WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Shane Black’s The Predator, in theaters now.
Introduced in director John McTiernan's 1987 original, Predators, or Yautja, were established over the course of the early franchise films as a deadly alien species that lives for the thrill of the hunt. They set their sights on worthy prey, and then take skulls -- and sometimes spines -- as trophies. It's a relatively straightforward yet entertaining premise that doesn't require much backstory, or for the audience to be steeped in Predator lore. But Shane Black's The Predator changes that, and in doing so potentially weakens the franchise's premise.
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It was long assumed Predators would target formidable humans simply because the aliens relish a good fight. Predator 2 established they've been hunting and killing humans since at least 1715, and Alien vs. Predator doubled down on their society valuing survival of the fittest as younger Predators battled Xenomorphs in a ritual. Now The Predator presents a new side of the story.
The galactic hunters aren't ripping out spines to advertise their prowess; they're doing it to collect DNA. Olivia Munn's character claims the extraterrestrials are taking traits from the "best" people before the human race is eventually wiped out by climate change. She also speculates they're gathering genetic material from other species, as hinted when one Predator grow san exoskeleton (a Xenomorph nod, perhaps?).
Black introduces the "ultimate" Predator, a roughly 11-foot creature that's stronger and more durable than an ordinary Predator, with technology apparently built into its body, allowing the alien to see in infrared and communicate with its off-world allies without the need for a helmet. This towering threat is obviously the result of the Yautja's gene -splicing experiments. Less obvious is the "regular" Predator, which possesses human DNA.
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Based on what we've seen, Predators strive to be the ultimate hunters, so isn't enhancing their already-impressive physicality lessening the challenges they seem to value so much? After all, Predator 2 and Alien vs. Predator demonstrated the Yautja have a code of honor, and they seek challenges. Sure, the Predators appear to be about survival of the fittest, but gaining even more advantages over their prey feels dishonorable and out of character; it's obvious they don't want an easy victory.