Laurence Fishburne disguised as a Predator isn’t even the coolest thing about this film.
This year’s Shane Black-directed The Predator will bring the Yautja clan back to the big screen for the first time in eight years, with the direct sequel to the original two films promising everything from “Predator Hounds” to multiple different Predators, some of which have been freshly upgraded. New concepts? Not exactly, as they were all present in 2010’s Predators.
If we didn’t respect it back then, it’s time we do now.
At the time it was released, director Nimród Antal‘s Robert Rodriguez-produced Predators was the franchise’s first solo film since 1990’s Predator 2, coming in the wake of spinoff mashups Alien vs. Predator and AvP: Requiem. Presented as a sequel to the original classic while never addressing the events of Predator 2, Antal’s film was essentially designed to be the Aliens to the 1987 film’s Alien, not just pluralizing the title but also delivering on it by unleashing multiple different beasts for a sequel both familiar and entirely new.
The action begins with immediacy when we meet Adrien Brody‘s Royce, a mercenary who is violently free falling from the sky at the start of the film. Soon, several other unsavory types (along with a seemingly out of place doctor) parachute from the skies as well, all of them into a very familiar looking jungle. But unlike the characters in Predator, Royce and company have no idea how they got there, several of them only recalling a flash of light before waking up in free fall. And this particular jungle, well, it’s not of this Earth.
The highly intriguing premise of Predators, one that wonderfully crystallizes the Yautja mythology, is that the human characters have been intentionally brought to what turns out to be a planet far beyond the reaches of Earth, which the titular monsters have turned into their own hunting grounds. This alien game preserve is where the beasts test their skills, hunting not only humans but also creatures from other planets; at one point, we see one of these alien creatures, its design based on the original design of the Predator.
As it’s explained to us by Laurence Fishburne‘s Nolan, the sole survivor of a testing group who’s been hiding out on the planet for some time, the Predators evolve their skills and weaponry as they hunt and dispatch both humans and aliens alike in this controlled environment, becoming better, faster and stronger. After all, they’re not about to be defeated again the next time they head back to Earth, or whatever other planet they choose to infiltrate.
Fishburne’s Nolan also explains that there’s a “blood feud” between the different Predators, with the original, classic Predators and the upgraded beasts not quite getting along. Again, this is another idea that seems to be at the forefront of Shane Black’s The Predator, but it was Predators that first opened up the film’s universe with these interesting concepts. We’re also introduced to dog-like Predator creatures for the first time in Antal’s film, which are used to flush out prey in the same way that hunters use dogs to trail and wound game.
This film’s title is of course primarily referring to the iconic creatures we first met back in 1987, and there are several of them in Predators (most are upgraded, with one sympathetic “classic” in the mix), but one of the more interesting aspects of the franchise’s third solo installment is that the humans at the center of the story are predators in their own right. Essentially, it’s the predators of our world versus the predators of an alien world, with each character chosen due to their predatory nature. From Danny Trejo‘s Cuchillo, an enforcer for a Mexican drug cartel, to Walton Goggins‘ Stans, a death row inmate who was due to be executed in a couple days, the humans may be the heroes of this story but they’d actually be the villains of pretty much any story being told on Earth. The first two Predator films saw the beasts squaring off against macho tough guys seemingly by accident, but Predators really makes it clear what they’re all about by depicting them as hunters that want to conquer the toughest of all worlds.
Best of all, Predators is *loaded* with Predator action, mostly ditching the first two films’ reliance on the beasts’ invisibility cloaking abilities and instead showcasing them in all their glory. Predator 2 was the first time we had (briefly) seen more than one Predator on screen, but Predators went Predator crazy, unleashing four unique creatures and placing them into all kinds of fun situations. At one point, a Predator squares off in a traditional samurai battle with a sword-wielding member of the Yakuza, while another notable action sequence pits the upgraded “Berserker” Predator up against the classic beast. In one of the coolest moments from the entire franchise, the one Predator beheads the other, its bright green blood spilling all over its body.
The final battle goes full-on Predator ’87, with Adrien Brody taking off his shirt, covering his body in mud, and bringing the fight to the Berserker. Granted, Brody is certainly no Schwarzenegger, but his brutal final fight with the beast is pretty badass all the same. It ends with Brody beheading Berserker with an axe, echoing its own kill of the classic Predator.
Evoking the feel of the original film while introducing new ideas and opening up the world in a multitude of interesting ways, Predators was a damn fine return for the franchise back in 2010, a highly entertaining action-horror movie that left so much room for exciting expansions and possibilities. Sadly, despite Predators turning a profit at the box office, promised sequels never ended up happening, and The Predator looks to reinvent the franchise once more by disregarding everything past the second film. In other words, Predators is no longer part of the franchise’s current iteration as of this year, despite seemingly inspiring many ideas present in the new film. And that’s a shame, because it made the franchise respectable again.
On the road to The Predator, a rewatch of Predators comes highly recommended.