The Predator franchise has never escaped the shadow of the first movie, but the third installment, Predators, doesn't get enough credit as the best Predator follow-up. After the 1987 original became an instant classic, none of the sequels or spin-offs, including a few Alien crossovers, have received nearly the same level of appreciation, but Predators was able to return to the core of what made the series so great, while updating the concept and adding to the established mythology.
To be fair, the competition isn't exactly stiff. While Predator 2 has its defenders, it still fails to satisfy as a follow-up and the Alien crossovers are commonly seen as a source of shame for both franchises. While series like Alien and Terminator both had their stars return for widely praised direct sequels, Schwarzenegger never made a second Predator appearance, despite 4 attempts, making it hard to recapture the magic of the first film by continuing his story.
Predators certainly didn't make a huge splash at the box office or inspire a new string of sequels, but it did embrace the established mythology, improve on a number of franchise tropes, and offer a new direction for the series. If the original plan had been followed, it even could have been the salvation the predator franchise needed. Despite being followed by an 8-year gap before the next movie, The Predator, it's still a solid, mostly satisfying, stand-alone action movie, and a worthy successor to the original.
- This Page: Predators Has The Best Ensemble of the Franchise
- Page 2: Predators "Gets" What the Predator Franchise Is All About
Predators Has The Best Ensemble of the Franchise
The Predator franchise is no stranger to ensembles, with the first one sporting Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, and Shane Black, but Predators sets a high bar, not only with a team of powerhouse talent, but also a cast of compelling and unique characters for them to play. Predators' cast and plot is a great example of how good a Suicide Squad movie could be if they just made it a straightforward action romp. And, like a proper Suicide Squad movie, its not precious with its characters. Everyone is disposable, and that becomes clear early on.
The cast included 2 academy award winners, Adrian Brody and Mahershala Ali (who was still a few years away from winning his award), along with big-name personalities like Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Topher Grace, and Laurence Fishbourne. While the previous selection of characters in other Predator movies were mostly random soldiers and cops - some unfortunate people that happened to run into a killer alien - the characters in Predators are all the best at what they do, which is all some different type of killing.
It's not just that the crew of Predators is a team of lethal badasses, though. That may be cool enough in its own right, but the fact that they were chosen by the Predators for this exact talent sheds some light on the Predators themselves, making each individual on the team some sort of foil for the Predators hunting them. Yes, even (8-year-old spoiler alert) Topher Grace's shifty serial killer is someone the Predators saw as a worthy opponent.
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.