Film discussion

2018 Movie Preview – The Predator

Ah, to hear the gentle rustle of fern leaves and feel the warm breeze of an armed alien assassin breathing down your neck. Winter has barely begun to tighten its grip around the holiday-season movie schedules, and already the staff at STT Towers are looking forward to next Summer and the stealthy reveal of The Predator. The eponymous Yautja was due to arrive in March, but a Lightspeed Replacement Bus Service is planned for the duration of 2018, pushing the release back until August. What can one do?

At the wheel of this galactic charabanc is one Shane Black, directing and co-writing a story which is reportedly set after the events of 1990’s Predator 2, but before the Adrien Brody sci-fi survival-horror which was 2010’s Predators (and raise your hand if that descriptor still feels as odd to you as it does to us). Buoyed up from his recent successful trips in the company of Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys, Black will undoubtedly bring a sharp and witty urgency to the proceedings, and he also has a bonus card to play in that he appeared alongside our Arnie as Rick Hawkins in the first Predator outing.

Although given that Shane’s creative input to that film was channelled through performance rather than directing or writing, the ‘familial’ connection is probably best regarded as coincidental rather than organic. After all, one would be hard-pushed to sing the praises of Alien vs. Predator simply because Lance Henriksen pseudo-reprised his role from the iconic Aliens

Speaking of such matters, both Paul W.S. Anderson’s 2004 crossover and its far lesser 2007 sequel are now both resigned to the continuity-cupboard marked ‘nice try, buddy‘. It’s also notable that this wasn’t a decision taken by Black, but rather Mr. Ridley Scott. The latter’s Alien Covenant film from earlier this year is fairly explicit in its statement that The Alien Creature™ was a result of genetic engineering carried out by the synthetic David 8, sometime after 2104.

With this simple flick of the screenplay, any previous reference to the aeons-old history between the xenomorphs and the Yautja was rendered effectively void. More disconcertingly, while the ‘loss’ of the AVP movies may not have resulted in too many sleepless nights, this cinematic severing does leave a curious plot-hole at the end of the 1990s-set Predator 2, and the now-unexplained xeno trophy-skull adorning the wall of the subterranean spacecraft. We await that particular retcon with bated breath…

But let us not stray from the point, we are excited for The Predator. Okay, excited and intrigued. We are very intrigued. Black is co-writing with Fred Dekker (of House, The Monster Squad and Tales From The Crypt fame, so creepy-boxes are firmly ticked there), and is offering up a capable cast with Olivia Munn, Boyd Holbrook, Keegan-Michael Key and the young Jacob Tremblay (who was outstanding in 2016’s Room and will be hard pushed to ever top that).

Tonally, we’re less sure of what to expect from The Predator. The temptation for franchise-entries is to go bigger and better, but at the start of the year the director hinted at a more ‘intimate’, ’mysterious’ piece, on the scale of the original film (although the cut we remember of the original could perhaps be more accurately described as ‘sweltering and claustrophobic’). Yet by the same token, Black makes reference to The Predator becoming an ‘event’ movie taking place the present-day. 20th Century Fox’s CEO later referred to a story set “in suburbia. There’s a little boy and his dad at the center of the action”. All of which is fine, but the project begins to sound like more like Jurassic Park than Under The Skin

Then again, who are we to judge (especially as we haven’t seen the film yet)? While Fox’s Alien series has always had a more cerebral edge to its horror, 1987’s Predator succeeded by being the right throwaway sci-fi actioner at the right time, becoming more than the sum of its parts after the credits rolled. The sequel’s move into the city three years later was equally enjoyable, even more trashy and all the better for that. Nimród Antal’s return to the jungle two decades later had much to offer, but the wisecracking heroes and gleeful gunfire seemed in far shorter supply.

If there’s one lesson franchise-cinema has taught us, it’s that fun should come before world-building. And if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that Shane Black knows how to have fun. Hype and expectation for The Predator are already a given; the more audiences are told how important the film will be, the more it has to lose. In the meanwhile, the Set The Tape will be politely queuing in the foyer, clipboards at the ready.

So in your own time, Shane. No pressure…

Are you excited to see The Predator? Let us know!

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