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Always bet on Black: why Shane Black is perfect for The Predator

The nostalgia for 1980s cinema that drives a large number of contemporary blockbusters is nice in theory – it was undeniably a halcyon time for the silver screen – but the resulting films often display a lack of understanding of what made the movies beloved in the first place. You only have to look at the crummy remakes of Robocop, Total Recall and other films not directed by Paul Verhoeven to note that returning to a 1980s cinematic brand can be fraught with peril.

Or you could look at Predators (2010), the Robert Rodriguez-produced sequel that looked great on paper but terrible in the cinema. It was the latest indignity for a franchise that hasn’t seen a decent entry since 1990’s underrated Predator 2.

While 20th Century Fox has bent over backwards trying to make its Alien series work time after time (with mixed results), the studio has comparatively neglected its other iconic ’80s monster IP. But that could be all about to change thanks to The Predator, a film written and directed by Shane Black, a filmmaker who could be described as the 1980s in human form.

Among other works, Black wrote the screenplay for such all-time winners as Lethal Weapon (1987), The Last Boy Scout (1991) and The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) before moving into directing with the stellar Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005), Iron Man 3 (2013) and The Nice Guys (2016). Those last three films represented something of a career comeback for Black, and they all demonstrated his skill for elegantly bringing the tough guy repartee that defined the best 80s action movies into the modern era.

This alone makes Black the right guy to helm a new Predator film, but he’s also perfect for other reasons: Black co-starred in the original 1987 Predator movie (which was almost directed by Kiwi Geoff Murphy) as the potty-mouthed soldier Hawkins.

Black was apparently cast in the film by producer Joel Silver so he could supply on-the-fly script rewrites at the film’s remote Mexican locations, but Black has downplayed his involvement in the screenplay beyond the infamous pussy jokes that Hawkins tells in the movie.

It has to be the first and only instance of a film’s minor cast member stepping behind the camera for a sequel. And it’s freaking awesome. If anyone “gets” Predator, it’s this guy.

Black also brought along his long-time friend and occasional collaborator Fred Dekker (with whom he wrote 1987 cult classic The Monster Squad) to co-write the screenplay for The Predator. That the king of the buddy action movie wrote The Predator with a buddy only makes me more excited for it.

It’s also highly encouraging that Black engaged legendary practical effects company Amalgamated Dynamics (ADI) to work on The Predator. The company was founded and is still led by Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr, who honed their monster-making craft under the tutelage of the late great Stan Winston, designer of the original Predator. Sure, ADI worked on the two Alien vs Predator films, but it wasn’t bad effects that made those movies suck.

ADI has long stood as a bastion of practical effects in a CGI-driven era, and you just know that Gillis and Woodruff will go out of their way to honour one of their fallen mentor’s most famous creations. Indeed, everything we’ve seen of The Predator so far seems to emphasize an affection for, and understanding of, exactly what made the original film so good, and it warms the cockles of my 1980s-bred heart.

I’m glad that Black isn’t ignoring the first sequel either – Jake Busey apparently plays the son of his real-life father Gary’s character from the sequel. It’s always nice to see Jake Busey getting work.

The recently-released final trailer for The Predator couldn’t feel more Black-ian. From Sterling K. Brown’s sardonic one-liners to the rag-tag band of crazy military misfits who take on a bigger, badder dreadlocked xenomorph, it all supports the notion that there hasn’t been a better pairing of filmmaker and material this exciting since that aborted Aliens follow-up that Neil Blomkamp (District 9) was supposed to make, but didn’t.

Thank the movie gods – or some Fox exec that had his mind blown at the movies in 1987 – that this one went into production with Black at the helm.

To paraphrase Hawkins, my anticipation for The Predator is as big as a house.


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