Thursday, July 8, 2010

The History Of Predator...

Since the new installment of the franchise is hitting the theatres as we speak, I think it's only fair that we take a walk down History Lane and review our past to better our future.

started out in 1987 as a "popcorn action flick," as director John McTiernan described it in an interview in 2004. While the abundance of beefcake was sweating off pounds in the jungles of Mexico filming scenes of being chased around by a creature that they couldn't see, it's doubtful that the cast and crew realized that they were working on a modern classic.

The story behind Predator was a simple one: a team of Commandos led by Arnold Schwarzenegger is working a Black Ops mission in the jungles of Central America. There, they encounter a creature not of this world, looking for challenging prey. As the platoon gets picked off one by one, it becomes clear that they are not dealing with a regular foe and it eventually gets down to Arnold and the Predator in a mano e mano showdown that ends with a huge portion of the jungle getting eradicated by the Predator's self-destruct device.

Despite being a "generic action film" at the time, Predator featured very likable characters and impressive special effects that hold up to this day (thanks in part to the animatronics wizardry of Stan Winston studios). It was considered a financial success and would receive a followup from a somewhat unexpected source. Dark Horse comics published a sequel to Predator originally sharing the same name but would eventually be renamed Concrete Jungle. The comic was originally published in 1989 and followed the brother of Arnold Schwarzenegger's character, a NYPD officer that crosses paths with a clan of Predators murdering crime lords all around New York. Much like Dark Horse's sequel to the film Aliens, the comic was very well received and showed that there was still demand for Predator-related content.

Perfect timing too, for production of a film sequel was nearing completion by the time the comic series finished its arc. In November of 1990, Predator 2 hit the theatres, but wasn't as well received as its predecessor. The story involved a LAPD officer played by Danny Glover investigating strange murders amidst a gang war while government officials being led by Gary Busey are attempting to capture the Predator. I'll admit, I don't find Predator 2 is not as good as the original anymore, but it is a very entertaining movie and was my big introduction to the character, in more ways than one. In the original film, the motives behind the creature's actions are subtly hinted at, but the film never truly comes outright and says so. Predator 2 explains in full detail why the Predator does what it does, giving off the primary reason why I became such a fan of the character in the first place. The Predators are alien headhunters that live in a culture obsessed with the thrill of the hunt. Seeking only the most dangerous prey, these creatures enjoy sadistic games of cat and mouse before destroying their target and collecting the skulls and spines of their kills as trophies. The Predators sport weaponry that are CENTURIES ahead of our time, yet their culture seems so ancient and primitive in comparison to ours. How is such a thing not compelling?

Since Predator 2 wasn't well received by many, 20th Century Fox decided to let Dark Horse take over via comic books to satisfy the fanbase's cravings for more. Over the next few years, countless Predator comics would be published, some better than others, but all satisfying the fans' bloodlust and gory Predator action cravings. Out of all these comics to be published, the Predators saw crossovers with such super heroes as Batman, Superman, Judge Dredd, Magnus Robot Fighter, and even Tarzan. The most memorable of these crossovers was with the Aliens.

The original Aliens vs Predator comic was published in the early 1990s, around the same time Predator 2 hit theatres. Set on a terraformed planet, the story revolved around how the Predators would place Alien eggs on a planet, let the embryos hatch into maturity and then hunt them as quarry. This story wouldn't have worked as well if it hadn't been for the human colony caught in the middle of it. In the end, the head of the colony ends up teaming with the elder Predator to wipe out the Alien infestation. Many sequels were made to this comic book through more comics and even a couple of paperback novels. This comic was so popular that fans began immediately asking, "When is the movie coming out?" and the cult statuses of the Predator films began to rise immensely.

Aliens vs Predator was stuck in film production Hell, leaving fanboys drooling in anticipation over the idea of an AvP film while the series saw new installments in other media, including action figures and video games. Then, after seeing the success of Freddy vs Jason, 20th Century Fox announced that they had been getting everything put together for an Alien vs Predator film. After 14 years of waiting, August 13th came around and Alien vs Predator hit theatres. The film, which was directed and co-written by Paul W.S. Anderson, had a similar story structure to the original comic. A team of scientists discover a pyramid beneath the ice of Antarctica and discover that it is a training facility for the Predators to become "men" in a rite of passage against the Aliens that they have harvested there. Chaos ensues and the main female character ends up teaming with the last remaining Predator to take out the Alien Queen. The main Predator dies and his clan take him away in their ship, only to have his chest burst open and an Alien/Predator hybrid slither out.

It sounds good when you read it, right? Well, sadly, the final product wasn't the case. Fans of both series immediately voiced their disappointment of the film, due to its PG-13 theatrical rating, lack of talented acting and lack-lustre creature effects, mainly the overuse of CGI (computer generated imagery) and Predators that looked fat compared to the originals. At least the door was open for a sequel, right?

Yeah, but just because a door is open doesn't mean it should be used. Directed by the sibling duo of Greg and Colin Strause (in their directorial debut), the "story" of Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem followed the ship from the end of the first film crashing into a Colorado town, unleashing Aliens. A lone Predator is sent in to clean up the mess and in the end, the government nukes the town, containing the Alien outbreak. That's seriously all that happens in this movie. There aren't any likable characters, the actors pretend they're cut out of cardboard and the film was so dark that whenever there was a cool fight scene, you couldn't tell what the fuck was going on anyway! AvP:R did satisfy fans with an R rating, unlike the first film, but lacked any other positive traits from its predecessor. It was become very apparent from the fan reaction that they wanted either a new Alien movie or a new Predator movie, but not a combination of the two because obviously Fox couldn't get it right.

Following the release of a new Aliens vs Predator video game and some new comic series from the separate franchises, 20th Century Fox announced in April of 2009 that a new solitary Predator film was in the works and it would be directed by Nimrod Antal and produced by Robert Rodriguez. Simply titled Predators, fans almost immediately clamored at the news, seeing as how everyone and their cat who is an action movie fan is a fan of Robert Rodriguez's work. The pitch was that it would follow a group of killers stranded on an alien planet while being hunted by not just one, but a whole party of Predators. Now, this film is upon us...

Well, that's a brief look at the history of the Predator. I hope you all enjoyed this blog and be sure to check in next week with some behind the scenes looks at our review of Predators. Seeing as how the positive reviews are already coming in for this film, hopefully it's worth the hype! Take care!

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