You just can’t keep a good trophy-hunting alien down.
Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger first brawled with the hulking extraterrestrial hunter in 1987’s Predator, the iconic creatures introduced in director John McTiernan’s film have found their way back to the screen in one form or another in various movies, video games, and other projects. The response to those projects has been mixed, though, and after a pair of crossover films featuring the nonhuman stars of both the Alien and Predator franchises and a 2010 spinoff film titled Predators all failed to catch on, studio 20th Century Fox announced plans to go the reboot route in 2018.
Now set to be directed by Iron Man 3 and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang filmmaker Shane Black — who also played a supporting role in the original 1987 film — The Predator will feature a script by Black and Fred Dekker, who previously worked together on the 1980s cult classic The Monster Squad. The film is expected to acknowledge the first two installments of the franchise while also rebooting the series for modern movie audiences. Narcos actor Boyd Holbrook is reportedly set to star in the film.
With the studio planning to unleash The Predator on theaters February 9, 2018, here’s everything we know about the movie so far.
Hunters and hunted
Although the alien Predator is the true star of the franchise, the series has lined up some memorable prey for its hunter over the years.
In November, X-Men: Apocalypse actress Olivia Munn reportedly joined the cast of the film, with The Hollywood Reporter indicating that she’ll play a scientist opposite Holbrook’s character. In early 2017, Key & Peele co-creator and actor Keegan-Michael Key was also added to the supporting cast, along with Moonlight actor Trevante Rhodes.
The project appeared to be narrowing its search for a leading man when Academy Award winner Benicio Del Toro was reported in September 2016 to be in talks for the starring role in The Predator. Those talks appeared to have broken down in a hurry, though, as Narcos actor Boyd Holdbrook was announced as Del Toro’s replacement just a month later. Holbrook and Rhodes are both rumored to be playing ex-Marines on a mission to take down the alien hunter.
New hunting grounds
In past films featuring The Predator, the alien hunter has stalked its prey in a Central American jungle, the urban jungle of 1990s Los Angeles, a vast temple underneath Antarctica, and an unknown planet that served as the extraterrestrials’ game reserve. This time around, the film will reportedly feature a new environment — once again, on Earth — for one (or more) Predators to seek out trophies.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Predator will be set in the unpredictable wilds of suburbia.
Exactly how the alien will end up in the suburbs — or exactly which suburbs it will stalk — remains unknown, along with many of the other details regarding the film’s plot.
Naturally, the initial casting discussion surrounding The Predator focused on whether the film would bring back any of the (admittedly few) characters to survive previous installments of the franchise — particularly, Schwarzenegger’s tough-as-nails Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer. After successfully battling the creature in the 1987 movie, his character didn’t appear in any of the sequels or spinoffs outside of vague references to his encounter in a Central American jungle.
“These things all happened in 1990,” said Black when asked in May 2016 if there’s a chance we’ll see Schwarzenegger reprise his role. “But now it’s 25 years later. So in other words, if Arnold’s in it — which I’m not allowed to discuss — he would be old Arnold.”
One character who’s definitely returning for The Predator is yet another representative of the deadly alien species that debuted in the 1987 film. According to Black, the iconic hunter is getting an upgrade of sorts for the film.
“It’s not to ‘improve,’ it’s make it fun, make it different, make it organically different,” Black told Coming Soon in May 2016. “So what’s the extension of it that makes sense, that’s exciting? There have been a lot of changes to Stan [Winston]’s design over the years. These different Predator movies have done different things. . . . In The Predator, we’re doing a lot of upgrades to what you would consider to be the traditional Predator technology and look, but hopefully the story is what’s going to drag people in, not just the attention to the minutiae.”
Embracing the “R”
The success of recent, “R”-rated sci-fi and superhero genre films appears to have paved the way for the Predator to return to its bloody, violent, mature-audience roots.
According to Black, the success of “R”-rated superhero movie Deadpool — which had the biggest opening weekend of any “R”-rated film ever made and is currently the second-highest grossing “R”-rated movie of all time — made studio 20th Century Fox more amenable to taking a restricted-audience approach to The Predator.
“Fox has been very cooperative,” Black told Collider in November 2016. “Part of it is the success they had with Deadpool, but I also made a case — and I think they agreed — that fans of the Predator generally, probably aren’t looking to go to see a PG-13-rated version of it. It would be more of a letdown if it was sort of tailored to a family-friendly audience than if it were allowed to play out to the same scale and level that the first R-rated one did.”
Bringing back hunting season
The 20th Century Fox studio first announced plans for a reboot of the Predator franchise back in 2014, with both Black and Dekker attached to the project from the very start.
The Predator is a reunion of sorts for Black and the titular trophy-hunting alien. Along with playing a supporting a role in the original film, Black was also offered a chance to rewrite 1987’s Predator due to his success with Lethal Weapon earlier that year, but opted instead for an on-screen role and some unknown, uncredited contributions to the film’s script.
Also returning for the reboot is franchise producer John Davis, who weighed in on Black’s plans for the film in an August 2015 interview.
“I’ve read a lot of [Black’s] script and I think it’s genius,” Davis told Collider. “I think it’s genius and I think it’s entertaining, and what it did is re-create a famous franchise in a different, interesting way; looking at it from a different light. He’s just an amazing writer-director.”
Black has indicated that the film won’t be a full-scale reboot of the franchise, with the film acknowledging the events of the first two installments of the series — 1987’s Predator and 1990’s Predator 2 — but it’s unknown whether the following two crossover films or 2010’s Predators (which is set on a far-off planet) will also fall within the film’s newly established continuity. What is known, however, is that The Predator will be set in the present day, a fact that Black himself confirmed.
“I think it has to stand on its own two feet, but our goal is to make sure it acknowledges that, yeah, it is 30 years later in the continuity of the story,” explained Black. “In other words, Dutch Schaefer’s patrol, which was attacked and largely slaughtered, happened 30 years ago in the context of the story. It’s referenced, it’s part of the mythology. In that way, it’s more of a sequel than a reboot.”
The studio officially announced The Predator as the film’s title in February 2016, and the 2018 release date for the project was revealed a short time later.
Fans got their first look at the version of the iconic alien that will debut in The Predator via an image posted on the franchise’s official Facebook page in February 2016. The image featured the text “You’ll Never See Him Coming” over a background image of the alien, along with red text featuring the film’s newly announced title.
With filming expected to get underway soon on The Predator, there’s no official word yet on when we can expect to see the first footage from the film.
The Predator is scheduled to hit theaters February 9, 2018.
Update 1/6/2017: Added casting reports for Keegan Michael-Key and Trevante Rhodes.