The intergalactic hunter combats a misfit group of soldiers in The Predator. While on mission, sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) encounters a Predator, which crash lands in the area and kills off his entire unit. Taken into custody, Quinn is placed in a prison bus with fellow “loonies” Nebraska Williams (Trevante Rhodes), Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), Baxley (Thomas Jane), Lynch (Alfie Allen), and Nettles (Augusto Aguilera). When the captured Predator attacks a government facility headed by Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), Quinn and this new team escape and team up with biologist Dr. Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn). Together, they set out to save Quinn’s autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who has intercepted Predator technology Quinn had sent home.
From writer/director Shane Black (Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys) comes the fourth film in the Predator series (sixth if you count the two Alien vs. Predator films). Black, who had an acting role in the original 1987 film, re-teams with Monster Squad co-writer Fred Dekker to make a new sequel that is quite heavy on the action and the comedy, while also featuring the extreme violence that the Predator series has become known for.
Like it or not, you have to admit that the Predator series has always been the ugly stepbrother of sorts to the Alien franchise, with there being breaks of a decade or more before an ambitious filmmaker tries to make a new entry. I actually have to admit that I liked the Robert Rodriguez produced Predators from 2010, which is actually much closer in spirit to the 1987 original than this new film by Shane Black, which focuses a lot more on high action and wisecracking jokes.
However, the element of The Predator that I have the biggest issue with is Shane Black’s use of Asperger’s as a plot device, which is understandable given that I am a person on the spectrum. Jacob Tremblay’s Rory is introduced as somewhat with extreme sensory issues and the victim of some pretty nasty bullying. However, Rory is also characterized as a savant, who is able to decipher the Predator’s technology and it is even suggested at one point by Casey Bracket that people on the spectrum are actually “the next step in human evolution.” It has been 30 years since Rain Man and I really wish that filmmakers would move past the stereotype that people on the spectrum are secret geniuses underneath all the social difficulty. In fact, I just wish one day to see a film that features someone on the spectrum and that they are just treated as another people, with their condition having no factor at all to the plot.
While The Predator is probably a fine film for what it is, the way it trivializes Asperger’s and uses it as a plot device drops the film a level for me.