You can start calling The Predator “The Dirty Half-Dozen,” because director Shane Black certainly has been.
Having acted in the very first Predator movie, Black is using the core concept and cleverly taking it apart for his addition to the franchise. Once more, we follow a special-ops team that encounters an extraterrestrial threat. This time, we’re not dealing with elites who know they’re tough, but with characters suffering from afflictions like PTSD and Tourette’s. As Black says, “It’s important that they’re good at what they do, but that they’ve forgotten.”
The Predator seems to have set out to deconstruct plenty of action clichés. While Olivia Munn plays a scientist, she felt it important that her character know how to use a gun just by picking it up, the way male characters in action movies always do. Even the name comes up for nerdy discussion onscreen. When Munn’s character calls the creature a Predator, Trevante Rhodes’ character insists that it really isn’t technically a predator, to which she exclaims, “Thank you!” as if she’d been making that argument for years.
In another subversion that didn’t necessarily please Black, Keegan-Michael Key would show fellow cast members YouTube viral videos along with movies like Dolemite and The Room, and they’d all try to sneak in as many lines and gestures from the lot as they could. In particular, Key says he tried six times to say, in a high-pitched voice, “B****, are you for real?”
“And that’s why Keegan’s not in the movie much,” deadpanned Black.
Though he may have aimed to shy away from reference like these, Black’s patented sense of humor is alive and well in The Predator; Thomas Jane is the centerpiece of one one clip shown at the panel that was rendered almost inaudible due to the number of swears that had to be beeped out. Black’s R-rated sensibilities are even evident in a school sign that reads “Halloween haunt welcomes parents and STDs,” presumably a “misspelling” of “students.”
Payback is something that’s very much on The Predator‘s mind: “One of the conceits that we had is that we assume there’s a faction on the Predator homeworld that’s been bested not once but twice by Earthlings,” said Black. “They send their champions, and they never come back. So they wanna punch back.” They’re also into “roiding,” which, as Black explains, “means augmenting their DNA to create a super-Predator.”
In a battle with a regular Predator that we were shown, dodges the normal Pred’s blaster cannon, breaks the Predator’s blades when it tries to punch him and they just snap, and then punches its head ’til it collapses, ultimately tearing out head and spine just as the OG Predator used to do to humans. Black notes that you can’t really change the creature’s look too much, so the way to make it scary again is to emphasize what the Predators do: they’re fast, they’re deadly, they’re lithe—they strike and retreat. As the cast would play “Who would win?” between takes and imagine fantasy battles, Black allowed only that Ripley from the Alien movies might have a chance.
And speaking of, while there are no xenomorphs in this film (allegedly), Black isn’t retconning them away just yet. “The other films happened,” he said. “We’re a sequel, not a reboot.” He added that he likes the concept of Alien Vs. Predator, and hopes that franchise is not completely dead yet.