After lackluster receptions for the last few outings in the franchise, including two movies also featuring the xenomorphs from the Aliens movies, The Predator hits screens this week. Directed and co-written by Shane Black, the new movie sees the relentless hunters returning to Earth after they’re accidentally summoned by a young boy (Jacob Tremblay). Once here they are hunted down by a ragtag group of scientists and soldiers played by Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Boyd Holbrook, Sterling K. Brown, Thomas Jane and others.
The expected opening around $30 million would be good for 20th Century Fox, though what future a franchise like this might have under Disney management remains unclear. It would be enough to top Crazy Rich Asians, which continues to perform extraordinarily well, even gaining the weekend of 8/31 from the prior frame.
The first bit of marketing done came in the form of a motion poster released via the official movie app which shows the outline of the creature in a series of lightning bolts. What the might signify about the story was unclear at the time.
At the same time as the second trailer, another poster was released. Against a bright orange background we see the decapitated head of a regular Predator being clutched in the hand of what we can assume here is the much larger Predator.
A third one-sheet in early August promised “The hunt has evolved” while showing the familiar thermal image outline of the title creature.
The Dolby Cinema exclusive poster features a Predator head that’s made up or human skulls, which is a slightly creepy image. For IMAX, “The hunt is bigger” on that poster showing the glowing targeting eye of the creature honing in on the camera. The purple and greens on that one evoke the heat-vision that’s been part of the franchise without going specifically in that direction.
Rory opens a package as the teaser trailer (4.6 million views on YouTube), released in May, opens and immediately starts pushing buttons on the mysterious, obviously alien items someone has sent him, making me wonder if he has ever watched any horror or science-fiction movie ever made because you just don’t do that, Rory! That seems to be what attracts the aliens back to Earth. Quinn being debriefed by some government official is intercut with scenes of the kinds of attacks the crew is subjected to as they go to investigate what’s happened. All that as Bracket warns the aliens are “attempting hybridization,” seeking to combine their DNA with that of humans, something that would presumably make them more difficult to spot and therefore more dangerous.
The second trailer (8.7 million views on YouTube) from June is less concerned with relatable, Amblin-esque table setting and more in just getting to the alien versus human fights. The framing device of Quinn being debriefed is used as we see the team assembled and out hunting Predators, including the new bonus-sized version that seems to be leading the invasion. There’s lots of wise-cracking and violence, which is exactly what the audience is looking for.
The final trailer (4.9 million views on YouTube) from late August hits all the major selling points in much stronger fashion than what’s come before. It’s fast-paced, funny, filled with gory violence and more, all exactly what the audience is assumed to be looking for. There are a handful of great lines that more clearly identify this as a Shane Black script than the previous versions as well.
Online and Social
On the official website you’ll find the standard Fox template in use, a design that offers a variety of videos including the trailers and more, the posters, a gallery of stills and curated social updates. There are also links to the film’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles as well as a section for the “Fan App” that launched last year and which has offered fans a variety of exclusive content and other material.
Advertising and Promotions
There’s lots of action but also a fair amount of humor in the first TV spot released in mid-August. While it certainly sells the idea of the “ultimate Predator” being the threat everyone is chasing down, it also has more than a hint of A-Team vibe about it, especially in the line about “a team that’s mental.”
Further commercials focused on selling the slightly insane team that’s been assembled or on the breathless attempts to remain alive while hunting the ultimate hunter. An IMAX-specific spot was all about selling the biggest Predator yet on the biggest screen available.
Online ads used the key art of the Predator as seen through heat vision goggles to make sure everyone knows this is tied securely to the original films. Social ads used the trailer and other videos.
Promotional partners for the movie include:
- T-Mobile, which offered customers $4 tickets to the see the movie along with a sweepstakes to enter.
- Carl’s Jr., which offered soda cups featuring movie branding.
- Indian Motorcycle, though what that partnership looked like is unclear as there’s no information on the site or otherwise readily available.
- Lootcrate, which put an exclusive Predator mask in its DX premium box for subscribers.
- FYE, which showcased its collection of home video, toys, apparel and more related to the franchise.
Media and Publicity
Things started off relatively out of nowhere. After years of silence about the project a piece of teaser art was shared on the Predator Facebook page (maintained by the studio to serve the nostalgia for the older movies) in February, 2016 that signalled a new movie was coming.
The movie got some big placement in Entertainment Weekly’s San Diego Comic-Con issue, which included an interview with Key as well as first look stills from production. Several months later Black hit the stage as part of Fox’s CinemaCon presentation to talk about the movie and show off some footage to exhibitors and press. The movie was also part of the later CineEurope presentation from the studio.
The director then brought the primary cast to San Diego Comic-Con this past July for a panel presentation that had them all talking about the big action and big humor in the movie.
Key was the subject of a feature profile in CNET Magazine that had him talking about why he took on an action movie project like this, how it fits into all the other choices he’s made in his career and lots more.
Fox announced it would be bringing the cast and crew to San Diego Comic-Con. In EW’s special issue for the convention, Black talked about creating an extreme Predator and what it meant for the story. At the convention itself the panel featuring the cast included them talking about the massive alien battles the movie will contain but also how funny it will be. Everyone also had fun afterward when they showed up on “Conan.” Black also explained how the cast tried to undermine his authority to hilarious results and talked about revisiting the franchise.
Toy company NECA created an action figure featuring the likeness of director Shane Black that was offered as an exclusive at San Diego Comic-Con.
Black and members of the cast appeared in a featurette to talk about how they wanted to live up to the legacy of the Predator series and how this new movie kicks the menace and terror up a few notches. Around the same time the “Predator Challenge” was shared that had the cast debating hypothetical matchups of the Predator versus other fictional characters, including the Punisher, Psylocke and others played by some of those actors themselves.
Further featurettes focused on using clips from the previous movies to show how to outsmart a Predator, one that offers more of a background on the team of misfits, An exclusive AMC Theaters featurette offered behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew.
The week prior to release GQ shared the manifesto/mission statement Black wrote prior to filming to lay out his vision for the movie and his attitude about making it.
It was announced in mid-August the movie would screen at the Toronto Film Festival as “Midnight Madness” selection. That appearance was put under a cloud, though, when reports surfaced that Munn had become aware one of the actors she shared a short scene with was convicted sexual predator. Fox cut the scene featuring the actor, a longtime friend of Black, almost immediately before it was shown to Toronto attendees. Black introduced that screening but did not stick around for a later Q&A.
That wasn’t the end of the story, though, as it slowly came out the studio hadn’t been quite as fast to act as it first seemed, reportedly not getting back to Munn’s initial calls. Not only that, but the actress was then largely left on her own to do what otherwise should have been group interviews at Toronto. Brown and others Tweeted or otherwise issued statements offering their support for her after the fact, but that seems to have been too little too late as this was now the narrative around the film.
A clip released around the time of Toronto showed the two Predators going at each other.
While the campaign overall has been pretty good, hitting all the old familiar beats while still promising something new, it remains to be seen how much that will actually matter in the final tally.
So the question here is: How much will the events and revelations of the last week impact the movie’s reception.
There’s the chance that the likely male-heavy target audience who yearns for the big, macho action flicks of the 80s to return won’t have their minds changed. They’ll say “not all men” and go on about their business, enjoying whatever callbacks and references to the originals this new installment has.
If the studio was hoping for any sort of female support, though, that’s probably evaporated. The story has moved from the Hollywood trades to the mainstream entertainment press, so it’s out there for anyone to see and consider. And it’s become part of a bigger story that includes Les Moonves’ golden parachute showing #MeToo still isn’t holding powerful men accountable and the overtly sexist/racist reaction to Serena Williams protesting an extremely questionable ruling at the U.S. Open.
Let’s put it this way: If the opening weekend box office comes in under $30 million, the assumption is going to be that at least some audiences stayed away because they did not want to support a studio that only has its talent’s back behind the scenes and not in public. The whole picture has been tainted, coloring the reception of the film in a way that’s hard to ignore.