Earlier today, the very first trailer for Shane Black's The Predator was screened as part of 20th Century Fox's CinemaCon panel, and the response among the folks I spoke with afterwards seemed to be...mixed? Uncertain? Only one or two people I spoke with straight-up disliked what we saw, but it's worth noting that the general consensus was "Not Yet Sold".
Me, I enjoyed it. Quite a bit, actually!
But then, I've got a little more context to go on than some of the people I caught the trailer with: last year I read a draft of Black's The Predator screenplay, and was delighted to find that it was very much...a Shane Black movie featuring the Predator! A number of the set pieces in that script were exciting, larger than life, and evolved the Predator mythology in interesting ways (pssst: prepare yourselves for Preda-dogs). Combine that with the crackling, razor-sharp dialogue we all know Black to be capable of, and baby, you've got yourself one helluva entertaining stew going.
My memories of that read were mostly reflected in the footage we saw today. Some of the beats were just as I remembered them. The characters all seemed present and accounted for. A few random shots - a fight inside a futuristic-looking lab, a young boy (Jacob Tremblay) futzing with what appeared to be a piece of Predator tech, a motley crew of inmates riding a prison transport bus and cracking wise - were all things I remembered from the draft of the screenplay I read. I was able to contextualize a lot of what we saw, in other words, whereas a number of my associates seemed thrown by what story The Predator trailer seemed to be telling.
The first portion of the trailer is dominated by an interview between a surly-looking government agent and Boyd Holbrook's character, a soldier by the name of Quinn McKenna (he's the lead here, though the film is largely an ensemble piece). Apparently, McKenna and his men encountered something not-entirely-of-this-world while on a mission out in the jungle (there's a few shots of this), and the man interviewing McKenna seems suspicious of the story he's telling. The government stooge asks something along the lines of, "Do you ever feel like maybe you don't belong on this world?", to which McKenna replies, "Like an alien?"
What followed was a rapidly-edited series of shots (including the ones mentioned above, along with Oliva Munn's Casey Bracket firing a gigantic gun, what appeared to be a Predator ship landing in a swamp in broad daylight, and various quick glances at the Predator himself, who - you won't be surprised to learn - is up to his old tricks with the murdering and the hunting) and snippets of dialogue, many of which were very Shane Black-ish. The reactions I heard in the wake of this trailer indicate that the spot could maybe use a bit of streamlining, maybe even a complete re-edit, but I suppose we'll see what happens whenever the trailer drops.
Anyway, today also marked the release of The Predator's official plot synopsis, which reads:
"From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home in Shane Black's explosive reinvention of the Predator series. Now, the universe's most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a young boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race."
Yes, The Predator will feature "upgraded" Predators, and yes, they will have been summoned to Earth by Jacob Tremblay's Rory McKenna (he is, you guessed it, Quinn's son). It gets a lot more complicated than that, though, and - if the final film is anything like the script - gets fairly massive in scale by the time the third act rolls around. What's weird is that there's very little sense of scale in the trailer itself: a lot of this footage looked confined and on the small side. My guess is that the big, sweeping VFX shots simply aren't ready for primetime, but I guess that's something else we'll have to wait and see on.
I'm curious to see the reactions to this trailer when it arrives, and I'm particularly curious to see if everyone else seems as unclear on the film's plot. Of course a trailer uploaded to the internet can be watched over and over again, dissected until it makes sense, whereas the CinemaCon audience was only shown the footage once (and in between trailers for half a dozen other movies), but...I dunno! I'm excited for this movie, and hope y'all will be, too.
The Predator arrives on September 14th. The official trailer drop oughtta be along any time now. Stay tuned for more on this one - and CinemaCon - as the week progresses.