If we lose Shane Black from the Predator sequel, we're in a world of hurt


There seems to be something about cult 80s action movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger that Hollywood just cannot leave alone.

Conan the Barbarian was revived in 2011 with commercials director Marcus Nispel taking over from John Milius's 1981 original. Terminator has been brought back several times with the much-maligned McG given the most recent crack at the man versus the machines saga with 2006's disappointing Terminator Salvation. Underworld's Len Wiseman made us all wish we could step into a fancy futuristic dream parlour with the power to banish memories of his horrible bash at rebooting Total Recall from our minds for ever in 2012.

Even Predator, which looks set for a revival by Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3 director Shane Black, has been down this road before. Four years ago Hungarian film-maker Nimród Antal brought us the middling Predators, which transported the mandibled extraterrestrials to their home world in a storyline half-inched from the comic book World War Hulk. Despite the presence of Robert Rodriguez as a hands-on producer, it was not a big hit and audiences failed to warm to the idea of Adrien Brody as an action hero. Antal has barely been heard of since bar last year's well-received Metallica concert film Through the Never.

So just why is the blogosphere getting so excited about the prospect of a Black-directed Predator movie? Well the fact is that the former Lethal Weapon screenwriter delivers unusually brave films that make audiences think without ever losing mainstream appeal. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was a superbly realised comic neo-noir, which often left the audience as brilliantly bamboozled as star Robert Downey Jr's Hollywood desperado Harry Lockhart. The film also reinvented Val Kilmer as a character actor and introduced the world to a never-better Michelle Monaghan. Iron Man 3 thrillingly played on audiences' own prejudices about both swarthy-skinned terrorist "types" and comic-book movies in general, with a fabulous narrative twist worthy of Christopher Nolan. This is the film-maker who reputedly fell out with the makers of the Lethal Weapon series for trying to kill off Mel Gibson's Riggs: he is willing to take risks in the name of art, something that will always make his movies worth watching, even if it terrifies the living daylights out of the money men.

Reading on mobile? Click here to watch the 1987 Predator trailer

Early reports suggested Black's Predator movie might be a full-scale reboot. But the director told Collider earlier this week that it will be more of an "inventive sequel". He said: "Why start over, when you've all this rich mythology yet to mine?" and added that he was not a big fan of reboots generally: "I like the idea of expanding and exploring the existing Predator mythology, rather than hitting the restart button."

All of which sounds perfectly reasonable, and at least spares us the horrors of Colin Farrell or Sam Worthington as the new Dutch. But where exactly can the next Predator film go if Black is determined to avoid the jungles of central America? The Predator home world idea never really took off, so Brody's unfortunate Royce seems doomed never to get off that particular planet. America has changed radically since the crime-ridden 1990s and a Predator 2-style gangland tale seems less palatable than it once was.

Gary Busey's DEA agent revealed in the sequel that the Predator likes to hunt his prey in war zones, so Black might easily find himself in Iraq or Aghanistan. But we should remember that the aliens may have been visiting Earth for centuries: how much more fun might the new film be if it hauled the timeline back to the wild west era, or introduced Predators into the second world war? Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds may have missed a trick.

The main worry here is that Black has become an in-demand director since the enormous success of Iron Man 3, and already plans to farm out screenwriting duties to his old pal Fred Dekker (Monster Squad) once he's come up with the initial story idea for his take on Predator. He's only "attached" to direct at this stage – and no-one wants to see a lesser film-maker parachuted in at the last minute. If Arnie's back catalogue isn't going to get better treatment this time around, we're probably better off dusting off the VHS of John McTiernan's original cult classic than taking a punt on yet another tepidly belated sequel.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ben Child, for theguardian.com on Friday 27th June 2014 17.54 Europe/London

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