Way, way back in 1987 a low-budget, sci-fi film called Predator landed in theaters that both shocked and thrilled audiences while earning $100 million worldwide (back when that was still a lot of money). Twentieth Century Fox made Predator for only $15 million, cast Arnold Schwarzenegger as the protagonist (in his absolute prime), and then hired a bunch of other tough-guy character actors who gave gritty, visceral performances as hardened special forces troops — including a still-youthful Carl Weathers, a couple years removed from playing Apollo Creed in Rocky IV.
Predator worked because it was simple. A bounty hunting alien lands on Earth to collect a few skulls and runs into a group of heavily-armed commandos. Cinematic gold. This was arguably the best superhero movie of the 80s — the creature design, the special effects, and the corresponding action was easily comparable to Tim Burton’s Batman, and far better than the abysmal Superman III/IV. Predator was remarkably better than anyone could have expected.
Naturally, because this is Hollywood, a whole buncha folks tried to recapture the magic of the original (with ever-diminishing returns). Predator 2 transplanted the story from the jungle to the city sans Schwarzenegger — it barely made half the money of the original, despite a bigger budget. Fox later tried leveraging the popularity of the Alien franchise (and a popular comic book series) to create Alien vs. Predator — a great concept on paper, it was critically destroyed, but made a boatload of money; this led to an even more expensive sequel that was similarly savaged by critics, and made even less money (Hollywood logic on full display here). Finally, Fox went back to basics and produced Predators in 2010; this iteration had an intriguing cast and was shot on a shoestring budget of $40 million; the movie did OK financially, but it was met with shrugs by audiences.
Jump ahead eight or so years later, and here we go again. Fox is taking yet another shot on goal with The Predator, directed by Shane Black (Iron Man III, Lethal Weapon) and starring Thomas Jane, Keegan-Michael Key, Yvonne Strahovski, Olivia Munn, Boyd Holbrook, Sterling K. Brown, and Edward James Olmos. Not too bad, right?
So far, we don’t know a heckuva lot about The Predator, but Jane recently spoke with the Shadow Nation radio show and shared some intel:
We play these veterans from like Afghanistan or whatever, the Iraq War… But we’re all fucking crazy, right? So we go to the VA hospital to get our meds, and we’re all shellshocked, PTSD soldiers. We’re at the VA hospital and we all, in like group therapy, and of course, somebody flips out… We all get arrested and thrown onto the bus to go down to the hospital, right? Then they throw this other guy on the bus, too, and he’s a guy that they’re actually marked to kill, because he’s seen the UFO. He’s seen The Predator ship come down. So they lock him up and they throw him in with us lunatics, and they’re gonna take [the] bus and drive us down into a ditch and shoot us all, just to get rid of this one guy. But, of course, we take the bus over and we’re all ‘fuck that, man. Let’s go kill these fucking Predators ourselves.’ We’re just crazy enough to believe that this guy really did see a UFO.”
I’m not sure how much caffeine Jane consumed before that interview, but if the film’s pace matches his frenzied description this could be fun. The premise he describes doesn’t make a whole lotta sense, but it sounds similar to the plot of the Schwarzenegger version: soldiers vs. monster, which admittedly isn’t far afield from the storylines of the other Predator films, to be fair. However, this is the most noteworthy and exciting cast since the original, and Shane Black knows how to stage and shoot action (it’s also fun trivia that Black played a character in the first film too).
There are no shortage of amazing and high-profile action and sci-fi films coming out in 2018, but it would be a mistake to overlook a Shane Black directed Predator film. This could be a lot of fun, even if it does sound a wee bit derivative (what isn’t these days, right?)
The Predator hits theaters on August 3, 2018.