Welcome back! Yesterday’s monster was the nightmare-inducing xenomorph from the Alien series, so it seems only fitting that today we examine its mortal enemies simply known as the Predators.
The first appearance of the Predator was in the 1987 film Predator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The man credited with their design was none other than the legendary Stan Winston.
However, the image of the Predator we all know was not originally what Winston envisioned. His first draft gave the Predator a long neck, one eye, a head like a dog, back-turned legs like a satyr and a svelter torso to give it more agility. Since the Predator was also meant to be more of a stealthy ninja-like hunter, the actor who was first cast to play the monster was martial arts actor Jean-Claude Van Damme. The filmmakers saw his casting as a problem when they compared him to the other actors in the film like Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura. As fit as Van Damme was, his size didn’t evoke any feelings of intimidation from the production team, so he was replaced by 7′ 2″ mime actor named Kevin Peter Hall–who unfortunately died of AIDS resulting from a blood transfusion shortly after the release of Predator 2. Fun fact: the Predator’s voice was performed by Optimus Prime himself, Peter Cullen.
Unlike the xenomorphs, the Predators are an advanced civilization capable of interstellar travel, active camouflage (including invisibility), energy-based weaponry, thermal vision masks which are adept at targeting humans and advanced medical techniques to save themselves from severe injuries. Physically, they’re built similarly to humans, but every trait is stronger than ours. They’re taller, have greater muscle and bone density and even without medical assistance, they are capable of recovering from the normal damage from gunshot wounds and radiation that would be lethal to humans. (They were also the first living beings to ever kick Arnold’s ass, proving that he is mortal after all.) And hunting is almost entirely around what their culture revolves. After making a kill, the Predator usually decapitate or skins the victim as a trophy, and as a rite of passage, they must kill something which provides an adequate challenge. They don’t even eat their kills or use their body parts as resources. It’s all for the sake of gaming. That’s why they don’t kill children or anyone unarmed; no sport in it. If a Predator fails during a hunt, the only option for preserving honor is suicide.
Much like The Thing, Predator was not very well received upon its initial release, but repeated viewings have changed the way people remember it, and it is now considered a sci-fi, action and horror classic. (It’s also the first time Arnold ever got his ass kicked on screen.) Its success has led to two sequels (Predator 2 and Predators), the crossover films with the Alien franchise, and the same merchandising treatment as well. While Predator is not as critically-acclaimed as the Alien films, it fits into the public consciousness right along with it. Even before the crossover, the Predators and xenomorphs were touted as the baddest killer aliens in recent memory, and many fans debated on who would win in a fight. Alien vs. Predator gave us our answer–for better or for worse–with the Predator ultimately coming out victorious. (I don’t care about the Predalien at the end. That was a lame contrivance.)
While the popularity of the Predator may not be as strong as that of the xenomorph, it has certainly earned its place in the fraternity of fearsome monsters. Perhaps its appeal comes from its ability to earn admiration from humans by its code of ethics and willingness to work with humanity to fight a greater evil. It might not be the most wicked one of the bunch, but if you pose a formidable enough threat to it, the Predator will become your most frightening adversary you could imagine.