This continuation of the Predator series from writer-director Shane Black starts out well and then peters out. Too bad: I was in its grip for a long time.

The storyline is difficult to synopsize—and that’s putting it mildly. Suffice it to say that a towering, ugly alien has landed on Earth. A secret branch of the U.S. government is examining him when he awakens and all hell breaks loose. A maverick Army sniper (Boyd Holbrook) accidentally gets involved, along with a gun-toting biologist (Olivia Munn). Holbrook winds up being committed to a psychiatric hospital and is placed in a bus with a bunch of “loonies.” They eventually band together to save themselves and, in the process, do the right thing…especially when Holbrook’s young son (Jacob Tremblay) is singled out as a victim.

I’ve tried to strip down the narrative to its essentials, without spoilers, but the screenplay grows more complicated as it goes along. At times it’s hard to follow the players without a scorecard. The script was written by Black and Fred Dekker, whose résumé includes episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise and Tales from the Crypt. Perhaps his strength is in short-form storytelling. Pop-culture expert Black provides the “loonies” some zingy dialogue and manages to work in am irrelevant reference to Hostess Twinkies in one speech, just for the hell of it.

Formulaic as it may be, this popcorn movie hits all the right notes into it drifts into autopilot mode. Along the way I took note of Henry Jackman’s terrific action-movie score, but the good work by Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, and Sterling K. Brown is pretty much for naught, along with the cutting-edge visual effects.

Genre fans may enjoy this as a weekend time-filler, or in the future on an airplane. I regret that I devoted nearly two hours to a promising picture that wound up being so mediocre.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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June 2024