Last night, SXSW attendees were treated to a first look at the upcoming Robert Rodriguez produced movie Predators. No knowing exactly what to expect regarding footage length, quality or level of completion, we shuffled into the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz with high hopes for at least a bit of blood. Rodriguez and director Nimrod Antal were on hand to present a variety show of sorts that was light on footage, but heavy on cool. Luckily, these guys have stage presence.
First, the footage. Essentially we were given a look at the trailer a few weeks early. As Rodriguez explained, the trailer will likely be attached to Repo Men when it hits theaters on March 19th. Which is next weekend. So fear not, Predators-hungry folk, as you will soon have your chance to see the exact same footage — save for one bonus scene that was shown later. The trailer had good rhythm, balancing footage from the film with several interesting graphic elements. At one point, it cuts into scenes from the film with a shot of a dark Predator figure with his red tracking light on. It builds tension well and escalates quickly, explaining that a group of humans has found themselves on a mysterious planet. They don’t know each other, just that they were all in the midst of being some of the world’s most lethal killers when they were plucked up and marooned on this mysterious jungle planet.
They soon realize that they’re being hunted, and that maybe they were brought to this mysterious planet as prey. It’s all very “The Most Dangerous Game,” a story that Rodriguez would later reference as part of his writing inspiration. The trailer then explodes with a montage of clips, holding on until the very last moment before it shows us some of the new Predators at play. The trailer gives the film a feeling of tension, more of a horror-flick feel than a straightforward actioner. This is the intended effect.
The trailer is very well-executed, as you’ll soon see. It shows a bit of the great cast — one that includes not only Adrian Brody, but also Lawrence Fishbourne, Alice Braga, Danny Trejo, Topher Grace and Oleg Taktarov — shows glimpses at some Predators, and leaves us with the feeling that there’s more interesting things being saved for the film. A pretty standard, well-made trailer.
With that out of the way, I can now tell you about a few things that I learned from the Robert Rodriguez Variety Show (or Q&A), which included appearances from Nimrod Antal, creature effects supervisor Gregory Nicotero and an original animatronic Predator head.
1. This project has been around a long time
The idea for this movie came from a writing assignment that Robert Rodriguez took in 1996. It was originally intended for Arnold Schwarzenegger and featured his character Dutch heavily. Back then, the basic story was the same — it included humans being transported to another planet full of Predators and included different tribes of Predators. It also included the return of the original Predator from the first film. In the years since, Arnold has been taken out, but the original Predator remains. He will be in the film.
2. Predators will be rated-R, and proud of it
Rodriguez made a point to talk about how Fox has been very supportive of going for the R-rating. They asked for amped-up kills and said that they wanted a good ‘unrated’ cut for the DVD. He also said that the first trailer was rejected by the MPAA, due to some excessive slaughter at the hands of Predators. Not bad, if you ask me.
3. No CGI Predators allowed
Another big focus of this project was to keep it efficient, as Rodriguez is known to do. So instead of a lot of green screen and CG-Predator action, they went practical. They shot on location in Hawaii and at Troublemaker Studio here in Austin, and every single Predator that you see on screen is a guy in a suit — there are no CGI Predators in the film. There will be minimal use of CG, mostly in background (I would imagine).
4. James Cameron had a hand in the original Predator design
So the story goes, Stan Winston was showing the original design for the Predator head to James Cameron. The then only moderately successful so-and-so that was Cameron told him that the Predator should have a mouth that opened wide. Robert Rodriguez confirmed this with Cameron recently, solidifying Avatar-man’s role in Predator lore.
5. Super Predators doesn’t mean what you think it means
Rodriguez responded to a question about the “Super Predators” rumors that have shown up on the web. Apparently, Super Predator is just a name that was used in the script to differentiate between the original Predator and the new models. These are not Predators with superpowers, just different races of Predators that we have not yet met. When comparing them to the Predator from the first movie, Rodriguez said that it’s the difference “between wolves and dogs.” These new races are simply bigger, stronger, faster Predators — more specialized hunters. In fact, the film will feature two different tribes of Predators. And the designs of each Predator is based on that model’s preferred hunting method. There are Falconer Predators, and a big guy that Nimrod Antal called the “flusher” predator. You will also see Predator dogs, flying creatures and other unique surprises.
Overall, the project sounds like it’s in good hands. It’s hard to speculate based on one trailer — as is usually the case — but the vibe of the Q&A was such that Rodriguez wanted to go back to the first movie and start from there. In fact, there’s a narrative through-line that connects this to the original Predators and completely disregards all of the wayward sequels. It won’t be gimmicky — no 3D treatment — just simple, badass jungle hunting and killing, with big, nasty Predators that are as real as anything you will be able to see on screen. It all sounds good, in theory.