THE PREDA­TOR

THE PREDA­TOR Teasers vis­its the Van­cou­ver set of Shane Black’s Preda­tor se­quel and finds a fran­chise un­der­go­ing a mon­strous up­grade…

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Old snag­gle­tooth is back for a re­boot.

It’s mid-April 2017, and in­side a Van­cou­ver sound­stage the Preda­tor is on the prowl. Not the Preda­tor, we’ll come to him later. But a Preda­tor. And he’s not re­ally prowl­ing ei­ther. He’s ac­tu­ally quite lovely. “It feels ridicu­lous!” says Brian Prince, the man in the suit (mi­nus a mandibled head) “I’m sweat­ing and I can’t breathe through my nose. But I’ll be walk­ing through set, and peo­ple will look up and freak out. And you think, ‘OK, cool!’”

Prac­ti­cal Preda­tor suits were a pri­or­ity for Shane Black, the wün­derkind screen­writer turned block­buster di­rec­tor be­hind Iron Man 3, and now the se­quel to a film he him­self was in more than 30 years ago – Black played be­spec­ta­cled sol­dier Hawkins in Preda­tor, the first of Arnie’s squad to

be bumped off. “Even though some of the iconog­ra­phy’s been lost, there’s some­thing very spe­cial still about the Preda­tor,” says Black, chat­ting to Teasers over lunch. “When I saw it in the room, I thought, ‘Oh, fuck, this is up to me now. I bet­ter make sure I bring my game here.’”

Given every­thing Teasers sees on set, it’s safe to say Black brought it. Film­ing un­der the code name ‘Ol­lie’ (af­ter one of Black’s beloved dogs), it’s day 44 of the 65-day shoot. Fol­low­ing the wettest March on record, which wreaked havoc on the shoot­ing sched­ule, film­ing has now moved in­side, where Teasers walks past a cross-section of for­est, half ex­pect­ing to see the faint shim­mer of a cam­ou­flaged hunter, be­fore stum­bling across the moth­er­lode: the in­te­rior of a Preda­tor ves­sel.

Tak­ing a full five months to de­sign and build, the Preda­tor ship set looks a lit­tle like a tricked-out half-pipe,

the metal­lic blue in­te­rior lined by large al­coves, one con­tain­ing an es­cape pod, an­other a map. In front of a large door on the far side sits a pair of Preda­tor-sized steps lined with fa­mil­iar red let­ter­ing, which the film’s youngest cast mem­ber – Room’s Ja­cob Trem­blay – strug­gles to as­cend be­tween takes.

Trem­blay isn’t alone though, he’s sur­rounded by the film’s hu­man cast. Gone are the baby-oiled mus­cle men and Los An­ge­les de­tec­tives of pre­vi­ous Preda­tor films. Af­ter their own close en­counter at the start of the film, a group of seven vet­er­ans dubbed the ‘Loonies’ find them­selves caught up in a ga­lac­tic civil war.

“There’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary amount of chem­istry that we all have,” nods Boyd Hol­brook. The Lo­gan star plays Quinn McKenna, leader of this mot­ley crew, and es­tranged fa­ther to Trem­blay’s autis­tic Rory. “I’m not just say­ing that. I’ve done this enough to know what’s shit and what’s good. I think Shane’s rein­vented some­thing.”

Un­der McKenna’s com­mand are Bax­ley (Thomas Jane), Net­tles (new­comer Au­gusto Aguil­era), Wil­liams (Moon­light’s Tre­vante Rhodes) and Coyle (Kee­gan-Michael

Key). A self-con­fessed sci-fi nut, Key ad­mits to en­joy­ing all the Preda­tor movies to date (yes, even AvP: Re­quiem), but ex­plains how Black’s film stands apart. “We’re jug­gling a lot of balls in a very ex­cit­ing way,” he says. “And the sto­ries move for­ward with lots of verve and force. Whereas the first movie has this lovely, tense, slower, ni­hilis­tic en­ergy. It’s cul­mi­nat­ing into some­thing that’s be­com­ing its own piece, and that’s thrilling to be a part of.”

As in the first film, an out­sider soon joins the squad­dies. Here it’s Olivia Munn’s Casey Bracket, an evo­lu­tion­ary bi­ol­o­gist brought in to study a cer­tain alien life form, but let’s just say it doesn’t stay on the lab ta­ble for long. As the sole woman of the group, it was im­por­tant to Munn that Casey “was not the ro­man­tic love in­ter­est to any­body else”, the X-Men star ex­plains. “That she can sim­ply ex­ist. I’ve en­joyed work­ing with Shane on cre­at­ing that, and mak­ing sure that we were al­ways staying true to that.”

While Black is best known for his odd cou­ple two-han­ders, from Lethal Weapon to The Nice Guys, here, with Monster Squad co-writer Fred Dekker, he’s em­brac­ing the en­sem­ble. Also along for the ride is Ster­ling K. Brown as Will Trae­gar (a mem­ber of shady think tank Stargazer), who’s on­board the Preda­tor ves­sel with Casey, Rory and the Loonies when not one, but two Preda­tors en­ter the room, both wear­ing US army-is­sue com­bat trousers. The im­pli­ca­tion: these ex­trater­res­trial ‘emis­saries’ have been work­ing with hu­man­ity for some time. But the Loonies draw their weapons re­gard­less.

“So let me un­pack this,” Coyle quips ner­vously. “We’ve got one 10ft moth­er­fucker chas­ing us, so you bring us two 7ft moth­er­fuck­ers? Well, that’s 40 per cent more moth­er­fuck­ers!”

Hold the phone, was that a 10ft moth­er­fucker? That’s right, it seems that your gar­den va­ri­ety Preda­tors aren’t all that hu­man­ity needs to worry about any more. “You see, there’s a Preda­tor hunt­ing not just hu­mans, but other Preda­tors,” Black smiles of his film’s hulk­ing ‘up­grade’ Preda­tor. “There’s a group of rogue Preda­tors on Preda­tor world. They’re not happy that they send their cham­pi­ons to Earth, and they never come home. This has ruf­fled feath­ers over the years to the point where there’s a group of Preda­tors who aren’t above punch­ing back by in­cor­po­rat­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics from other species they’ve hunted to breed an ultimate as­sas­sin.”

But the big ques­tion is: can Black top the iconic orig­i­nal? “The idea of that pure piece of pop art? You can never beat it,” Black read­ily con­cedes. “But it’s of that time. We were try­ing to make a film, ul­ti­mately, that if John McTier­nan were to watch it, he would say, ‘Hey, kid, you did OK.’” JF

ETA | 12 SEPTEMBER / THE PREDA­TOR OPENS NEXT MONTH.

‘THERE’S A PREDA­TOR HUNT­ING OTHER PREDA­TORS, NOT JUST HU­MANS’ SHANE BLACK

oN the prowl one of the Preda­tors stalks through a pri­mary school.

toP Brass Black’s film in­tro­duces a su­per-sized, genetically mod­i­fied Preda­tor (top right).

taKe a looK olivia munn (right) is a bi­ol­o­gist who gets more than she bar­gains for with this spec­i­men.

shoot ’em uP (above) Lo­gan’s Boyd hol­brook plays group leader Quinn mcKenna.

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