“This is the franchise you loved, 30 years later. These are the consequences of what has happened. This is what has been going on in the last three decades. They’re badder and bigger – they’ve evolved. It ain’t your daddy’s Predator.”
30 years after the first Predator movie was released in 1987, the hunt comes home in Shane Black’s explosive reinvention of the Predator series.
Shane Black directs an extraordinary cast from the script he penned with Fred Dekker. It is the fourth installment in the Predator film series (the sixth counting the two Alien vs. Predator films), following Predator (1987), Predator 2 (1990) and Predators (2010).
In The Predator the universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before. And only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and an evolutionary biology professor can prevent the end of the human race.
In addition to writing a slate of sensational movies, including Lethal Weapon, and directing films such as Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Shane Black is also an actor, perhaps best known for the role of Hawkins in Predator, the 1987 classic directed by John McTiernan.
But, says Black, “The Predator in this film is the deadliest and scariest one yet.”
“Thirty years later, it’s the same Predator, but over time the Predator has upgraded himself,” says Producer John Davis. “This is not a reinvention and not a redo. This is the franchise you loved, 30 years later. These are the consequences of what has happened. This is what has been going on in the last three decades. They’re badder and bigger – they’ve evolved. It ain’t your daddy’s Predator.”
Davis says, “I think this is one of those franchises that people love, and have loved through the ages. The very first Predator still has a huge worldwide audience, and sells around the globe on cable and streaming services. It’s hard to believe that 30 years later, this movie continues to captivate generation after generation.”
Black says the biggest homage he could pay to the original was getting the right actors that had the same kind of camaraderie that the characters in Predator had. Boyd Holbrook stars as Quinn McKenna, a mercenary who finds himself leading a ragtag team of veterans to go up against the lethal alien. Black says, “They’re the forgotten soldiers, misfits. They’re all broken. For one reason or another, they were all deemed untrustworthy and unacceptable because they got fractured, something broke. But somehow, they found each other. They aren’t a crack team of soldiers. It takes these guys a bit of effort to be good, but there’s still a spark waiting to be ignited. There’s an unquenchable spirit that is flickering, and this is their opportunity to come to life and support each other and go up against the monster. They are the least likely people you would ever choose for this, except that they’re really tough when the chips are down. They have spirit, they have spunk, and they have an unquenchable loyalty to each other.”
“When you think about it, a group of misfits save the world,” says Davis. “Maybe they’re too crazy to be afraid when they should be.”
John Davis, who produced the original and all subsequent films in the franchise, recalls what first drew him to the Predator, more than 30 years ago.
“It was the idea of the hunter. It was the idea of this creature from another planet that hunted the greatest game and would go from planet-to-planet for that sport, and the American Commando and group of guys in the jungle that represented that. And in the end, he was outsmarted and defeated, so even though the Predator had great brawn and weaponry, there was an ingenuity and a desire to survive in man that made it a fair fight.”
Shane Black had just written Lethal Weapon, and Davis and his fellow producers hoped he would work on the Predator script.
Davis recalls, “We thought we would bring him in, give him a part, and once we got him to Mexico we would get him to do a little bit of work. But he said “no, you hired me as an actor, that’s what I’m going to do.” So, when that became clear to all of us, we said all right, he’s the first killed, so he didn’t last very long,” quips Davis. Black notes, “I completely blew it off. I was kind of – what’s the word? – a jerk, actually. But all in good fun. I didn’t think they needed a rewrite.”
Davis says, “So it’s ironic that he’s come back to write and direct this because he has had a tremendous and long history with this. I think he’s a brilliant director, he’s got a wicked sense of humor and he has an amazing way of observing. I think that’s why this script was so great and why this movie is so great.”
The Yautja, the terrifying on-screen alien known as the Predator that was first introduced in the 1987 film, was originally created by special effects make up guru Stan Winston, the mastermind behind such iconic movie creatures as Aliens and Terminator.
Screenwriter Fred Dekker says, “I think the Predator is one of the most iconic creatures in cinema because the design is so elegant and, like all the great monster designs, it immediately targets our subconscious. We look at this creature and we see some mirror image of ourselves but in a dark, scary, primal kind of way and that’s hard to do.”
Davis says, “That look, humanoid to some extent and alien to another, was just shocking. It was scary and interesting. There wasn’t anything about it that was corny and I think that’s the hardest thing to do when you create an alien creature from another planet.”
“The Predator is the ultimate hunter,” says Davis. “He is overwhelming. He has the ability to move incredibly gracefully but fast, the ability to span large distances with a jump, the ability to cloak and hide, the ability to spring out, like a tiger or a lion: pure, raw strength – and the cunning of a great, great hunter. It’s that cunning: the Predator knows how to follow its prey, how to lure it, how to attack when it has the greatest advantage, and how to access the weakness of its prey.”
“It’s special because there’s a mask that’s freaking cool, and then you take off the mask and it’s even cooler,” says Black. “It’s a creature that we recognize, that walks like us, understands us, has the same kinds of primitive impulses as a human being but it’s clearly not from here. The ability of a guy to look at the Predator in the face and actually relate to it is what’s interesting. I think it has the capability of being an actual character.”
As for the look of the Predator, Black says, “I think it’s always important to find the coolest variant without violating the basic principal that made the first one popular. I didn’t want to go too far because I want it to be nostalgic for the first movie. What was so great about the original Predator was that human quality which, as deadly as it was, it wasn’t just a wild animal, it had an intelligence and a cunning and it could look at you and see what you’re afraid of and see how to stop and catch you.”
The Predator characters in this film are a combination of both practical in-camera as well as CG effects. While the more familiar, initial Predator character is played by a very tall actor in costume, the Upgraded Predator is CG. Black says, “We wanted to do a seamless meld of special and visual effects. Taking the Predator to the next level of deadliness required a degree of CG, in the best way.”
When Black came on board, one of the conditions he insisted on was that The Predator needed to have a bigger budget, be bigger in scale and scope, with more action and characters that were more engaging than in an average monster movie, “While never forgetting realism, or that we had an R rating. So heads come off. These Predators slice and dice, as well. We had free rein to make a real, old school adventure film that sums up for us all the genre tropes that we’ve grown to love, but make it bigger. It’s a very complex and tasty stew, it’s not simple. It’s not chicken noodle soup. It’s like a bouillabaisse.”
“A Predator can take out the side of a mountain, yet they always seem to want to play fair,” says Black. “They always want to find an opponent worthy of their skill, because otherwise, they can leap, they can jump, they climb trees, they can become invisible, they have a cloaking mechanism which allows them the perfect camouflage of blending into any environment. You never know they’re there until you see the wall and it seems like it’s a little bit alive, or the tree that seems like it’s moving – then they’re on you. They are perfect ninjas in a way, with their weapons, skills and physical ability. They have to find someone worthy and they seek out the most devastatingly powerful opponents.”
“To stay true to its roots, a Predator movie needs to be scary,” says Dekker. “It needs to have the menace of a hunt occurring throughout the film. There is going to be a certain amount of bloodshed, there will be some viscera and goo as well, it needs to be scary. Those are the things we’ve pushed for. But I think any movie needs to have a humanity. You need to care about the characters or it doesn’t matter what the story is. And that was the first flag we planted.”
Dekker says, “Shane felt an affection for it and wanted to do something that serviced the idea and mythology in way we hadn’t seen since the first movie. The actual Predator in the original is one of the great movie monsters of all time. We very much wanted to pay tribute and homage to the first two films. And we reference the first two for the chronology and story. But we wanted to expand the mythology, so everything that’s in those films still happened, but there’s a bigger picture and a bigger puzzle that we’re trying to open.”
Shane Black first made his mark as a screenwriter with his action film script Lethal Weapon. Not only did Black’s storytelling redefine the buddy movie genre and set a new standard for action comedies, but it also launched one of the most successful movie franchises in film history.
With his tongue-in-cheek sensibility, Black immediately became known as a writer who could create memorable and complex characters not normally associated with the action genre. He next wrote the screenplay for The Last Boy Scout, followed with The Long Kiss Goodnight.
In 2005, he again displayed his distinct cinematic voice with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, which he not only wrote but directed, a film-noir-esque action comedy. The successful collaboration with Downey Jr. brought them back together for Iron Man 3, which Black co-wrote and directed.
In 2016, he reteamed with producer Joel Silver to direct the 70s buddy action/comedy The Nice Guys, which he also co-wrote.
Black currently has a number of other projects in development, including Doc Savage and the dramatic thriller Cold Warrior.
Fred Dekker (Screenplay) is probably best known for writing and directing the cult horror films Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad (co-written with Shane Black). He also directed RoboCop 3 (co-written with Frank Miller).
Dekker conceived the story for the cult horror film House, which spawned three sequels, and the Warner Bros. thriller Ricochet.
In addition to writing and directing episodes of HBO’s “Tales From The Crypt” (including penning the first episode, directed by Robert Zemeckis), he was a writer and Consulting Producer on the Paramount television series “Star Trek: Enterprise.”
Dekker has written scripts for Universal, Warner Bros, Sony, Paramount, TriStar, TNT, and 20th Century-Fox and his work has been honored by the Count Dracula Society, the Saturn Awards, and the Brussels International Film Festival of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.
In 2016, he was the first recipient of the Bruce Campbell Film Festival’s “Groovy As Hell” award, which takes the form of an engraved, bloody chainsaw.
Prior to writing The Predator with Shane Black, the two wrote and executive produced the western pilot, “Edge,” for Amazon Studios, and are currently working on a television re-imagining of the classic British spy series, “The Avengers,” as well as a feature version of The Destroyer, based on the long-running adventure novels by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir.