When it comes to Comic-Con International in San Diego, the longest lines and biggest crowds gather in Hall H. For the 2018 installment of the big show, SDCC opened up its doors Thursday morning with a kick-off presentation by 20th Century Fox focusing on the studio's attempt to reboot one of its signature franchises: The Predator.
The streamlined title is meant to convey a fresh start for the series that reaches back to the '80s, and on hand to sell that vision were director Shane Black along with cast members Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Keegan-Michael Key, Trevante Rhodes, Jake Busey, Thomas Jane and Augusto Aguiliera.
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In keeping with the tone of Comic-Con in general, the panel got underway with some heavy nerd talk. The cast debuted a video made on set where the various actors debated who would win in a battle of "The Predator Vs _______." The titular movie villain fared well, though couldn't quite draw support against the likes of Yoda. The cast then went down the stage debating other potential match ups like Indiana Jones, Ash from Evil Dead and Elsa from Frozen. Perhaps the most shocking revelation from this debate was the fact that Brown has never seen Evil Dead.
The actual content of the movie was then on full display as absent cast member Boyd Holbrook introduced some clips from the movie via video. The scenes on display featured Munn's character, scientist Casey Bracket, waking shaken in a motel room surrounded by the soldiers of the film. The footage was chock-full of the signature humor Black has worked into everything from Lethal Weapon to Iron Man 3. The unlikely team-up see-sawed from humor to tense drama as Holbrook declared "We need to find this thing – expose it" before a debate breaks out over whether an alien that hunts people can truly be called a Predator. But then when the team realizes that the alien will be on the hunt for its war weapons, Holbrook reveals that he has stolen its gear.
After the clip, Black spoke to why he was attracted to the franchise. "It's a perfect fusion – a piece of pop art," he said. "It's the alien craze of the '80s mixed with the Rambo craze." He called this take a stripped down "Dirty Half Dozen" that features a variety of misfit characters including Munn's doctor who prefers dogs to people and a young character on the autism spectrum. "You get the most amazing character actors in the world with the best fucking chops, you put them in a room, and then my job is to get out of the fucking way."
Key spoke to the vibe on the set, saying that in between takes the cast would retreat to his trailer to watch Black exploitation films and things like The Room. The game for the actors became trying to fit lines from these films into their movie, with Key failing to get the line "Bitch, are you for real?" into the final cut despite multiple attempts. "And that's why Keagan is not in the final film much," deadpanned Jane.
Busey talked about following in the footsteps of his father Gary by appearing in the franchise as a relation of the elder's original character. "I spent 25 or 26 years in my career trying to distance myself from [his work]," he said. "This is the moment of 'I'm going to do this and do it all the way.' I had Shane call me and say 'I have this idea' and I said 'Let's do it.' I'm the same age my dad was when he did [Predator 2]."
Then Black set up another clip by talking about the sci-fi concept of the film. In this version, the homeworld of Predators is at odds with itself with a certain faction wanting to get more aggressive in fighting back against humankind. Saying that these Predators are "roiding" up to kill with efficient speed. "There's a danger if you light this wrong...that these guys will be clunking around like they're in line backer outfits...we wanted these completely brutal creatures," he said.
The clip featured a showdown in a suburban high school where a female Predator with sleek technical armor is set to attack Munn when a bigger, more aggressive alien attacks its fellow creature in vicious fashion. Featuring iconic Predator effects like the heat signature vision and glowing green blood, the scene ends with the 'roided Predator decapitating the smaller one as the cast retreats in an RV. The question on Munn's lips: "Are they hunting each other?"
But for fans wondering whether this movie would be firmly set in urban environs, a more trailer-like sequence followed that featured numerous set pieces including forrest battles, more military action and a variety of Predators.
Black spoke about the blood effects, which he would not confirm were made with KY and glow sticks. "It shows up on set and glows for about 20 minutes, and then a guy has to show up with a bucket," he said. "Predator blood is an iconic part of this that you have to have...and by the way, that shots not finished. We have more blood."
The cast praised Augusto Aguiliera as this is his first ever film, though the young actor said he realized a few days into production that his penchant for trying to work viral video nods like finger guns into his character as a joke meant that he might get cut in the edit. Luckily, he wised up and earned praise on the panel from Brown for his performance.
When the floor opened up for fans questions, the "Predator Vs." idea took hold with Brown joking "The Predator is losing to a lot of people." Black said, "I don't think there's a single option discussed [here] that would win against this Predator." When a fan asked about Predator Vs. Thanos, the director said, "Does it bother anybody that Thanos can have a train coming at him and turn it into a flock of birds, but then Spider-Man just blasts some webbing in his face? I mean, I loved the movie, but I guess they had to give the kid something to do."
With the rumor that there is gene-splicing happening with these Predators, a fan asked if there was any DNA – figurative or literal – from the Xenomorphs of the Alien franchise. Black said that this movie is not a reboot and comes after all the various Predator and Alien movies. That said, they do not reference any specific elements from, say, Alien Covenant in this movie. Black still maintains that the idea of Alien Vs. Predator is not dead on film and that a matchup could still be in the future.