Director Shane Black describes The Predator as a sequel, not a reboot – a leaner and meaner entry in the 30-year-old franchise that features a new breed of alien hunters, an unconventional bunch of hunted humans, and a couple of nasty surprises.
The dreadlocked alien hunter is one of cinema’s coolest and most iconic monsters, so when it came to bringing the Predator back to the screen, Shane Black wasn’t about to mess with the established design.
“I think it’s always important to find the coolest variant without violating the basic principal that made the first one popular,” says Black. “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.”
Co-writer Fred Dekker adds that Black’s affection for the creature led to a script that serviced the Predator mythology, while at the same time offering a point of difference from the other films.
“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.”
Whether you want to call it a Mega-Predator or a Super-Predator, this upgraded version is the ideal genetic warrior – augmented with the best elements from a variety of alien races.
“If the Predator was to be an amalgam of, not just an ordinary predator, but also a collection of traits garnered from the various most powerful species that they’ve hunted, then you basically would have one that is stronger, faster, and smarter,” Black told Entertainment Weekly.
“We finally got an image that we liked, which captures this very canny, very cunning, and effortlessly powerful, savage predator. One of the only quibbles that I’ve had with some of the past Predators is that, if you’re not careful, it can look like a guy in a football suit; a big, bulky guy just stomping around.
I wanted a more graceful, light and athletic quality, literally like a predator. If you watch a cheetah, it’s not clunky.”
The Predator was shot under the production codename “Ollie”, after Black’s Pit Bull terrier. But that’s not the only canine connection. A hunter needs hounds to help track down prey, and while horned Predator dogs previously appeared in Predators (2010), the new film features a different breed.
“The Upgrade Predator utilises hunting dogs, which are almost like classic big dogs that have their own personality,” explains VFX supervisor Matt Sloan. “We’ll get to see the Predator interacting with another creature – almost fondly. It gives the Predator another dimension. The dogs are big and horribly ugly, but they’re cute in their own little Predator dog way.”
Every Predator film requires the hunted to become the hunter. In the past, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny Glover and Adrien Brody have bested the aliens, but in The Predator, it’s a matter of safety in numbers.
The primary human protagonist is Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), a retired Special Forces army ranger turned mercenary. “When we first meet Quinn, he doesn’t really have much to live for. He’s estranged from his wife and son, and he’s on a tear,” explains Holbrook. “He’s on a mercenary job in Mexico when a Predator spaceship crash-lands. He gets exposed to a cover up in Mexico, and he ends up trying to get this device that he’s found back to his address in the States. He needs proof – no one’s going to believe him.”
One person that believes McKenna is evolutionary biologist Dr. Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn). “She has been on the CIA and government’s list of top people to go to if there is ever contact with other intelligent life forms. So this is something she’s been waiting for her entire life, not knowing if it’s ever going to happen,” says Munn.
The real heroes of The Predator, however, are a bunch of misfits affectionately known as the “Loonies” – comprising Williams (Trevante Rhodes), Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), Baxley (Thomas Jane), Lynch (Alfie Allen) and Nettles (Augusto Aguilera). This group of military veterans, who suffer from PTSD, join the fight against the Predator after meeting Quinn McKenna on a prison bus.
“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,” explains Black.
“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.”