The Predator Is Doing Lots Of (Confused) Things
When Shane Black came onboard The Predator, he sought to re-energize the series and get audiences excited for it again. To that end, The Predator isn’t just about a new hunter stalking another group of luckless warriors. The movie provides the true motive for the Predators coming to Earth; they want to make it their new home, as global warming is making it the ideal environment for the heat-loving aliens. While this idea is somewhat logical, giving them a bog standard world takeover motive makes them inherently less interesting. It also introduced a hybrid subplot, revealing they collect spines not only as trophies but so they can harvest the DNA of the strongest creatures they’ve encountered.
The movie – somewhat admirably – sought to make outsiders the heroes, with The Loonies being a bunch of misfit veterans suffering from PTSD and assorted mental health issues, but when the time comes to soldier up, they’re ready to go. That said, the movie isn’t above mining those same issues for cheap laughs, like Tom Jane’s intermittent Tourette's. The Predator also wants to give people on the autism spectrum a hero in young Rory McKenna (Jacob Tremblay), who is somehow able to decode the Predator’s language with no context. The movie treats Rory’s autism like a superpower, to the point the Upgrade Predator kidnaps him so he can presumably harvest his DNA for his own species. It’s a muddled message with questionable science, and the movie often feels like it’s trying to balance a lot of ideas but ends up fudging many of them.
The Predator's Problem Is Studio Meddling
The Predator suffered a lot of issues on its way to the big screen, being delayed multiple times and undergoing extensive reshoots following weak test screening results. The structure changed a lot in post-production, losing much of the hybrid plot. The original third act found the Loonies teaming with two emissary predators, who object to their clan’s impending invasion and want to help humanity prepare for it. This would have led to a setpiece where the heroes and the emissaries fight off a hybrid menagerie, a group of freakish hybrid monsters that included a Spider Predator.
Test audience response to this section was decidedly mixed, so Black agreed to rework the finale into a more traditional hunt. It feels like the studio lost faith in the project during this process, with the final cut feels edited to the bone. Scenes begin and end abruptly, with the death of one major character being edited so poorly some viewers missed it completely. This extends to character beats, with the original cut revealing Trevante Rhodes’ Nebraska has terminal cancer, which is why he’s chain-smoking throughout. Probably the biggest complaint against the movie is the final scene, which reveals the Fugitive Predator came to Earth to gift the human race with a suit of armor dubbed the Predator Killer. The scene was a last-minute reshoot to add a sequel tease, and feels utterly disconnected from the rest of the story.
It could have been much worse, however, with the recent revelation that two alternates were shot; one featuring the return of Ellen Ripley in the pod – with her face covered in a Facehugger-style breathing mask – and another featuring an adult version of Aliens' Newt. Thankfully, Fox decided against these logic-defying cliffhangers, but it shows at that point, the studio just wanted something with franchise potential.
It's Unfair The Predator Has A Better Future Than Alien
The Predator has been a critical and financial dud, but the movie has enough fans that it will likely be considered a cult gem in the years ahead. The Predator series has never been terribly consistent, often stopping for long periods before coming back. Even without Disney’s impending takeover of Fox's movie properties, it’s doubtful another sequel would happen for at least a few years, and it will almost certainly ignore The Predator. The series has always bounced back, however, so the hunter will return someday.
While Ridley Scott’s planned third Alien prequel would have found David 8 continuing his experiments on a new planet, the response to Alien: Covenant means the prequel series is almost certainly dead. Viewers haven’t taken to Scott’s vision, and whatever form the next Alien movie takes, it will likely return to a more traditional formula – one that actually uses the xenomorph. This is certainly disappointing because while both prequels fell short of their ambitions, the story they were building towards was a fascinating one and it’s a shame it won’t see completion.
Both franchises are in an odd place right now with no clear direction forward. Aside from a fun holiday special, Predator will be sitting on the bench for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, Alien celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2019, but Fox’s recent announcement of a mobile-only game called Alien: Blackout, and confirming no new movies are in development, has done little to get fans excited. Reports suggest an Alien TV series is in development, so maybe that’s the direction the franchise will go in next.