Shane Black's Predator Is Taking a Page From the Alien Playbook

The first teaser trailer for Shane Black’s upcoming reboot of the Predator franchise introduces a new threat from the alien big game hunters -- and it’s a hell of a lot more dangerous than a fancy, new shoulder cannon. The trailer introduces the idea that the Predators have been tampering with their own genetic code to become more efficient hunters. For fans of the sci-fi franchise and its ilk, this likely sounds a great deal like what has been going on in the Alien franchise for decades.

For the lack of a better pun, the Predator and Alien franchises do share similar DNA. The hallmark of the alien antagonists in the Predator franchise has been their ability to adapt to a variety of situations, largely through technology. In Predator, they hunted through the jungles of Central America with personal cloaking technology and infrared vision. Predator 2 saw that same technology applied to an urban area in crisis, with the addition of various tools for more nuanced psychological warfare. The fact that the creatures would upgrade themselves on a genetic level, as the Xenomorphs have been doing for decades through their “natural” lifecycle, is therefore not a big surprise, and in keeping with the themes of the mainline Predator films.

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The Predator movies, after all, have been all about mainstream fears of conflict with The Other, the unseen and unknowable aggressor whose methods are so thoroughly alien that they baffle even the most stalwart military veterans. In this way, the franchise has always been about the fears of the times. Predator was a seemingly direct response to the horrors of American soldiers engaging in guerilla warfare between the ‘60s and the ‘80s. Predator 2 brought those sensibilities to the city, preying on fears stoked by conflict in urban sprawls like Los Angeles and New York City in the ‘90s, most of which was the result of well-documented racial injustices and police violence. Now, the franchise has moved on to society’s latest boogeyman, the threat of genetic editing from projects like CRISPR.

This isn’t the first time the predatory aliens have attempted, or been victim to, hybridization attempts, though. The Aliens vs. Predator comic book franchise was spawned in 1991 after an Easter egg in Predator 2 hinted that the big game hunters had collected Xenomorph trophies in the past. Aliens vs. Predator: Duel #2 introduced the idea of a Predalien, a vicious hybrid of the two creatures. This abomination was later transported to the big screen in the movie adaptation of Aliens vs. Predator, and later fully paid off in the sequel, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. These films are ostensibly pure action romps, though, so there’s little in the way of thematic elements that can be derived from this example of hybridization.

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Still, it is interesting that the Predator series would make this leap again, after director Ridley Scott has so thoroughly explored this contemporary terror in Prometheus and, more recently, Alien: Covenant. Those films recount the origins of the Xenomorph species, created by the corrupted android David, who sought to create a perfect organism using an alien mutagen that warps organic matter into genuine horrors. The creatures in Predator seem to be taking a more targeted approach to their evolution, though, perhaps looking to mix their DNA with that of humans after so many humiliating defeats at the hands of a supposedly inferior species that was always meant to be hunted for sport -- if you can’t beat them, why not become them?

Debuting in theaters on Sept. 14, Predator is directed by Shane Black and stars Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Alfie Allen, Thomas Jane, Augusto Aguilera, Jake Busey and Yvonne Strahovski.

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