Me and a Franchise

Posted on July 19, 2010

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The Alien/Predator entertainment franchise has been a part of my life for a long time. When I saw Predators, I had a chance to reflect on that.

  • I saw Aliens while on a summer ROTC assignment at Fort Hood, Texas. Being military officer cadets, and watching military people fight aliens, was a very emotional experience.
  • Predator was the first movie that I saw where I walked out thinking, “I could write better than that.” In that way, it cemented the idea in my head that I was just as good a writer as any “professional,” and thus led to me writing RPG products for Wizards of the Coast.
  • One of the first game projects that I worked on with JD Wiker was an Aliens/Predator/Colonial Marine card game. It was never close to getting a license or being published, but the process taught us a lot.
  • The company that did get the card game rights for the franchise was composed of friends of mine.
  • I worked on a D&D video game with Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, the guy who wrote The Colonial Marines Technical Manual.
  • I’ve liked Robert Rodriguez’s movies since El Mariachi.

So I have a looooong history with the franchise and this movie’s producer.

Let me expound on that crack about the original Predator: I later learned that one of the writers believed they had written themselves into a corner. They could not figure out a way for “Dutch” (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to overcome the alien hunter. Then, while sitting at his breakfast table, he watched his kids watching Warner Brothers cartoons, and the end of the movie came to him. That put the ending in perspective for me.

I won’t tell you how old I was in 1987, when I saw the original, but I will say that I sincerely believed that Dutch needed to keep going, keep trying, keep fighting until he won.

The current movie, Predators, is not a re-boot of the franchise, nor is it Predator 3. In fact, it falls between 1 and 2. Isabelle (Sonia Braga) makes specific reference to the events in the first film. They even play “Long Tall Sally” at the closing credits, a song that played a role in the first film.

The characters wake up while falling out of the sky. Their parachutes open (mostly) and they start building their relationships and exploring. Gradually they learn that they are no longer on Earth, and at least one thing is hunting them. They make a plan, and start fighting back.

It’s a good, fast-moving, action movie. It fits in the franchise, and I was happy with it. If you don’t like spoilers, we’re done here.

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***SPOILERS***

Okay, yes, Edwin’s place in the group was jarring. In all the time the humans spent wandering around the “game preserve,” you would think they would question why he was there. If the alien predators wanted them to have a doctor, why didn’t they give him medical gear? I wondered about that myself, and his reveal at the end kind of sucked.

My original training was in fighting the Soviet military, and later was in fighting Soviet-trained forces. Spetsnaz training burns the “nice” right out of the people who survive it. Nikolai was a terrific character, and well played by Oleg Taktarov, but he was no Spetsnaz veteran of Chechnya. He was way too nice.

I would have liked to see a xenomorph skull (xenomorphs, for non-geeks, are the aliens in Alien movies) in the camp, the way there was one on the wall of the Predator ship in Predator 2, but I can see why they didn’t use it. It would have raised lots of questions about why the place wasn’t overrun by xenomorphs

So yes, I saw some flaws in the film, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable a spectacle.

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Posted in: Movies