Fox has (finally) unveiled a first look at The Predator, and the results aren't promising. The big-screen return of the extra-terrestrial hunter after eight years, Shane Black's soft-reboot has been one of 2018's most anticipated films, but it looks like all the hype may be for naught.
Even before seeing a lick of footage, The Predator's had a tricky journey to the screen. It's been in development since 2014, with its release date shunted around Fox's 2018 slate four times, and recently underwent major reshoots that - per Black himself - redid much of the third act. However, even after mixed responses from the footage at CinemaCon, hopes were high that the writer-director would be able to reenergize the franchise, possibly reimagining to a level comparable to what Ridley Scott's done recently with Alien.
If he has, it's not in the trailer, which finally dropped after months of speculation without much ceremony today (to coincide with the release of Fox' Deadpool 2 next week). To call it disappointing is an understatement. It's a deflating experience to watch; a generic, poorly-lit grab-bag of disconnected shots and rushed through shots that wastes its money shot in the middle and whose choice "badass" moments flop. The teaser is weaker than the insipid marketing campaign for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Heck, it's less promising than Venom's Venom-less first look - at least that had a tonal throughline.
The Predator Is Falling Into A Common (And Dangerous) Marketing Pitfall
In many ways, The Predator's trailer problem is representative of bigger issues with how smaller tentpoles are handled by the studios. Whereas you can start promoting a film the scale of Avengers: Infinity War almost a year in advance (the first footage played at D23 and a poster was released at SDCC, both in July 2017), it's harder to maintain for other pictures that don't have such momentum.
Indeed, Fox is employing a similar tactic with The Predator to what Lucasfilm did with Solo: A Star Wars Story, holding any real marketing back until the last moment (Solo's teaser released after the Super Bowl, under four months before release, while Predator is five months out now). However, neither studio made consolations for those timing shifts: the first trailers were stripped back, as if there was a longer marketing push to come. This may be why hype for Solo is yet to really kick off - that first look got a muted response, with the verve of the movie only emerging in recent TV spots - and The Predator suffers similarly from a restrained approach.
There's also parallels to Fox's handling of Fantastic Four and Sony's with The Dark Tower: a heavily-delayed first look that comes almost as an obligation. Both films were, famously, butchered by reshoots and reedits - something we know has happened (albeit without context) on The Predator - and so were sold with the studio knowing they had a dud on their hands. We can't draw qualitative conclusions from a trailer, but in whatever way The Predator is misreading the room and inviting unfavorable comparisons.
What Does The Predator Trailer Actually Sell?
So, yes, bad trailer doesn't mean bad movie. But laying down all the editing and contextual concerns, The Predator just doesn't seem to incite much excitement regardless.
Its big play is the method by which the Predator is brought to Earth: Jacob Tremblay's character gets a Predator helmet sent in the mail and while playing with it finds a control module that crashes a ship. That's a weird-near-dumb turn as presented. Immediately, we're left asking a lot of basic questions - who sent it? why? how does the physics of that work? - that, while they'll no doubt be answered by the film, here leave a lot wanting. It's tonally jarring with the rest of the trailer and comes across as ill-advised.
Weirder is the handling of fitting innovation. The movie's "sell" would appear to be that the Yautja are now turning themselves into galactic species hybrids, going from planet-to-planet to perfect their hunting methods. It's fitting of the idea of the apex hunter and slots effortlessly into the canon as it's been expanded since (especially 2010's Predators), but - just like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom's "T-Rex roaring in front of the volcano" money shot - is utterly wasted in the trailer, skipped over in favor of more attacks in the dark.
The movie Fox is selling is both a stripped-back extension of what we've seen before - Predator but in the suburbs - and franchise evolution, but the result lacks the character or genius required to get interest.
None of this is to say The Predator being bad is a sure-fire certainty. If Iron Man 3 taught us anything, it's to never trust a Shane Black trailer, after all. However, the film's beginning to have more stacked against it than a group of marines in the jungle. When September comes around, don't be surprised if the underrated Predators is getting a serious reappraisal.
- The Predator (2018) release date: Sep 14, 2018