The aliens shouldn’t be the most interesting part.

The Predator, writer-director Shane Black’s first foray into the classic sci-fi series, opens in wide release this week. A slick mix of Shane Black’s signature dialogue and big sci-fi action make for a fun entry in the franchise that still feels a little held back.

Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is an army sniper on a mission in Mexico when a predator’s spaceship crashes nearby. Quinn manages to subdue one predator and mails some of his gear to his family home. He is apprehended soon by a mysterious government agency headed by Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) who wants to discredit Quinn’s story.

Will’s team throws Quinn on a bus with a bunch of crazy former soldiers including Nebraska Williams (Trevante Rhodes), a suicidal ex-Marine and Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), a former soldier who won’t stop cracking dirty jokes.

As the crazy soldiers are being bussed out to parts unknown, Will enlists the help Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), a biologist who he wants to help study the sedated predator. While investigating the predator, it springs to life and escapes the facility, killing most of the researchers.

The bus full of crazy soldiers rescue Casey from the fracas and set off to find Quinn’s son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) whom they believe the predator is hunting in order to recover the equipment Quinn sent to him.

The Predator has so much good to it that it’s a shame it doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts. Each character is dynamic and given dozens of great Shane Black-crafted one-liners to fill each scene with hilarious verve, that it’s all the more frustrating when it starts to retreat into science fiction tropes.

What is on one layer, a throwback ‘80s action film where badass characters’ tongues are even more lethal than their weapons, is on another layer the rote CG-dripping sci-fi fake action that has been tearing through screens since Iron Man took flight.

It’s ironic too, because Black didn’t seem to be as hamstrung by that when he did his own entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man 3, but here seems to retreat more into semi-animated action set pieces at the expense of character than he previously had.

To create so many interesting characters so quickly and then constantly move them to the background is something of a waste here, but not completely because there is still enough of what that movie could have been – a character-driven snarkfest (Nice Guys fighting aliens) – remaining to make it good solid fun.

But we could have had so much more with just a little less.