I went and watched “The Predator” last Thursday, and having taken a few days to gather my thoughts, I can say two things to the movie: I love you and goodbye.
The Predator and Alien universes have long fascinated me ever since my friends Morgan and Travis dragged me to see the abysmal “Alien vs Predator” in 2004. I can remember it being this big discussion between us a week before the movie came out. Who would win? The “alien” or the predator? And I asked everyone I could for the week, especially my father, who would win. Boy what a newb I was, not even knowing the “alien” was actually called a xenomorph.
Looking back, the movie could have been a lot cooler (especially now having the benefit of seeing movies like “Prometheus” and “Alien: Covenant.” Still, for a dorky kid who didn’t even know the depth of science fiction fandom yet, I thought it was the greatest thing ever. I would later be utterly disappointed in “Alien vs Predator: Requiem” and move on to the superior source material.
I found the science fiction masterpieces that were “Alien,” “Aliens,” and “Predator.” Then, unfortunately I found the trash that was “Alien 3.” I got physically sick after watching that movie. It was probably indigestion, but I blame the movie to this day. “Predator 2” and “Alien: Resurrection” were only a step up from “Alien 3.”
Jumping ahead, I found the franchises have continued with acceptable entries like the above-mentioned “Alien” prequels and “Predators.”
Now, why have I wasted so much time talking about the Alien movies when you were promised my thoughts on “The Predator”? Because the two franchises have been linked since 1990 when Danny Glover stumbled upon a predator ship with a xenomorph skull in it.
Ever since then (probably before if you count nerds in comic book stores discussing endless “who would win in a fight” scenarios), the two species have been pitted against each other in the minds of nerds everywhere, until they finally were in 2004.
Post AvP, we’ve had two more Alien movies and two Predator films. The Alien movies have made more money and been more critically successful, which brings me to why I must say goodbye to the Predator. I think we’ve gotten all the Predator films we’re going to get for quite some time, and there’s a couple reasons for that.
For starters, there’s the most obvious. . . money. Movies cost money to make, and Hollywood is a business first, creator of art fifth. “The Predator” was at the box office top in its debut weekend, but that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans when it only made $55 million on an $88 million budget. This movie didn’t bomb by any means, in fact, Forbes reported it’ll probably recoup its budget in the international market, but breaking even isn’t exactly strong evidence for studios to invest in a sequel.
And the Predator sequels haven’t exactly been cash cows. Why do you think these movies only pop up every once in a while? “Predator 2” made $57 million on a $35 million budget. “Predators” made WHAT?? $127 million on a $40 million budget?! The real crime here is “Predators” didn’t get a direct sequel. But I’ll get to that later. So, because of money, we’re probably done with the Predator franchise for a bit.
Director Shane Black pitched the start of a new trilogy to 20th Century Fox, and they bought into it, seeing dollar signs. Black would revamp the franchise, make it bigger and better. It’d have enough callbacks to the original to keep fans happy and a cool enough story to draw in new fans. Unfortunately, he failed to deliver on the only thing 20th Century Fox cares about. . . the money. And this is a true disappointment for two reasons. First, Black seemed like the perfect choice to direct this movie (setting aside his TERRIBLE “Iron Man 3” attempt). Who better to direct a Predator sequel than someone who was in the first movie we all loved?
Remember him? The only non-muscular guy in the first film.
Second, I love this franchise and believe this sequel was absolutely worthy of the original. The action was solid. Boyd Holbrook (the bad guy from “Logan”) made for an entertaining lead. And the film advanced the Predator storyline in a satisfying believable direction. Were there holes? Oh yeah, enough to turn the movie into swiss cheese. But you don’t watch Predator movies for story consistency and thought pieces. That’s more of an Alien thing. You watch Predator films because a superior race hunting humans for sport is pure awesome and has been since 1987.
It’s The Most Dangerous Game with badass space aliens. What more could you ask for?
Between xenomorphs and predators, I honestly like the latter more. They’re just more interesting to me, an intergalactic group of hunters. They’re tough of nails but have a code: don’t attack unarmed opponents. Plus they bleed glowing green blood and see heat vision. The scenes of a predator opening their multi-part jaw and roaring to establish dominance? It’s just cool.
Xenomorphs have just gotten too convoluted with their origin story. And while the Alien franchise has a higher number of critically approved movies, it also has more stinkers. “Alien 3” and 4 compared to just “Predator 2.”
Now if we’re talking individual factors, I’d take Ripley over Dutch and “Aliens” over any of the Predator movies as a cinematic achievement. But I much prefer the predators to xenomorphs, especially the idea of predators hunting xenomorphs. It’s just too awesome.
And speaking of the Alien franchise, we’ve likely seen the last of those movies for quite some time too, given they’ve been in limbo since Disney’s purchase of Fox.
What we’ve learned the hard way is general audiences like A-list stars, and nerds alone rarely have enough financial power to push movies to get sequels (“Riddick” is a rare exception).
“Predator” featured action superstar Arnold against this really cool alien in the jungles of South America, and it also turned out to be lightning in a bottle, in that, no sequel has ever surpassed the original in terms of money (when adjusted for inflation) or awesome.
It seems 20th Century Fox has misread that movie’s success ever since. The general audience loved Arnold, and nerds loved the predator (and its story). A quick glance at lead actors in Predator sequels reveals Danny Glover, Adrien Brody and Boyd Holbrook. Now Danny Glover is a fantastic actor everyone knows from “Lethal Weapon,” but he doesn’t have the staying power in an action flick like Arnold. Adrien who? And we’ve already established Boyd was the bad guy in “Logan.” But you can see none of the films have had real A-list leads to draw in general audiences.
Instead, every sequel has focussed more on the predator species, slowly revealing more about these aliens. I love that. The nerds love that. But general audiences generally don’t care. No celebrity hero, no ticket sales from them. The theater had like nine people in it when I went to watch “The Predator” last Thursday.
No Arnold. No box office smash. And that’s a shame, because we don’t really need to know anything else about Dutch. He’s a hulking soldier who loves to smoke cigars and kick ass. Case closed. But the predators? There’s so much to learn about their home world, anatomy, society and more. And now we won’t get that chance because yet another Predator sequel failed to make the financial cut.
Before I wrap this up, I want to include a quick note on “Predators,” which I think came along parallel tracks about eight years ago.
You had a great story, quick action, and fresh new ideas for the Predator franchise. The predators were kidnapping humans and dropping them on another planet that served as a game preserve. And I thoroughly enjoyed that movie, with a neat twist from Morpheus. Perhaps the two things “Predators” had in common with “The Predator” are it was a worthy sequel that set up more movies with its ending, and like this newest incarnation, it died due to studio disappointment.
And so it’s with a heavy heart I say goodbye to the Predator franchise (and the Alien franchise). The predators deserve to have so much more of their story revealed, and that’ll have to be accomplished through comics and novels, it seems.