Despite its fall from grace, there’s hardly an action/horror movie franchise as iconic as the Predator series. For some reason, filmmakers seem to have a hard time bringing the story of an intergalactic hunter to the big screen: only a tiny fraction of the movies featuring the Predator can be considered “good,” and that’s a real shame.
20th Century Fox’s original Predator (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura and Carl Weathers) had everything it needed to succeed: it was a fun action flick that gave us some truly memorable moments and knew exactly when to be an 80s style action movie and when to become a full-on horror film. However, it seemed like each new sequel diluted some of the aspects that turned the original film into such a classic. The latest entry in the series, The Predator, hardly resembles the 1987 original, delivering a weak plot and even weaker characters into what used to be a franchise that celebrated the better parts of 80s cheesiness.
With the announcement of Prey, the fifth instalment in the main Predator continuity, coming this Summer and knowing that the movie could be getting a PG-13 rating, the future of the franchise looks pretty grim. However, there’s still hope for the Predator films, and we’d like to go over some ideas that could help bring back the Predator in full force.
Why 1987’s Predator Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger Was The Best
35 years later, Predator (1987) starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (and directed by John McTiernan) still holds up and is easily the best film of the franchise (making $98.3 million at the box office off a 15 million dollar budget).
“If it bleeds, we can kill it.” Yeah, that’s the theory to beat the titular alien Predator, the hunter who visits our planet for sport and training every few years. Of course, the reality is that just one of those creatures can rip through a platoon of muscle-bound G.I. Joes faster than a machete taking on a Kleenex. Of course, back in 1987 nobody really knew that. The most menacing aliens people had seen on screen were the Alien xenomorphs and the Ewoks.
Besides, the film’s hero was the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’d pretty much established himself as THE action hero of the ‘80s and, in this case, he was going to be backed up by Action Jackson and Jesse “The Body” Ventura too.
So what could go wrong when they met E.T.?
Well, these days we know the answer to that: Action Jackson gets disarmed (literally), while “The Body” gets a hole blasted through his chest. Oh, the irony. As for Arnold Schwarzenegger, he may make the Predator bleed but it’s mutual, and he’s lucky to get dragged off the field of battle alive at the end of the movie. That’s because the Predator means business.
But is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Predator (81% on Rotten Tomatoes) really that good a film, and is the Predator really that damn good?
The movie starts with our heroic team of military steroid cases arriving in South America, where they’re given the job of rescuing a US official who’s been captured and taken hostage. Team Leader “Dutch” doesn’t trust the information he’s given, his team don’t like being saddled with a CIA agent who’s traded camouflage for a tie, and they’re a pretty offensive bunch all around. After blowing up every enemy in sight and failing to rescue the target, it turns out that their mission was bogus anyway. The thing is, none of that matters because they’ve now got a bigger problem:
They’re being hunted by the Predator.
He’s a thermal-scanning invisible killer, he’s armed with a plasma cannon, and he can bench-press a truck. This alien bad boy starts picking them off one by one as he hunts them for sport, working his way up to the top of the list. Before long, Dutch is the last man standing and he’s now unarmed. However, he’s also learned some of the Predator’s weaknesses, and it’s up to him to make a final stand for survival… and it’s a doozy!
I’m not going to give you a load of BS here and say that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Predator (1987) is an excellent film. From a highbrow critical standpoint, the storyline is weak and pointless. The characters are obnoxious morons who sweat undiluted testosterone, the acting is pretty weak, and the dialogue is cringe-worthy. The Predator’s blind spot is actually a massive plot hole that the Mythbusters proved was a failure in mere seconds, and the film is little more than disposable entertainment.
And damn it if it isn’t also one of the most enjoyable movies ever made.
Yes, for the highbrow film buff those may be flaws… but for the popcorn-munching action fan in all of us who just likes to see explosions, big guns and an intergalactic ass-kicking, it’s a must-see experience. There’s a reason why the Predator became an iconic sci-fi character, why the film became ingrained in the pop culture psyche and why people enjoy watching it more than Blade Runner: it’s dumb, simple, action-packed fun.
So now that’s out of the way, the other question was whether the Predator is that much of a badass. The answer? Hell yes!
Okay, so he gets beaten, but the joy of this film is that our heroes – like the audience – genuinely have no clue about who or what he is, or why he’s doing what he’s doing. The mystery of him is half the fun.
Even in the sequel, the underrated Predator 2, the Predator is still awesome even though we think we already know all about his species. The one featured in that film was younger and had some new tricks up his sleeve – in other words, the Predators adapt… and that’s what makes them even cooler.
Plus, the Predators aren’t really villains and their species are more than just mindless drones like the xenomorphs from the Alien movies. They’re of a different culture from humanity, but it works for them and they’re smart. They display an astonishing amount of honour, and they don’t kill for the sake of it. For dumb action movie human characters, they’re not just one-dimensional, and in the original film that aspect to the Predator makes him as fascinating as he is terrifying. The original film may be a Schwarzenegger movie, but astonishingly his huge presence is equalled by his adversary.
At the time of Predator‘s release in 1987, Arnold Schwarzenegger ruled the action movie kingdom. But a hero is only as impressive as the villains they fight.
Having easily dispatched every human being in his way in earlier films (plus some monsters in the Conan films), it made sense that his ultimate adversary would have to come from beyond the stars. Together, after the initial firefights, the two put on a display of cat-and-mouse combat and survival skills worthy of MacGyver and Solid Snake. The action is replaced with tension, and while this may not be a book-smart movie it has enough street smarts and savvy to dial it down.
That’s what makes this movie tick. It checks all the right boxes at all the right moments, sucking viewers in and then winning them over by switching tracks. It’s still as dumb now as it was then, but it’s also as fun now as it was then too.
If you lived through the 1980s, Predator (1987) starring Arnold Schwarzenegger was essential viewing… and it still is, even by today’s standards. None of the movies that came after managed to capture the coolness of the character or epicness of the first film.
How To Fix The Predator Movie Franchise
One of the coolest things about the original Predator is how powerful the monster felt. For this to work, the movie spends a good chunk of its runtime showing you how badass the mercenary protagonists are.
Contrast this with 2018’s The Predator: the ragtag team of mercenaries in the latest movie spends most of the time cracking jokes and being “funny,” all while presuming of their supposedly amazing fighting skills. When push comes to shove, however, our “heroes” amount to little more than disposable comic reliefs.
When the Predator kills a comic relief, that’s to be expected in a horror movie – but when it kills someone like Carl Weathers’ Dillon, you know you’re dealing with an unstoppable killing machine.
There’s some debate among fans about whether or not the Predator should be a horror movie or an action one. The thing is that, in the right hands, the movie could very well work as a little bit of both. The problem comes when the action that the movie tries to conjure doesn’t fit with the overall aesthetic of the Predator franchise.
When Nimród E. Antal directed Predators in 2010, that’s when we got the first truly good Predator sequel. This is a movie that not only knew what the original film was about: it celebrated it. Sadly, the planned sequel to Predators never materialized, and we lost what could have been our only chance at getting a franchise that was up to the standards set by the original movie.
The Predator Mythos: Less is More
Did you know that the Predator species is called Yautja? That’s the kind of expanded universe knowledge that can be either beneficial or damaging to a sci-fi franchise. It’s a similar situation to the midi-chlorians in Star Wars: the more we know about the mysteries behind a certain aspect, the less interesting they become.
In the case of the Predator, a few films have tried to expand on the mythology of the Predator warrior clan. Things like their language, traditions, and the war with the Xenomorphs are central plot points in the Alien vs Predator series. Now, it would be a bit unfair to take some examples out of this spin-off series to criticise the mainline franchise, but the issue here is that certain aspects of that franchise are making it into the main continuity, ruining the mystery surrounding the Predator species.
A good example of this can be found in the first and second film’s depictions of the Predator. We know that it is an alien, but that’s as far as we get in terms of backstory or explanations – and, quite frankly, that might be all we need to know.
Predator 2 adds a bit to the mystery of the Predator’s origins by adding some seemingly out of place weapons and skulls to the creature’s ship. This contributes to the mystery in clever ways: “Why is there an old pistol in an alien ship? Is that the skull of the creature from Alien?”
The intrigue surrounding the Predator is also what made the creature so menacing in the first place. You never knew if the creature was exclusively a “hunter,” or if it was a mere killer that came straight out of an 80s slasher flick.
A Simple Action-Horror Science Fiction Story
This point has something to do with the last one we mentioned, and it’s that, for some reason, sequels always look to one-up their prequels in terms of grandiosity or stakes. That’s great and all for a series like the MCU, but it’s not something that the Predator franchise needs.
Compared to the claustrophobic setting of the first movie, The Predator might as well be an entirely different series altogether. That movie gave us three different Predator species, not to mention a working spaceship, a universal translator, and an awful sequel hook involving a terminally goofy-looking armour.
These elements made the movie feel like a satire of itself. Again, going back to the precedent set by Predators, you can pay homage to an undeniably cheesy film with the respect it deserves – at least do it for the fans of the series. There’s a certain cynicism in the overall tone of The Predator that just damages the whole production – and that’s precisely the kind of attitude that a sequel or a revival doesn’t need.
This might be the only area where the upcoming Prey might be looking like it’s learning from past mistakes. The idea of a Comanche warrior fighting against the first Predator that comes to Earth is an interesting idea for a film, as long as it keeps things simple and on a small scale.
Of course, there’s the issue with the film reportedly being PG-13: a mistake that Alien vs. Predator also committed. Granted, there’s almost no way that Disney would allow 20th Century Studios to produce a film as raw and violent as the original Predator, but keeping things as visceral as possible is pretty much a necessity for the history of this franchise.
The basis for a great Predator movie is certainly there when it comes to Prey, but the lack of publicity and conflicting rumours about its production doesn’t exactly paint a hopeful panorama for the future of the series. Perhaps it would be better to just accept the fact that there will never be another film as good in the franchise as 1987’s Predator.
Horror icons are definitely losing their edge: just look at how unrecognizable the Alien films has gotten over the years. However, new and exciting horror productions, like the works of Ari Aster, are making horror films feel fresh again. The Predator might be getting old, but the creature’s spirit, and what it meant for an entire generation of horror fans, is undoubtedly alive and well.
Finding The Right Action Star For The Predator Movies
One of the biggest problems with the Predator sequels is finding a worthy action star to challenge the alien. Although 2018’s The Predator starred a long list of popular actors, including Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan Michael Key, Thomas Jane and Sterling K. Brown, none of them are huge action stars like Arnie. Not even 2010’s Predators, starring Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins and Laurence Fishburne, had a worthy successor. Heck, not even Danny Glover was fit to take on a Predator. The franchise needs someone to fill Arnold’s boots — a Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Will Smith or Keanu Reeves.
A few years ago, UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor revealed that he approached to play the lead in one of the films, but turned it down due to other commitments. “I’ll tell you there’s a lot of offers that I’ve turned down. I got offered The Predator movie. There’s a new Predator movie coming out and the guys came to me… Did you see that horse thing I’ve done, the horse racing? That was like three days’ solid work for a hell of a lot of money, for three days. During that three day course, the people from Predator who are having this new Predator movie, a blockbuster… They came in and tried to sell the whole s–t. ‘We want you to be the main guy and you’re gonna fight Predator’ and I’m like ‘This sounds brilliant! How much?’ Not enough. We went back and forth negotiating and the number climbed up but if I was to do it [it] would mean eight weeks in Canada, in Toronto or somewhere. It’s too long a time. You can’t do a million things at once. The Pegasus thing was one thing because it was like three days, in and out. But seven, eight weeks on a film set is heavy as f**k. Plus it would have crept in around when he’s due (McGregor’s unborn baby boy). I didn’t want to get tricky with that so I turned down that offer.”
While McGregor might not be everyone’s favourite choice, it seemed like the director was heading in the right direction there. However, considering how badly the sequels have faired, it’s going to take something special to attract a big Hollywood action star. If Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t seem that keen on returning to the franchise as Dutch again (although he did lend his voice to Major Alan “Dutch” Schafer in the Predator: Hunting Grounds video game).
“The sad story is that sometimes studios do a great job with creating sequels, and sometimes they really screw it up bad, and it all has to do with greed,” Schwarzenegger said in a 2015 Q&A hosted by Reddit. “So far, no Predator, no matter which one they did after the first one has come out, has been satisfactory to the audience.”
Writers have tried to pit the Predator up against just about everyone, including Archie, Superman, Judge Dredd, Batman, and even Alien’s xenomorph – in search of a worthy opponent for the alien. If the feature films are going to succeed, they need a strong and powerful actor to carry the movie.
Rambo Vs Predator Movie: The Action Crossover We Deserve
Let’s be blunt here: 1987’s Predator was the last great film about the trophy hunting alien. Since then, it’s been a mixed bag, with efforts ranging from okay to atrocious. Similarly, Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo struggles to find the glory days of the original trilogy, stuck in a weird state of limbo. What these two franchises need is each other. What fans need is Rambo vs Predator.
Think about why the first Predator film (which even inspired the Contra game franchise by Konami) was successful. It was because the alien had a worthy adversary in the form of Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s Dutch. As an audience, you believed Dutch stood a chance here, even if it was against the odds. There was a worthy, convincing protagonist to take on the overpowered antagonist.
Rambo was effectively the prototype for Dutch. A seasoned war veteran who knows how to turn a jungle into his weapon. He’s taken down armies, police officers, and even cartels with his smarts, training, and preparation skills that would make Batman jealous.
Ironically, Predator was created as a reactionary joke to another popular Stallone character, Rocky Balboa. After Rocky IV, a gag spread across Hollywood that only an alien opponent would be able to stop Rocky in his next fight. Jim and John Thomas decided to write a screenplay based on this joke and it eventually turned into Predator.
While having Rocky face off against the Predator might be even too weird for Hollywood standards (unless it was the Asylum doing it), there might be a serendipitous connection between Stallone’s other big franchise and Alien‘s uglier cousin. In fact, it’s the sort of crossover that will get the eyeballs on both franchises again—even if it’s out of curiosity of this absurd crossover.
Something similar almost happened as an earlier idea for Rambo V. “It’s not a Universal Soldier,” Stallone said in 2009. “It’s not me fighting a super soldier, it’s actually a feral beast. It’s this amalgamation of fury and intelligence and pure, unadulterated rage.”
Hmm… That sounds an awful lot like a Predator, doesn’t it? So, a seed was planted at one point, but what about taking it a step further?
A Rambo vs Predator crossover provides the opportunity to bring back Dutch as well. Imagine if Rambo and Dutch team up to stop the hunter in its tracks. While Stallone and Schwarzenegger have shared the screen together since their respective heydays, seeing them reprise two of their most iconic characters in a crossover film is every action fan’s dream. It’s the sort of concept that sells the film on excitement alone.
While there’s a new Predator film on the horizon titled Skull and Stallone has mentioned that he’d like to do another Rambo movie, this is an idea that could also live in the comics or the video game realm if the studios get cold feet. It simply doesn’t make sense how two legendary ’80s franchises have yet to cross paths at some point. Frankly, it’s a project that would delight the action gods.
Predator 5 Movie: The First-Look At Dan Trachtenberg’s Prey
Disney’s 20th Century Studios has revealed a first look at the new film, Predator 5. Titled Prey, the upcoming film by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane, Skull) has a scheduled 2022 release date for Hulu.
Starring Amber Midthunder (Only Mine, The Ice Road), Predator 5: Prey is a prequel film “set in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago.” According to reports, Midthunder’s Naru will go head-to-head with the alien hunters during their first visit to Earth.
And as the first image shows, Naru is a “skilled warrior who fiercely protects her tribe against a highly evolved alien predator.” Unlike previous protagonists, she is only armed with a bow and arrow.
Most fans still hold 1987’s Predator film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Major “Dutch” as the best film to date. Over the years, many creators have tried to capture the magic of the first film (in comic books, video games, short films and books) without success. Personally, I’ve always felt that the sequels have failed in the horror department. They’re just not scary enough. The aliens are revealed too quickly and the films play out like action blockbusters.
Watch the trailer for Prey below:
Prey is written by Patrick Aison (Jack Ryan, Treadstone), and produced by John Davis (Jungle Cruise, The Predator) and Jhane Myers (Monsters of God), with Lawrence Gordon (Watchmen), Marty Ewing (It: Chapter Two), James E. Thomas, John C. Thomas and Marc Toberoff (Fantasy Island) serving as executive producers.
“It goes back to what made the original Predator movie work,” Prey producer John Davis said in an interview. “It’s the ingenuity of a human being who won’t give up, who’s able to observe and interpret, basically being able to beat a stronger, more powerful, well-armed force. It’s going to be, I believe, the second best — or the first… or it may be equal to the first one. Right? I feel like the first one was a wonderful, interesting movie and I know what worked about it,” he continued. “I feel like we kind of never got back there again. We ended up in different places. I think this is a worthy complement to the first one. It’s going to be as good.”
Prey will stream on August 5, 2022, exclusively on Hulu.
We don’t need more AVP films. Let’s hope Predator 5: Prey saves the franchise — especially since the alien hunter is now part of Disney. “Get To The Choppa!”