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To Catch a Predator: Why Is It So Hard to Franchise the Predator?

The Predator is one of the most iconic creations of the past thirty-odd years.

The creature created by Stan Winston for John McTiernan’s 1987 action blockbuster is instantly recognisable. It is striking and distinctive. Even people who have never sat down and watched a movie featuring the creature are familiar with the design. This is especially notable given that it could have been a disaster. The original design for the creature is something of an internet urban legend, part of the pop cultural folklore. Predator narrowly averted disaster when Stan Winston redesigned the monster from scratch, so it is all the more impressive that it became such a classic.

It is no surprise that the Predator was quickly franchised. After all, that is how the film industry works. Although modern prognosticators decry the modern era as one defined by sequels and remakes and reboots, but they have always been a feature of the landscape. So the Predator became the cornerstone of an impressive multimedia franchise; even outside of games and comic books, the creature anchored Predator 2, Alien vs. Predator, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, Predators and The Predator. That’s an impressive list, in terms of quantity and variety.

However, it is decidedly less impressive in terms of quality. Of those five sequels, Predators is the only one with a positive score on Rotten Tomatoes. Similarly, Predators is the only sequel with a vaguely positive rating on MetaCritic, scraping just over fifty percent. This is the kind of showing that audiences and critics expect from low-rent horror sequels like those starring Freddie Kreuger or Jason Voorhees. (Indeed, the latest sequel starring Michael Myers is critically outpacing The Predator.) It is not exactly an impressive track record for a reasonably big budget mainstream high-profile science-fiction franchise.

Indeed, the stock comparison for the Predator is the Alien franchise, and for good reason. The xenomorph from Alien is another iconic late twentieth-century alien design housed within an R-rated science-fiction action-horror franchise. Both properties are owned by Twentieth Century Fox, allowing them to intersect and crossover within a shared universe. Both have spawned a variety of sequels, and are loosely linked in the popular mind in the way that the Universal Studios films linked Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster with the Mummy or the Invisible Man.

However, this stock comparison does not flatter the Predator. After all, the xenomorph has been at the centre of a franchise that is consistently interesting and at best innovative. There are sequels to Alien that are rightly regarded as classics such as Aliens, while other have launched great careers such as Alien³, and some still cause fierce debates. For all the criticism of films like Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, they at least engender passion in their audiences, in a way that the sequels to Predator do not. Why is it so hard to make a good Predator sequel?

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Non-Review Review: The Predator

The Predator adopts the as-ambitious-as-it-is-counter-productive of smirkingly mocking big budget franchise films while also actually being a big budget franchise film.

Shane Black’s sequel to the beloved eighties actioner is jarring, caught between two masters. On the one hand, Black writes the characters in his patented self-ware style, with banter and wry liners to beat the band. However, these characters are then dropped right into the middle of a fairly brain-dead paint-by-numbers action film that is clearly structured to feel like a contemporary franchise foundation stone. There is a constant push-and-pull between these two extremes, which is disorienting and distracting.

The Predator took the reviews rather well.

The Predator never seems sure whether it is a good old-fashioned fun-dumb blockbuster mocking the pretensions of modern franchise films or alternatively a smart self-aware action comedy picking at the tropes of fun dumb action films. It’s never entirely clear whether the issues with The Predator are playful self-parody or just terrible plotting; whether Shane Black is not taking any of this seriously or whether he is taking all of it much too seriously.

Whenever The Predator seems to be working, it veers too sharply one way or the other and the audience gets whiplash.

Pred-locks.

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Non-Review Review: Alien vs. Predator

To celebrate the release of Prometheus in the United States this week, we’ll be taking a look at the other movies in the Alien franchise.

I like cheesy movies. I have a fondness for those old fashioned mix-and-match creature features from back in the day. I have a remarkable tolerance for some of those incredibly awkward B-movie adventures featuring relatively bland characters trapped in a strange and slightly illogical situations. As such, I’m probably a bit fonder of Paul W.S. Anderson’s creature-feature fight-night beat-’em-up schlock-fest Alien vs. Predator. I’m not so fond that I’d argue it’s a good movie – in fact, I’d readily concede that it’s a disappointing lifeless husk of a movie. However, I will concede that there are some interesting concepts and ideas buried quite deeply in the middle of that film.

Natural born predators…

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Non-Review Review: Predators

It must be genuinely one of the toughest and most unforgiving tasks in moviedom to produce a belated sequel to a beloved franchise. Even Spielberg and Lucas messed up in producing the long-delayed Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or Lucas’ prequels to Star Wars. The original film has just been lying there so long that it has built up its own legacy and reputation – to the point where it’s arguably not so much a film as a legend. Okay, maybe the original Predator and the modern Predators shouldn’t really be classified as legends in the same way as the earlier examples (or, say Chinatown and its disappointing follow-up The Two Jakes), but this is undeniably a cult franchise. The good news is that – while far from perfect – Predators actually lives up to its legacy quite well.

Preying for a way out...

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Predators for Crumlin

Hey, I’m checking out Predators tonight at Cineworld on Parnell Street. Apparently there will be a couple of guys dressed up as Predators (properly, mind you) to add a bit of flavour to the occasion and also to raise much-needed funds for Crumlin’s Children’s Hospital. If you’re around the area, checking out the film or want to see what a Predator looks like in the flesh, pop on down this evening and give a few bob if you can. It’s all for a good cause.

On the hunt for something interesting to see?

Perfect ’10? Summer So Far…

Am I the only person hugely disappointed with the summer so far this year? I mean, the summer isn’t traditionally where you find the best movies of the year, at least no more or less than any other time of year, but I’m not looking for great movies, just good ones. just solidly entertaining ones. At the most basic level, I’d settle for just an excuse to go to the cinema on a Friday night (although I’m sure my better half is glad of the weak string of movies – it really frees up our schedule). What the hell is wrong here?

Leo's looking for good movies too...

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Off the Beaten Trail(er): Trailers and Spoilers

Trailers are a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, they tease you with footage from that upcoming realise you’ve been anticipating (or can even get you excited about one you couldn’t care less for) – but that comes at a price. More often than not, trailers frequently spoil the film that they advertise. There are quick shots of action, but you can see something that doesn’t occur until more than half-way through the film, or a comedy which frequently includes its best laughs in the trailer. Of course, this makes sense – if you want to convince an audience to see a comedy, the trailer needs to make ’em laugh, so you include the really hilarious scenes; for an action movie, you want to tease what you have, so show them clips from the climax (usually larger than the other action scenes). So what are we supposed to do?

We actually need something like this...

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