The new ‘Predator’ movie is surrounded by expectation: not only is it one of the most beloved creatures for fans of horror and science fiction films, and it surrounds the first installment with a halo of cult film that has not been deadened with the passage of the years .
In addition, its responsible is Shane Black , one of the few Marvel directors who can boast of having directed an author film inside the Disney mastodon ( ‘Iron Man 3’ ) and is responsible for one of the best action comedies of recent years , ‘Two good guys’ (‘The Nice Guys’).
We have talked about him and his approach to revitalize the ‘Predator’ franchise . We have also had the opinions of two actors in the film, Olivia Munn and Boyd Holbrook . With all of them we discussed the risks of retaking an almost untouchable classic of gender, the use of violence and humor and the relationship of this new release of ‘Predator’ with the rest of Black’s work.
“I did not want to change the look of the Predator, it’s iconic and perfect.”Shane Black, director and screenwriter of ‘Predator’
You participated in the first ‘Predator’ as an actor, and now you come back as a scriptwriter and director. What has changed in the series since then?
The first ‘Predator’ was a strange and magical experience because I was 24 or 25 years old, a long time ago, in 1986. What I remember that struck me the most was being an active part of this army unit composed of amazing actors. We train with real military to be able to behave with them, teach us to hold weapons , to make the typical signals to communicate in silence. It was a very good twinning experience, and very fun.
When it comes to raising a new version, you realize that there are things you want to change and others that are so good that you want to leave. For example, I did not want to change the look of the Predator, so iconic and perfect. And from the group of protagonists, I wanted to change some things . Maybe they were not these muscle towers, but they were soldiers with a lot of experience, very hard, very dry. And I think that we have achieved this, partly thanks to the actors we have found to interpret them and the way in which they interact with each other.
As for its place in the series, this ‘Predator’ wants to show old things … again. That is, present things with a renewed energy, but pay tribute to the first film too, to that feeling of eighties film. It is the combination of all that which is new: it is a new film, with a new aesthetic and a new technology, but it leaves a feeling of eighties style.
And as for the creature itself, to Predator, what has changed in all these years?
Well, there have been different classes of Predator, it has been suggested that there are different clans of Predators, and they have different aspects, different heights and corpulences. This idea I love, because if you think about it, the Predator we know has this tribal aesthetic, with necklaces, dreadlocks, skulls , but at the same time they have spaceships, so there must be Predators in their world who are scientists. As Predators nerds .
For example, it is something that has helped me to update the myth: the idea of tearing out the heart of a victim and eating it to adopt its properties is very primitive and tribal, but it is also possible that what they do is appropriate the DNA of their prey throughout the galaxy. It is part science fiction and part tribalism. And there comes the use of DNA to create a superior Predator, something similar to steroids in sports, which is cheating , but they are angry with the terrestrial and we have beaten them so many times.
The film means a reunion with your old collaborator Fred Dekker. What does it mean for you and the film to collaborate with him again?
Fred and I have known each other for 38 years, it’s a long time. There is an almost instantaneous familiarity. I know what he thinks, he knows what I think. When we watch a movie together, if I say “Oh, I do not like that idea,” he always replies, “Yeah, not me either.” For us this has been a reunion with a childhood toy, it has been like being children again , when Fred and I came into contact with the action cinema of the eighties that we enjoyed so much in his day.
What exactly does that action cinema of the eighties represent for you?
That you do not have to be careful or delicate. The action cinema now tries to please everyone, and before the genre could be allowed to be hard, violent, intense and risky. I think Fox has been quite successful with ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Logan’, and both were risky, so that’s why here they have decided to come close to what the action movie of the eighties was like. I give you an example: they made a few movies for all audiences of the character of Wolverine, and in them you saw how the blades came out of his hand, but then you did not see him killing anyone really. Until finally, in ‘Logan’, the first thing I did was pierce someone’s head with the blades, and you said “I knew, I knew that guy was killing people”. And the same goes for this film, that’s why we went for the R classification (for over 18 years).
Your cinema, of such classic staging, clashes with the modern style of shooting action. What do you think of how it rolls now with a more dynamic style influenced by video games?
We review the arguments of some of the video games, for example one entitled ‘Concrete Jungle’. But with regard to style, the truth is that I’ve never played video games. My opinion is that you can make a great story for a game of ‘Predator’, but in the end everything is restricted to hitting shots, and it has nothing to do with telling a story. In fact, the objective of the film was that it did not look like a video game: to escape from this CGI aesthetic of recent years, that in action scenes you end up wondering, where is the camera? Aesthetically it is beautiful, but when the camera moves in a chaotic way, climbing through the trees, doing cartwheels, the final sensation is rare. Of course, you can use the CGI, but to be part of the scenario, not to boast of effects. The CGI is a great tool, but also a privilege, and you should not abuse it.
It is very interesting how part of the humor of the film falls on the soldiers and their interactions, similar to that of films like ‘Doce del patíbulo’. How did you approach this question?
I like classic heroes like Lee Marvin or Steve McQueen, and movies like ‘The Great Flight’ or the same ‘Twelve of the Scaffold’. To get there I had to do a couple of things: first, eliminate some of the great stereotypes of the eighties, Van Damme type, Dolph Lundgren , Stallone, Schwarzenegger, all these heroes who looked like bodybuilders. And return to closer heroes, type Cassavetes. I also like the realistic soldier style, the camaraderie, the camaraderie that was in the first movie
The second thing I did to update them is that they were buzzed. I’ve always liked the characters a bit broken. There is a film by Barry Levinson called ‘Diner’ and I review it continuously, about a group of teenagers growing up in Baltimore: the interactions that take place between them, the way in which he presents these characters … There are no jokes, It’s just people acting like real people. The way they talk, how they get ridiculed, how they behave, all that is fun. And to that I add conflict through characters like the boy who is an outcast or the scientist who prefers animals to people . By bringing all these marginalized together is when they work.
How did you decide to take the Predator out of the jungle and put him in another jungle, but on asphalt?
I like the variations. I wanted to leave recognizable elements for people to identify and remember. But I did not want to copy the first movie either. I like the idea of putting the Predators in places they do not belong in theory. They are beings that have to be in the jungle, that’s where you place them, among trees and vegetation. But not in an institute. So I decided to make the movie go to an institute, and then send it back to the forest. What also works as a nod to the alien invasions of the fifties: small towns to which the aliens arrive . That’s why I like the locations of this film, they are unexpected: Mexico at the beginning, a laboratory, and at the end both in the forest and in a residential neighborhood.
“The study was afraid that we would get out of the planned plan.”Olivia Munn and Boyd Holbrook, protagonists of ‘Predator’.
Shane Black is famous for letting him improvise in his sets. But in a movie like this, the level of production and special effects, has it been possible?
BH: It’s a big dilemma, because the studios do not like improvisation, they want to have everything tied up, they want guarantees and that the directors stick to the script . But on the other hand, we have the paradox that they have hired for this work someone like Shane Black, who favors improvisation.
OM: Maybe that’s where the fear we always felt in the studio came from, and we did not do what was planned.
BH: Yes, that’s what has been signed and we have to stick to our contract, but it’s still ironic, given that Shane draws his personal style just the opposite.
There is a lot of humor in the film, which is particularly noticeable in some scenes such as the kidnapping of Casey (the character of Olivia Munn) at the hands of the military. How was that sequence constructed, and how was the special sense of humor injected into it?
OM: At first I thought that it was not convenient for me to speak at the scene, because everything was orders and questions like “who are you”, “where do you come from” and so on. But I went to talk to Shane and I told him we could look for a more realistic approach, similar to when you meet a dangerous dog and do not run out or attack him, but go calmly. That was the attitude we wanted to reflect.
Also, in theory, I had to end up taking a gun, but it did not make much sense for a group of military experts to leave a weapon in my hands, so we substituted it for the game that ends up in the movie in which the military bets if I’m going to take the gun or not or not. At first the scene was set as a sequence for the plot to advance , but I wanted the audience to feel that my character has not yet realized that the military are, in reality, people who will help him. I wanted to give the audience that moment that everyone knows the purposes of others except her.
What differentiates this ‘Predator’ from the original movie?
OM: It is not a remake of the original movie, nor exactly a sequel, it is rather an evolution of what happened in the first. Shane Black has turned the original jungle into an urban jungle and has created a group of very unlikely , heroic heroes , which makes the public identify with them. Although they face an extraterrestrial, all situations that arise, in which some step on others and some prove to be authentic heroes, resemble what happens in real life.
Some of your best known works (The Newsroom, Narcos) have taken place on the small screen. What do you think the future of cinema is, with the average viewer getting further and further away from the cinemas?
OM: The interesting thing about the small platforms is that there are no longer a few small studios that control everything that is being shown , but Netflix, for example, can distribute content from different countries: I have seen productions from very different countries on the platform . The authors also have more opportunities to present their work: if there is a company that tells you that there will be no others to say yes.
I’ve been a journalist, and I think the important thing is to tell a story, it does not matter if it’s from a telephone, a newspaper or whatever . When I was one of the first investors in Uber I met many people who discovered the advantages of being their own boss, and I think this will also change the market. And something like that is happening with the cinemas, maybe now they discover that they have the need to offer extra elements to encourage people to go to the cinemas.
Olivia, you’ve been one of the visible heads of the #metoo movement in its first steps. Do you think that in this year things have changed, has there been an improvement in the industry?
OM: When I listen to my friends and colleagues in the sector, to people like Woody Allen, I see that they say “We can not say anything now” for fear of being misinterpreted, to see what they say as harassment. But if we have reached this point it has not been to denounce a situation of abuse towards women, but abuse of power in general , as is the case of Kevin Spacey.
The fact is that now, for the first time, white men know who they are and what they are, if you ask any member of a minority or a sector that suffers discrimination, they will tell you that every day they are aware of who they are: ” I am a woman “,” I am black “, etc.” Now they are aware for the first time that they are men and it is not bad that they have to think twice before speaking . “Welcome to my world, because I, as a woman, I have to think things through three times before I speak, and I think it is not bad for us to think about the impact our words have on the rest of the world.