“Gentlemen, they're large, they're fast, and fucking you up is their idea of tourism.” : Traeger
Surprisingly, the Predator series has been going on now for thirty-one years. As I’ve said before, nothing ages a guy faster than realising how old some of your favourite movies actually are. (I really should stop watching the credits to the end and looking at the copyright date – it’s getting heart-breaking.)
In the run-up to the release of this latest in the franchise, I revisited the three preceding Predator movies on Blu-ray before seeing this one, it had been several years since I’d watched them. (I didn’t watch the two Alien Vs Predator movies, because I want to revisit the Alien films first. I doubt I’ve rewatched Aliens in the past ten years or so, and I’ll make myself sit, albeit reluctantly, through Alien 3 again)
In rewatching the earlier films, it struck me how great they are. Predator has so many great quotable cheesy lines along with an amazing cast. So much a product of the Schwarzenegger/Stallone/Willis action hero movies of the time. And who wouldn’t like to see Arnie go head to head against a vicious, bloodthirsty hunter/alien that’s bigger than he is in a jungle? The sequel was set a very few years in the future for some reason that adds nothing to the film, which is now in any case actually the past and has the Predator hunting in Los Angeles, decimating rival gangs and police alike. It was far, far better than I remembered it. Then there was Predators, which saw a collection of soldiers from different trouble spots of the globe dropped on an alien planet of the Predators could hunt them. It was a good idea for a script – as long as you hadn’t already seen the classic sixties sci-fi series The Outer Limits and realised Predators was practically the Fun & Games episode. The plots are virtually the same. All three films owe that episode plenty, but Predators was basically within spitting distance of plagiarism.
We’ve learned more about the hunters in each film, and so is the case here. The film was written and directed by Shane Black, one of my favourite screenwriters for humorous, quippy, fast paced dialogue. His previous credits include Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3 and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Trivia time, Black also appeared in Predator in an onscreen role as one of Schwarzenegger’s squad. Black wisely pays homage to the previous films and takes a new direction that shows us new aspects of the Predator species without revealing too much. The more we know about them, the more familiar they are and subsequently the less of a threat they become.
Black loves to set his films at holidays, usually Christmas, but this time it’s Halloween. Army Ranger snipers are about to strike at a drug deal, but a crippled Predator spaceship crashes in their midst, with the occupant of the ship attacking the squad. They incapacitate the alien, and their commander Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) removes parts of the creature’s high-tech armour, storing it in a P.O. box, but due to non-payment of the fees, it’s forwarded to his estranged family’s home. In the meantime, he’s captured by a mysterious super-secret government agency and carted off to a high security facility, meeting other inmates on the transport bus – all of them highly qualified special forces types. None of them completely sane.
In the meantime, McKenna’s autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) has opened the package containing the Predator tech and uses parts of it to make a costume for himself to go trick or treating. The incapacitated Predator isn’t as dead as was thought, and escapes from the government, giving McKenna and his new team a diversion to escape, taking along with them Dr Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn) a civilian evolutionary biologist reluctantly co-opted by the government to work on the Predator.
The Predator is tracking his stolen technology, so all of them are heading for what they think is going to be a showdown except……
There’s a larger, deadlier, uber-Predator around and he’s not only after the tech, but the predator who stole it. NOW it’s going to hit the fan, big style.
The mega predator stands around fifteen feet tall, and is an upgrade on the ones we’ve seen before. As we’ve previously seen them take skulls and spines and it has been assumed that these are trophies, it turns out that they’re actually using DNA from these “trophies” to improve themselves, from samples taken from every race and species they conquer. And they keep returning to Earth because of our global warming – they like warmth, and eventually we’ll cause our own destruction and will move right in. Possibly within a couple of generations.
Which brings me to the big two questions – where does this belong in the timeline? How does it match up in terms of quality to what went before?
Well, both Predator and Predator 2 are referenced – we know they come to Earth to hunt, and Gary Busey’s character from 2 is referenced, as his son appears in The Predator, played by Gary Busey’s son Jake. No reference to Predators, obviously as it took place off-planet other than the predator hunting dogs introduced in that film are back. In terms of quality, I’d say the table stands like this: 1) Predator (1987) 2) The Predator, 3) Predator 2 and bringing up the rear at 4) Predators. The first film, I think is always going to be the best. Predators is by no means a bad movie, but as I’ve said, leaned too much toward Fun & Games.
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