Posted by: Ken Hulsey on July 2nd, 2010
Having lined up an impressive (human) cast, it fell to the filmmakers of 20th Century Fox’s, “Predators”, to make their other-worldly “stars” worthy of the legacy of the original film. “I believe what really made ‘Predator’ great was that the human characters went hand-in-hand with the alien Predator, because they are the audience’s entry point to the movie,” comments director Robert Rodriguez. “They have to identify with the human characters enough so that if the humans show fear then they would show fear against what they’re seeing. So, we really had to nail the human characters in order to make the Predator character actually stronger. One without the other doesn’t work. So, we really concentrated on not just having human characters that were great, but then making our Predators actually also have terrific and distinct personalities so that they weren’t just the ‘others.’ They are actually characters in their own right.”
While the human stars bonded during the early weeks of shooting in Hawaii, the cast of Predators and other creatures were prepared by an extensive team of artists and technicians for shooting in Austin. Longtime Rodriguez collaborators Greg Nicotero and his partner Howard Berger, partners in KNB Effects Group, Inc. – were charged with creating the alien creatures and the special make-up effects. “This is a really exciting show for us. We’re actually creating the title characters of the film, and multiples of them,” comments Nicotero.
The surviving humans make the stunning discovery that the “original” Predator has fallen victim to this new “upgrade,” whom they realize is out to be the supreme hunter… and the ultimate Predator. So, in addition to bringing back the affectionately-called “Classic” Predator, KNB created three new Berserker Predators – Dog Handler, Falconer, and Mr. Black. These represent bigger, longer, leaner, and deadlier versions of the species that audiences remember from previous films. Other creatures that expand the Predators mythology – including the alien Ram Runner and the Predators’ Hunting Dogs – were also devised.
Rodney J. Brunet, Chris Olivia, and Alex Toader of Troublemaker Digital (TMS Digital), plus conceptual artist Joe Pepe, began early drawings that were fine-tuned by the designers at KNB. A team of sixty-two people at KNB – designers, artists, sculptors, mold-makers, and painters – worked for approximately 13 weeks at their 25,000 square foot facility in Los Angeles.
“Every single one of those people were 100% dedicated to bringing the best possible creatures to life,” states Nicotero. “Shannon Shea, who was basically my lieutenant on this movie, had worked at Stan Winston’s company on the original ‘Predator,’ so he was really invested in this project.” (Shea and property master Tommy “Tom” Tomlinson were the two “legacy” crew members, who had also worked on the original film in 1987.)
“The time frame was pretty insane if you really think about the level of work,” explains Nicotero. “Every single piece of about sixteen total creatures (including doubles) had to be created from scratch. Every single dreadlock, piece of jewelry, mandible… every single element of these creatures had to designed and manufactured and fit together.”
The classic and new Predators are humanoid aliens who were created largely by practical state-of-the-art creature suits. “Being able to see the original Predator in our story had a nostalgia factor, because you hadn’t really seen him like that since the first movie,” comments Rodriguez. “We just wanted it to feel like it evolved – to bring back the original, plus a new updated, nastier, meaner breed.”
“Robert and Nimrod were really specific about our Classic Predator being the ‘cassette tape’ version and the new Predator being the iPod version, so [the latter] needed to be sleek and elegant and fierce,” comments Nicotero. “So instantly I had ideas of bringing the armor closer to the body and sweeping the dreadlocks back and elongating the head a little bit so that it wasn’t quite as square-looking. It’s not always ‘bigger is better’; the new Predators are elegant-looking because they’re tall, long, and lean.”
Nicotero elaborates about the features of the new creatures: “We see their masks for most of the film and they have a lot of personality. The Dog Handler had tusks that he had taken off of one of the hunting dogs, The Falconer had a very specific mask design, and then Mr. Black had this weird alien jaw. Each has a unique personality. In addition, we also painted them a little differently so that they would stand out and you’d be able to visually differentiate between the different Predators.” All the Predators feature the cloaking ability established in the first film, but the new ones also have high tech weaponry, including an airborne Predator Falcon and new Plasma Caster.
While many of the Predator effects were practical, the film’s visual effects team provided key enhancements, including muzzle flashes, set extensions, a digital space ship, elements of the opening freefall and parachute sequence, as well as the iconic cloaking effects. “We’re taking a new riff on the cloaking – we’ve made it a digital effect and it’s more pristine than it was in the original film,” says on-set visual effects supervisor Jabbar Raisani. “It’s as if their technology’s been updated now in the future. So it’s a more invisible effect in this film.”
In the Predator universe, timing is everything – especially the creatures’ first appearance in each story. “In the original film, I think the way the Predator is revealed was such a success because they took their time and they made a meal out of it,” comments Antal. “The terror was supported by the slow burn of the Predators’ reveal. It was something that you hadn’t quite seen. You don’t see the Predator for the first half hour. In this film, we’ve tried to replicate that slow reveal.”
Because the Predator characters would be performing stunts, Nicotero worked with stunt coordinator Jeff Dashnaw to cast the performers who would wear the Predator suits. Dashnaw also gave Nicotero some feedback on the designs to keep the performers safe. “The plasma gun and blades and such stick out from the suits, which could be dangerous during the fight performances,” says Dashnaw. “So, Greg designed them so they could come off the suits when necessary and visual effects adds them back in during post.”
Six-foot-five Derek Mears, who portrayed iconic screen monster Jason Voorhees in last year’s hit “Friday the 13th” reboot, plays the Classic Predator, and Brian Steele and Carey Jones portray the three new Predators.
See Also: Will The Fans Buy Adrien Brody As An Action Hero In Robert Rodriguez’s “Predator”? / Robert Rodriguez To Give Predator A Reboot / Dark Horse Resurrecting Alien And Predator Comic Book Titles / Aliens vs Predator Requiem (2007)