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Tonight Austin’s SXSW audience was hunted by Predators, and few escaped unmarked. Sequel producer and Austin native Robert Rodriguez showed up with director Nimrod Antal in tow to unveil a first look at their new installment in the once glorious (but since faded) Predators franchise. Their plan is to take it all back to its roots, to make it dark, gritty, bloody, and rated-R again. This is a direct sequel to the original 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, ignore those other disasters in between, though you won’t need to see the first one to hop on board their new one.

Predators is far from finished with post-production, but the duo showed two, slightly different trailers for the film along with sixty seconds or so of mostly completed footage. The first trailer should be released for general consumption in front of Repo Men, coming soon to a theater near you. While you wait, here’s what I know: Predators is going to be badass.

The trailers are atmospheric, creepy and clearly geared towards marketing the film as horror, not thriller/action as the most recent Alien vs. Predator movies have been. It introduces all the primary characters while revealing little of their intentions. It’s suspenseful and dark. More than a Predator movie, it reminded me of the original Alien movie in tone. The score they use is haunting and there’s little doubt that this is a very rated-R film.

The story, as explained by Rodriguez is this: A tribe of predators has kidnapped a group of humans, the most deadly killers to be found on planet Earth, and dropped them on an alien planet which serves as a predator game preserve (note: It is not the predator home world). Think of it like a fisherman stocking his pond with trout. The primary trout here are played by Adrien Brody (who has seriously bulked up and against all odds is utterly convincing as a total badass), Topher Grace (who still looks like Topher Grace), Danny Trejo, and Alice Braga. They’ve been dropped in with no idea how they got there or who brought them, and they don’t really get along.

Here’s where we get into spoiler territory. So if you don’t want to know, bail out now.

The clip shown features Laurence Fishburne’s introduction. He shows up after our leads have landed, as a human character already on the planet. He’s utterly kickass, both here and in the trailer, chewing scenery up and spitting it back out. Rodriguez describes his character as “the one who got away”. He’s survived on the predator hunting preserve for an unspecified period of time, he knows all the tricks, and he’s figured out a way to beat them at their own game. The predators’ game involves real hunting techniques the likes of which we’ve never seen before, leading to the development of some of those new types of predators mentioned previously. Yet somehow, Fishburne’s character has survived.

Rodriguez and Antal talked at length about the film. Detailed bullet points containing everything they revealed follow:
  • The idea for the movie came from a 1996 script by Robert Rodriguez, but it’s been rewritten extensively since his script featured a return by Schwarzenegger’s Dutch from the original movie, while this movie does not.

  • The original Predator design from the original movie is in there, used for the first time since the 1987 movie. It’s a small part, but Rodriguez describes it as” a total flashback”, like seeing an actor you haven’t seen in a long time on screen.

  • Predators won’t be in 3D.

  • The movie uses primarily practical effects. The predators are all actors in costumes, there are no CG predators. Green screen was used only on a few brief sequences. They shot on location in Hawaii and in places around Austin.

  • Predators will definitely be rated-R. Fox may be planning an Unrated DVD.

  • James Cameron told Rodriguez that he came up with the original design for the Predator mouth used by effects guru Stan Winston.

  • Their first attempt at a trailer was rejected by the MPAA, and it ended with the Predators title fading out to leave only the “R”, a clear hint at their intention to deliver a gritty, hard-R film. You won’t see that in the trailers which were finally approved.

  • The film will introduce new kinds of never before seen predators. The concept was to develop the “ipod of predators”. Rodriguez explains these streamlined predators as being part of a different tribe from the ones we’ve seen before. It’s like the difference between “wolves and dogs”. New predators include Falconer predators, a massive Flusher predator they call “Mr. Black” (referred to in some internet rumors as a “Super Predator” which is just a meaningless script description), and you’ll see predator dogs along with airborne predator creatures.

  • Rodriguez and Antal wanted each human character on the planet to feel like they could be a character in their own solo story.

  • Expect to see lots of different alien creatures, including predator animals and other “prey” brought to the planet by predator hunters.

  • You’ll see two different predator tribes in the movie.

  • All of the film’s characters are new and how they get to the planet is new.

  • There is a reference in the film to the original movie in the form of something a character believes was a ghost story. This character will recognize the original predator for what it is when it’s seen.

  • And of course, after it was all over, Rodriguez left us with lovely parting gifts, pictured below. In particular, he gave everyone an autographed version of the first ever Predators poster. See it in higher-res here.

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