“There’s something out there waiting for us… and it ain’t no man”. Sonny Landham’s immortal words betray the well exposed mortality of the characters in the first Predator movie from 1987. Some of the toughest, muscle-shredded grunts around are taken down by an alien that mixes futuristic tech with a tribal code of honour and a face like a crab flipped on its back. For such a simple story, it has stood the test of time well and spawned endless numbers of movie sequels, comic books (Batman vs Predator – yes, it does exist), action figures and video games, as well as its notoriously bad cinema crossover with the Alien franchise.
Nothing has come close to the gauntlet laid down by John McTiernan’s original, but now one of the Predator’s first victims is looking to change that. By the time he starred as the wise-cracking, somewhat weedy Hawkins in Predator, Shane Black was already one of Hollywood’s most highly regarded writers after drawing up the script for Lethal Weapon (1987). He finally climbed into the director’s chair for the first time with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), starring a pre-Marvel Robert Downey Jr. He has since directed and written Edge (2015), The Nice Guys (2016) and his most commercially successful movie Iron Man 3 (2013). Now, he returns to face the beast that left him gutted and hanging from a tree.
Since the film was announced four years ago, it has been shrouded in mystery. It has only been recently, as the release date creeps closer and closer, that more details have come to light. It has a good old-fashioned style predator like the other films, but the bigger threat is actually a genetically enhanced super-predator who it appears has no love lost for its small fry companion. Tied up in all this is a crew of misfit soldiers, including Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook, the bad guy from 2017’s Logan), Nebraska Williams (Trevante Rhodes, star of 2016’s utterly stunning Moonlight) and McKenna’s ex-wife Emily (Yvonne Strahovski, best known as Serena from The Handmaid’s Tale).
A strong cast is completed by the likes of Olivia Munn, Alfie Allen and Sterling K. Brown. The Predator, underpinned by a talent like Shane Black’s, has clearly managed to pull in a group of actors who can be depended on to give strong performances. Exactly how many of them are left dismembered by the film’s end is another question, although don’t be surprised if Holbrook’s McKenna ends up competing mano a mano with the alien hunter towards the end, Schwarzenegger style.
Although a sequel through and through, throwbacks to the films that came before are evident even now. Crude sex jokes being shared among burley men for instance – just as Hawkins did infamously in the first film. There is also the character of Sean Keyes, the son of Peter Keyes from the average but underrated first follow-up Predator 2 (1990). In a nice touch, Keyes junior is being played by Jake Busey, son of actor Gary Busey who portrayed Keyes senior 28 years ago.
So the ingredients are all laid out. Great actors, a new spin on one of cinema’s most famous space monsters and – from what the trailers have shown – a very high body count. Will audiences be sticking around in cinemas to watch it all unfold, or will they be heading for the exit before you can say “get to the chopper”? There is not long now until the world finds out if the wait for one of the universe’s greatest hunters to return has been worth it.
Image: Twentieth Century Fox