One Ugly Mother… A Predator Retrospective

The Predator franchise may not have as many movies (5) as other film franchises, but it’s been successful at the box office and has branched out into novels, comics, and even video games. And, though it’s been 8 years since the last film, the franchise still has its avid fans. So, with the anticipation building for the 6th film in the series due out September 14, let’s take a few minutes to look back at the previous 5 films.

Predator (1987)

The original Predator opened in June 1987 and was one of a string of action movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was at the height of his success during the 1980s and 90s. Predator is often considered to be one of his best action films, with only a film like Terminator 2: Judgement Day above it. Combining action, science fiction, and horror, the film stars the former Mr. Universe as Major “Dutch” Schaffer, the leader of an elite group of soldiers sent by the CIA on a rescue mission into a Central American jungle. Things go awry, and the soldiers realize they need rescue themselves. They’re being hunted by a creature from outer space who is looking to add to its collection of trophies – think human skulls and spines. How many of them will survive before the chopper can arrive to rescue them? The film was taut and exciting – there’s not a wasted shot in it. Much like the shark in Jaws, the Predator is revealed gradually, until the climactic mano-a-mano battle between Dutch and the creature and we see it in all its horrific magnificence. The Predator still ranks as one of the all-time great science fiction/horror movie monsters, right up there with the xenomorph from Alien, and, in fact, the two would end up in a couple of films together – more on that later. The movie has a lot of fun early with the over-the-top macho attitudes of the soldiers, going out of their way to sound as tough and crude as possible. Watching Jesse Ventura and Bill Duke ham it up is a lot of fun. But their attitudes change once the Predator starts coming after them. The actor who played the Predator, by the way, was played by 6-foot 9-inch, Kevin Peter Hall.

The film was directed by John McTiernan, who would go on to direct a little action movie you might have heard of, called Die Hard, and was written by Jim and John Thomas. The Predator creature was designed by famed special effects artist Stan Winston, who did work on Aliens and The Terminator to name a few movies. One other interesting fact: the actor who played Hawkins, the first soldier to get offed by the Predator, was Shane Black, who has gone on to have a successful career as a screenwriter and director, and who, in fact, is director and co-writer of The Predator, coming out in September. What goes around, comes around, I guess.

Predator 2 (1990)

Of course, the success of Predator led to Predator 2, written by the same writing team as the first movie, Jim and John Thomas. Stephen Hopkins took over directing duties. The film is set 10 years after the events of the first film, i.e., 1997. Instead of the jungles of Central America, the Predator is hunting in the not-so-distant future version of Los Angeles where a wild – and I mean wild – drug war is going on between rival gangs. Danny Glover, fresh off his role of Roger Murtaugh in the first two Lethal Weapon movies (coincidentally, the franchise was started by Shane Black, who wrote screenplay for the first movie and the story for the second), plays Lieutenant Mike Harrigan, a cop who, with the help of a mysterious group of government scientists, figures out that a series of brutal murders (including the murder of two of his police team) is not a result of the drug wars, but were committed by a hunter from outer space. Predator 2 is, admittedly, way over the top early in the film. The movie is not as tight and focused, or as suspenseful and scary as the original. But it has a lot of energy, giving it a different feel from the first movie, you’ll have a lot of fun watching it. And the climactic face-off between Glover’s character and the Predator, while not the macho one-on-one between Schwarzenegger and the Predator in the original, is still exciting. Glover is great – he’s a totally different kind of action hero than Schwarzenegger, tough, but more vulnerable. And, though his character was killed in the first movie, Kevin Peter played the Predator for the second and last time.

We also learn that there are a lot more Predators out there than the two from the first films. Also, if you look closely in the Predator trophy case you see a nice little Easter egg – a xenomorph skull – which is also a nod to the Dark Horse comic book series. Still, even though Predator 2 performed decently internationally (earning a little over half as much as the first one), it would be 14 years before a Predator would show up on screen again.

AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)

In the great tradition of films like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) and, more recently, Freddy vs. Jason (2003), 20th Century Fox decided to have its two most recognizable movie monsters face off, and the two Alien vs. Predator movies were the result.

In AVP: Alien vs. Predator, released in summer, 2004, a team of scientists are sent to the Antarctic to investigate what looks like a pyramid under the ice. Could it be an important historical find? It turns out to be a place where Predators have been breeding creatures for their hunting pleasure, and the creatures turn out to be the xenomorphs from the Alien franchise. A blunder by the team leads to the release of the aliens. When the Predators show up and find their creations are loose, a major battle ensues, with the scientists caught in the middle. As you can imagine, things don’t go too well for them. The first time a Predator and alien battle each other, it was exhilarating and fun to watch. The movie doesn’t have the star quality of the first two Predator films, but it does feature the great B-movie actor Lance Henricksen as Charles Bishop Weyland, the guy behind the expedition (and, yes, he played the cyborg, Bishop, in Aliens, and Weyland is the company in the Alien movies, so there is a connection. And, following in the tradition of a strong female lead (Sigourney Weaver, especially in the first two Alien movies), we have Sanaa Lathan. She eventually bonds, warrior-to-warrior, with the final Predator left alive. And while their final battle against the alien queen might not be as memorable as the climactic one between Ripley (Weaver) and that other alien queen in Aliens, it is still a great nod to have in a film like this.

As the ending of AVP: Aliens vs. Predator indicates, the aliens aren’t done yet. Alien vs. Predator: Requiem begins shortly after the previous film ended and follows the same idea of a group of people caught in the middle of a battle between Predators and aliens, only this time it’s on earth in a small Colorado town. As soon as two facehuggers attach themselves to a man and his son while they’re out hunting, it’s not too long before more grow and begin to infest the town and attack the townspeople. When a Predator arrives to hunt and destroy the aliens, the people, led by the town sheriff, a female soldier just returned from fighting in Iraq, and the guy who used to be the town delinquent when he was a teen, figure they’ve got to figure something out themselves if they’re going to survive. Unfortunately, things don’t go well for the town, when the army decides the best way to stop what’s happening (and to keep things quiet) is to drop a bomb, destroying both the aliens and Predator and killing most of the townspeople as well. A few people do get away, only to be captured by soldiers. Is this good or bad? We don’t know, as their ultimate fate is left unknown, making for one of the darker endings of the franchise.

Requiem is not as entertaining as the previous Alien vs. Predator movie, but it does feature one more pretty epic battle between Predator and an alien queen before the bomb ends it for everyone. And each of these films bested Predator in the international box office. Even taking into account for inflation between 1987 and 2007 (when Requiem was released), they both did extremely well.

Predators (2010)

Predators went back to the franchise’s roots, as established in the original Predator. This film opens with Royce, a tough mercenary, waking up to find himself in freefall. He manages to get his parachute open, survives the fall into a tropical jungle setting, and, soon, finds people like him who arrived in the same way. It takes a while, but they figure out that they’re not on Earth; they’re in an interplanetary game reserve, populated by creatures from other planets so the Predators can hone their hunting skills. And they are the latest game to be added. What makes this “game” unique: they are each a type of predator themselves, including a cold-hearted mercenary, an Israel Defense Force sniper, drug cartel enforcer, a serial killer, Revolutionary United Front officer, a Russian soldier, a Yakuza enforcer, and a Most Wanted criminal who had been on death row. They soon learn they have to band together to have a chance to survive. Predators also introduced the idea of a hierarchy among the Predators; there’s even a feud going on between larger and smaller Predators (the smaller ones look like the Predator we’re familiar with from previous films; the larger ones have their own unique look and design).

The film doesn’t match the tight suspense of the first Predator film; of course, it helped that we didn’t know who or what the Predator was back then. But the movie boasts tons of action and features a top-notch cast, including Adrian Brody, Alice Braga, Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace, Walton Goggins, Mahershala Ali, and the great Danny Trejo, and they all look like they’re having fun. Predators even references and pays homage to two scenes from the original film. The first is the great scene where Billy, one of only four survivors left (and played by former Hollywood tough guy Sonny Landham) who prepares to face off against with the Predator, knowing he will probably die. The movie even uses the same background music as before to set up the scene. But, unlike in the first film, we get to see the battle this time, and it’s a doozy, especially if you enjoy good sword fights.

The movie also plays up the nostalgia for that climactic battle between Scharzenegger’s Dutch and the Predator. Brody even does it shirtless and covered in mud, and while he’s no Arnold, he gives it his all.

Like its predecessors, Predators did well worldwide. But it’s been about 8 years before the new The Predator is ready for release.

What’s Next?

Anticipation among fans is high for The Predator, due for release on September 14, 2018. Director Shane Black, who, as was mentioned earlier, played a character in the first film, and has since become a highly respected director and writer, with Lethal Weapon and Iron Man 3 among his many screenwriting and directing credits, has clarified that this is not a reboot, but a continuation of the Predator story set 30 years later. Talk is there will also be a new, genetically improved Predator in the mix.

Are you excited to see a new Predator film in movie theaters? Let us know in the comments below. 



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