The director tells 'The National' he wanted the R rating and went all out to show the cruel nature of the creature in the latest instalment
Shane Black talks about 'The Predator' reboot and promises not to go easy on the violence
There has been no shortage of reboots of much-loved movies in cinemas in the past few years. From essentially every comic-book hero to ever previously grace screens (especially those whose names end in “-man”), to horror franchises such as Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (and Gus Van Sant’s intriguing, but ultimately unnecessary, shot-for-shot remake of Psycho) to Ridley Scott’s return to both the Alien and Blade Runner franchises.
Somehow, this week’s reboot of the Predator franchise, The Predator, seems to have slipped under the radar compared to the hype afforded by previous reboots. Admittedly, last decade’s lowpoint – the Alien vs Predator films didn’t exactly leave audiences screaming for more, but strangely, this particular piece of dead-horse flogging could have more going for it than we first realise.
For one, director and co-writer Shane Black has been, at least in part, responsible for some rather good movies in the past – he wrote Mel Gibson and Danny Glover buddy cop jaunt Lethal Weapon in 1987, and more recently, wrote and directed 2013’s Iron Man 3 for Marvel. He also co-wrote cult horror B-movies Night of the Creeps (1986) and Monster Squad (1987) with Fred Dekker, who joined him to co-write The Predator.
Perhaps most significantly, Black is himself a veteran of the original 1987 Predator movie. He played that movie’s geeky radio operator Rick Hawkins, back in the days when the films were quite good, and before they had veered off into incomprehensible, mythology-mixing battles with aliens.
So what brought Black back to the franchise, this time behind the camera, more than 30 years after his last bloody battle with the shape-shifting, forest-dwelling, extra-terrestrial hunter?
“There were a number of things that were appealing,” the director says. “One was a chance to work with Fred Dekker, with whom I have a 30-year relationship. We’ve worked together before and it just seemed like a chance to go be college kids again. At the time, it felt like a bit of a lark. Of course, two and a half years later, it’s become quite a bit more than that. We’ve been grinding away and trying to make the best possible film for two years now. And I think that I’ll be glad when we get it done, but only because I think what we’ll have at the end of that process will be worthwhile.”
Black is well-placed to reinvigorate the franchise, which had its last outing in 2010’s Predators, having been there right at the start. The 1987 movie was very much classic action fare, featuring the director as part of a team of elite commandos led by Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, protecting the world from the trophy-hunting, tree-loving terrors. This time around, the director says he hopes to bring something new to the world of The Predator: “[I wanted to deal with it] not strictly as a fantasy movie, but grounding it in that UFO-experience film,” the director says. “There’s been an incursion. There’s been a visit, and gradually, over the years, as Predators have continued to hunt on Earth, we’ve noticed that now there’s a faction on Earth that understands what’s happening and is investigating these creatures.”
Black says he also wanted to take a more slightly nuanced approach to the muscle-bound heroes that will battle with the dreadlocked demon: “I wanted to take the traditional tough guy unit of commandos and play with that a little bit. This sort of leaner, meaner group. The Dirty Dozen of it as opposed to the perfect Seal Team Six version,” he says. “Guys who are compromised or a little damaged and have to prove themselves. They represent the least likely bunch you’d expect to take on a threat from outer space that even the army can’t stop. They’re sloppy. They’re not graceful or gracious by any means, but there is this slapdash kind of come together, the have-your-back feeling among them that allows for them to come through under ridiculous circumstances.”
The notion of getting together and building the characters, both as individuals and a team, was central to Black’s approach. The director reveals that he looked to sporting comedies such as Slap Shot for inspiration, as well as more predictable war buddy movies such as Kelly’s Heroes. The director adds that he even made his cast watch Robert Wise’s 1971 sci-fi classic The Andromeda Strain to help them relate to Olivia Munn’s character in The Predator – the actress isn't a brawny special-ops warrior, but a scientist trying to learn more about the creature. It’s also clear, however, that the director will not be substituting any of the scares and violence of the earlier movies for simple laughs or scientific theories: “It’s a funny movie. It’s a heroic movie. And hopefully, it’s a frightening movie, as well, because we wanted the R rating. We wanted to be able to take people you care about and place them in the meat grinder. Really not sugarcoat the extent to which this Predator is a violent, deadly force of nature on Earth,” he says.
Black clearly has utmost respect for his movie’s villain, talking of its “frightening quality, brutality, and ninja-like stealth”. He looked to another highly respectable source for inspiration here, too: “I looked at Logan as an example. You’d seen Wolverine’s claws in the PG versions of The X-Men and you think ‘I guess he’s killing people with those’, right? And then for Logan, they just let it rip. They show that, of course, they’re claws, and of course, he puts them through people’s heads. And similarly, in The Predator, we just went for it. If he’s going to knock someone’s head off, I want to see it. So that’s the approach we took: if you’re going to go up against him, let’s scare the hell out of our main characters by making him as formidable and brutal an opponent as possible.”
The Predator is in UAE cinemas from Thursday, September 13