Predators "Gets" What the Predator Franchise Is All About
One of the major things that has always drawn audiences to the Predator franchise is the subtle worldbuilding established through the way the villains hunt. With no overarching narrative, no returning characters or central story to explore, the only things shared by each movie are the Predators themselves, meaning the only franchise level storytelling to be had is what the audience can learn about the Predators as a species and civilization.
There's never any Heat style sit down between the main character and the Predator he's fighting. The way they learn about each other is by how they track, hide, attack, and defend. It's through this game of cat and mouse that we learn things like the fact that they're in it for the sport and have some kind of code of honor. Thus, the things we're able to learn about the Predators could be compared to a deer learning about humans based on its encounters with deer hunters. Is there more to their society? Are they all hunters?
Predator 2 doesn't offer much of that. Sure, it tries to mix things up from the first one, swapping a South American Jungle for a North American concrete jungle, but otherwise, the story is relatively the same. A Predator stalks his prey until there's just one man standing, and he bests his alien opponent in a one-on-one match. Predator 2 has its issues, but it's relatively enjoyable as a movie, but as a franchise installment, the only thing it really has to add is its mysterious tease at the end of multiple Predators, an Alien Easter egg, and a foot-in-the-door to tell stories set in different time periods. It's interesting, but it's the type of thing audiences would expect as a post-credits tease in a modern movie, so it doesn't impact the story or give an opportunity for further examination, and since the Predator movies aren't telling a shared story, it's basically a dead end narratively.
Predators, on the other hand, embraces the franchise's disconnected stories in a way that, while clearly bound by a number of homages to the original, actually allows the Predators to grow and truly set the franchise up to potentially do something bigger moving forward. The team slowly discovers they're essentially on an extra-terrestrial game reservation, they're all selected because of the threat they could pose to a hunter, there are different predator clans and classes, and one even turns on the others after being saved by Adrien Brody's Royce.
Two decades passed between the release of Predator 2 and Predators, but Predators had the opportunity to kickstart the franchise in a new direction. The role played by Laurence Fishbourne was originally intended to be Danny Glover's character from Predator 2, and Schwarzenegger's Dutch was also supposed to make a cameo at the end, decked out in Predator armor and leading a team of Predators. In the modern age of shared universes, that sets up a team-up movie for the ages and could have breathed new life into the series. Unfortunately, the connections were removed and Predators became another disconnected Predator sequel, meaning after The Predator, the franchise is still just a string of anthology stories.
There's still a chance the franchise could unite the loose threads into a more cohesive universe and bring back big characters like Dutch, but with the lukewarm early reception to The Predator, that doesn't seem likely. The Disney acquisition also calls into question how R-rated franchises like Alien and Predator will be handled under the Mouse House's purview. It may be too early to say the Predator franchise is dead, but it is safe to say that Predators could be the best Predator movie fans will see for some time.
- The Predator (2018) release date: Sep 14, 2018