does he just have an extremely limited vocabulary?
Furthermore, I think Olivia Munn was chosen to play this part because she’s beautiful, not because she was the best woman for the job, no offense Olivia. I didn’t find her that interesting to watch. Though I’m glad the only prominent woman role in this movie went to a woman of color, I would much rather have watched Yvonne Strahovski in this part. She’s a dynamic actress and looks like she knows her way around a gun.
There are two more sexist things I want to point out. The motley crew of ex-soldiers I mentioned earlier contains no women. Does Shane Black not know there are women who are ex-soldiers as well? We rarely get to see women be assholes on screen and I would have loved to see an irreverent woman character hold her own with this crew.
Lastly, at the end of the film, it is revealed one of the Predators left us a “Predator Killer.” It’s an armed suit that gives a human being all the physical advantages of a Predator. Once the suit is fully on, it looks like what I imagine a female, if they even have two genders, Predator would look like. The head/helmet of the suit is smaller than the Predator’s and the locs are thinner and fewer than those of a Predator. Now, this could just be because humans are smaller than Predators, but the design of the suit has a distinctly feminine look. Therefore, why did Quinn proclaim the suit was his new uniform? Probably because he’s an obnoxious, overconfident jerk. Lol!
Now on to the racism in this movie. Towards the end of the movie, when the Super Predator is chasing the crew of ex-soldiers, two of them, Coyle, played by Keegan-Michael Key, and Baxley, played by Thomas Jane, decide they’re going to create a diversion so the rest of the crew, and Casey and some government agents, can get away. Then Coyle decides he’s going to sacrifice himself to the Super Predator so Baxley can get away.
Later in the movie, the Super Predator captures Quinn’s son Rory and takes him aboard the Predators’ ship. As the ship takes off, Quinn, Nebraska and Nettles, another one of the ex-soldiers, jump onto the ship in an effort to get inside and rescue Rory. Nebraska ends up throwing himself into the ship’s turbine engine to make the ship fall out of the sky.
Both of these scenarios display a Black character sacrificing himself to save a white character. The message in these scenes is the life of a Black character is not as valuable as the life of a white one. Art imitates life so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see this in a movie, but it’s 2018. The film industry needs to do better.
I guess Shane Black thought he was counteracting this racist sentiment by casting several minorities in the film, but he was wrong. I do appreciate Sterling K. Brown being cast as the asshole government agent and Olivia Munn being cast as the only significant woman in the movie though. These roles would’ve typically gone to a white actor and actress.
I actually really enjoyed watching Brown play an asshole, he was so arresting because I’m so used to watching him be the sweet, sensitive, feminist guy. I hope he does more roles like this.
Going back to it being 2018, Baxley, a member of the motley crew, has Tourette Syndrome which is, embarrassingly, used multiple times in The Predator for comedic effect. In one scene, Baxley yells “Eat her pussy” at Casey. From my understanding, and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, most people with Tourette Syndrome rarely curse or say inappropriate things during their involuntary vocalizations. Therefore, this tired and offensive trope needs to die.
Again, Shane Black may have tried to counteract this offensive portrayal by mentioning in the movie that autism, Rory, Quinn’s son, has autism, isn’t considered to be a disorder by many scientists, but the next step in human evolution. Or, more than likely, he knows someone with autism. I am using the phrases “has autism” and “with autism” here because when I worked with children with autism, that’s what I was taught to do so as not to label the children I worked with. Now, some people with autism consider it to be an inextricable part of who they are and refer to themselves as autistic. As I don’t have autism myself, I will continue to say “with autism” so as not to offend those who don’t wish to be labelled. Thanks to my work with children with autism, I don’t consider it to be a disorder either. It’s just another way of being in the world.
Another thing that really bothered me about this movie is I came to the theater to see the Predator and it doesn’t spend that much time on screen. This is a HUGE disappointment to me because I love the way the Predator looks and moves. I love aliens/creatures period. Except for the aliens in the Alien and Life movies. Those things creep me out.
Similarly, it’s revealed in this movie that the Predators may eventually want to move to Earth once global warming kills most of us because they love a warm climate, and one of the Predators left us the “Predator Killer” to help us save our planet from them. This is FASCINATING! I would have loved to see a scene showing how the Predators came up with this plan. It’s also revealed the Predators are evolving by incorporating the DNA of other species into their genome. Again, FASCINATING.
I wanted to hear more about this, but these two plot points were given about two minutes of screen time. Why? Because Shane Black was too busy being aroused by hypermasculine men carrying big guns and shooting up people, places and things. I’m sure he thought this is what his audience wanted, but some of us, like the Predator, have evolved.
Overall, I give The Predator a C-. It entertained me a bit, but the movie’s problems prevented me from truly enjoying it.
I know when movies like The Predator are made, I, an extremely Black-conscious and feminist person, am not the viewer the director and producers have in mind. But I should be. In a world where Black Panther exists, a film that manages to be full of action and Black-conscious and feminist, there’s just no excuse for The Predator not being able to kill racism and sexism. Do better next time, Shane Black.