After recently watching Prey—the latest installment of The Predator series and a tight, thoroughly-enjoyable action film—I had an epiphany: I had never seen the other movies. At this juncture, I have two of notes on these films.
Note the first:
The early films in this series have a clear thesis: humans ought to abstain from violence, but with some effort and enlisting enough people into the cause we can nip that impulse in the bud.
This is of course not the actual intent. Predators do not abstain from killing innocent or unarmed people because they are avenging spirits who use their technology to punish wrongdoers. Rather, they seem to be engaging in an eternal most dangerous game for which humans are the ideal prey since they exist in a Hobbesian state of nature (aka warfare), thus making the “innocents” an inadequate challenge. Inasmuch as these movies are more about the human characters than the Predators, the first two films offer remarkable social commentary about the United States and what the filmmakers think about humanity.
Note the second:
The success of Prey prompted people online to call for a series of culturally and historically specific Predator films. For instance, one person suggested a film set in Medieval Japan where we meet a Ronin who failed to protect his lord who had been attacked by a Predator. In order to regain his honor he must hunt down and kill the Predator.
My movie pitch goes in a somewhat different direction:
In Predator 2 (1990) a young boy carrying a toy Uzi submachine pistol encounters Predator in a Los Angeles cemetery. Predator’s signature triple-laser targeting system appears on the child, but clicks off when once it is established that the gun is just a toy and the wielder no threat. This establishes (for at least the second time in this film) that Predator only hunts dangerous prey. Once the lasers are gone, the child asks Predator if it would like some candy.
My movie opens with that scene, after which we get a montage that takes us forward between 50 and 70 years. The child becomes obsessed with Predators and their technology, joining government agencies tasked with claiming and improving upon Predator technology. It works, but this monomania caused the sweet, young child who offered Predator candy to become a sociopath and a ruthless tyrant who uses this technology to rule over a country (or even the world: adjust the stakes as necessary). He is a frail old man now, but still ruthless and violently suppresses all challenges to his rule using his improvements to the alien technology. His scheming lieutenants are now vying to become his heir, while he is working with Predator-derived technology to prolong his life.
However, his rule both brutalizes the weak and poses a challenge to the alien Predators, so they have returned to earth to end his rule and in so doing liberate humanity. He is, after all, the greatest prey of all. This film thus holds true to the core of Predator, but inverts its essential structures such that the “villain” is a human who is more technologically advanced than the Predators, while the Predators are now a scrappy underdogs who need rely on their instincts and teamwork to overcome their opponent.