After 20th Century Fox released six films — each one with seemingly decreasing results — is the Predator franchise dead on arrival? Can 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg rejuvenate the interest of genre fans everywhere with yet another feature film focusing on the extraterrestrial threat to humanity? But more importantly, should he even try?
I flip-flopped with the title and theme of this article multiple times, trying to focus my positive thoughts on the Predator films. The sad thing is, I still love the original. It’s pretty much a horror classic, disguised as science fiction. The mash-up is a great combination. Stan Winston’s creature design was perfect, coupled with John McTiernan’s excellent studio film debut (only bested by Die Hard, which premiered a year later) and bodybuilder-actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura brought plenty of muscle to the movie’s survival of the fittest theme. Part 2 was decent, at best, and Robert Rodriguez did a noble job with Predators, but other than that, the sequels have been nothing but dumpster fires (and the crossover films were more fan service than quality entertainment).
I guess the first question that needs to be asked is, will we, the fanboys and fangirls of the entertainment world, pay to see more mediocre genre fare on the big screen? Do we want more Predator movies? Does anybody really need them? Studio execs definitely do — they may be the only ones. Toxic fandom is a real thing. There’s been a whole lot of negativity aimed at the franchise for decades, now. It seems a series of missteps have kept the intellectual property alive in name only, as critics and fans alike have not been impressed. Case in point: Take a look at The Predator.
Released only two years ago (but it definitely feels like a lot more), filmmaker Shane Black attempted to rejuvenate fan interest with a selective sequel. The storyline supposedly takes place after the events of Predator 2, but before Predators. Black didn’t do the franchise any favors with his release (The Predator Franchise Should Rest In Peace). It didn’t help that he hired a longtime friend, who happened to be a sex offender. Naturally, Olivia Munn objected and caused an uproar. Then there’s the whole autism backlash the filmmaker received from the scientific community. Sadly, poor test screenings in 2017 led to the entire climax being rewritten and reshot, but even that couldn’t save the movie. The Predator just seemed to be one gigantic series of missteps. Thank goodness the two proposed sequels with Black involved won’t be greenlit.
It seems as each story moves into the modern world, dragging the alien hunters who kill for sport, kicking and screaming into the future, the less interested I seem to get with the franchise. It also seems that modern filmmakers haven’t quite had the same sensibilities as the original director. The standalone movies are not just about the monsters, but the supporting characters. The humans are very important. They have to be likable, smart and bloody cannon fodder. Throughout many of the sequels, it seems they were only the latter.
The fear of the unknown is another very important factor. It seems the more we learn about the supernatural terror with killer instincts, the less imposing they become. Revealing more of the creatures’ past removes the best part of it: the unsolved mystery. That’s what keeps the audience guessing about what will happen next. Already knowing background information of the big game-hunting aliens or its actual species name (aka Yautja) or its hunting habits (no more Predator Pets, please!) is not really a good thing.
The Predator was supposed to right the franchise as a selective sequel. Instead, it simply begs to be forgotten. Enter stage right, director Dan Trachtenberg. Apparently, the filmmaker has been developing a film titled Skulls since 2016. Written by Patrick Aison (Jack Ryan, Treadstone), it follows a Comanche woman who learns to become a warrior during the American Civil War. Recently, it was announced this will be adapted as the next Predator film, although initial plans were supposed to proceed through the filming process without revealing the movie’s name. By moving backwards in time, hopefully this one will help us forget about the franchise’s resulting thirtysomething years.
What does corporate overlord Walt Disney Studios actually want? Most likely more PG-13 fare, for larger audiences to watch and a bigger box office. It also means a future streaming home to eventually fit in with its other family-friendly entertainment options on its Disney+ streaming service. I really, really hope this is not what the audience gets. It’s not something any fan of the horror icon asked for (or will most likely pay for). And since the House of the Mouse has reportedly flashed the greenlight for a hard-R rating for The Merc With a Mouth (Bob’s Burgers Writers Serve Up Deadpool 3 Script), there is some hope for its future.
I enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane. It seems like Trachtenberg will be given every opportunity to find success… that is, if he doesn’t fall into the same traps made by every previous filmmaker not named McTiernan. And hopefully, a better production team will oversee it all, with no one connected to past releases.
Maybe the Predators won’t suffer from Franchise Syndrome any longer if we can actually get a darker storyline (with decent jump scares) that connects the alien race to our country’s Native American past. That is definitely original: a space Western for the franchise (unless it veers into Cowboys & Aliens territory). Hunting season may soon prove a killer experience for all involved. Here we go, again.