Shane Black calls The Predator a “harrowing experience”; reveals how he is reinventing the franchise

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The Predator is back. And no, that’s not a thinly veiled joke in bad taste about Hollywood’s sexual harassment problem. I’m talking about that one ugly motherfucker from outer space who once forced Arnold Schwarzenegger to take a therapeutic mud bath to beat its alien butt. John McTiernan’s original 1987 classic Predator is the very pinnacle of macho 80s action filmmaking, and we love it for that – but times are a-changing which is why writer/director Shane Black’s upcoming sequel The Predator is going to change things up a bit.

Black, who actually acted in the original movie and did uncredited script doctoring work on it, spoke to /Film recently about how he approached this movie from a different angle. As we’ve seen from the recent teaser trailer (which I will admit, is not the greatest preview), Black is bringing in young kids and a very diverse cast of characters. They’re played by Boyd Holbrook, Thomas Jane, Keegan Michael Key, Jacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown and more – and he will reportedly even explore issues like PSTD, while also delving into what makes the Predator itself tick. So why that diversion from the traditional macho approach?

I guess it was a reaction against perfection and the Predator going up against a perfect specimen all the time. And that being solely based on physical appearance and muscles and I thought, well, maybe misfits; maybe there’s a version in which misfits play more of a role and maybe there’s even a sense that The Predator himself is even an outcast. So, we were trying to find thematic elements that work for us.

So, we just tried to take the existing mythology and take it a step further. Ask some questions about why? Why Predators do what they do? What would be the next step for them? How do we up the stakes so that there’s not just a single Predator hunting a group of soldiers? Who are the soldiers? How are they different? What’s the heroic quotient and how do you make it not just guys with tough talk and big arms? I mean, I always favor real characters with real actors in these movies. I’m happy to have someone like Jesse Ventura, he’s actually a fine actor as far as that goes. But, the actors we tended to get for this are a cut above I think, the average tough guy.

However, just because Black and co-writer Fred Dekker are adding some more depth to the characters, don’t expect The Predator to be a slow drama. Far from it in fact, as Black – in his trademark style – will be injecting all kinds of genre elements into the production, but in the end, it will still be keeping you on the edge of your seat.

It’s ultimately gonna be a thriller. It’s not gonna be a comedy. It’s an R-rated movie and it’s supposed to be a kind of harrowing experience. I think it goes to what Fred and I are very familiar with, which is, if you told me to write a comedy I’d be helpless, but if you say write a thriller and put some jokes in it, then fine. Then, I don’t have to worry. The curse comes off, because the narrative and the thrills – you know what would be great here is if the guy threw him the gun and he missed and the gun just broke a window or, y’know, whatever. So, it’s that sort of combination and tone shuffling that becomes at once the juggling act and also the challenge, but the joy too of what we’re trying to do.

One thing about McTiernan’s original movie that always stood out to me, is that it was actually more of a thriller too. For the most part, there’s no direct engagement with the predator as its stalks Arnie’s special forces team. It’s mostly just white-knuckle tension with some action to break it up instead of a non-stop barrage of explosions and gunfire. And this is something that is important to Black as well.

I remember Michael Bay, when I saw Transformers for the first time, and I thought that’s pretty good, except there’s a scene where a robot goes through a skyscraper, breaks through one window, slides down an entire length of the office building and breaks through the other side and if it had just been that, then you would’ve gone, ‘Wow! I can’t believe I saw that in a movie.’ But, you’re surrounded by fifty identical stunts, so you just sit there and go, ‘Yup, there goes another one.’

So, our quest to be a cut above is to make it so you keep changing it up. So, that it feels more like a thriller and less like just action. Because, action to me is not sustainable over two hours. I mean, you can like it. You can like the Transporter movies. They’re fun. But, at the end you don’t feel like you’ve had an experience with a guy that you want to sit down with, you feel like you’ve watched an action character flex his muscles. So, hopefully we’ve given you a bigger canvas, more action and better characters.

The Predator is scheduled for release on 14 September 2018.

Last Updated: May 30, 2018

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Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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