A confused motion picture is given clarity in Christopher Golden and Mark Morris’ expertly refined novelisation
If like me, and your reaction to the theatrical version of Shane Black’s The Predator was one of bemusement you would be forgiven for bypassing the official novelisation from Christopher Golden and Mark Morris in favour of the next Hollywood blockbuster on the horizon. With Shane Black at the helm, I had high hopes for The Predator, but the movie was a bizarre combination of conflicting plotlines which detracted from one another and left the viewer wondering what had happened to the Predator franchise.
The opening hour was fantastic. The classic Fugitive Predator had crash-landed on earth and was summarily captured by the covert government agency tasked with protecting the human race from extra-terrestrial threats, all before the alien hunter escaped to reap carnage on the unsuspecting human population. It was nothing short of the perfect sequel. It conjured visions of a reverse narrative to that of the original classic starring Arnold Schwarzenegger where the hunter stalked and killed an elite team of soldiers. However, this time, the humans were hunting the escaped alien fugitive which was seeking an escape from the planet.
Sadly, as soon as the new “upgrade” Predator arrived and murdered its fugitive comrade the movie quickly lost its way and spiralled into nonsense culminating in humanity obtaining an “Iron Man” suit which would act as a deterrent against future Predator attack. As it turned out, the fugitive hunter, despite murdering many humans along its path of destruction was actually on earth to deliver the suit and give the planet a fighting chance. It just killed every human it came across for the thrill of it apparently!
The Predator | The Official Movie Novelisation – by Christopher Golden and Mark Morris
When opening the cover of the novelisation I had little hope of it improving upon the bizarre direction taken by the movie, and yet I was pleasantly surprised. Adapting the screenplay written by Shane Black and Fred Dekker, Christopher Golden and Mark Morris have worked tirelessly to add structure and clarity to the property and succeeded spectacularly. Better yet, they improve upon the story and simplify the overcomplicated theatrical version by stripping away the glitzy Hollywood bells and whistles and focus primarily on character development and plot. The result is a far better Predator adventure than the movie can ever hope to be.
A great deal of the screenplay is identical to the theatrical version. We follow the main protagonist, Quinn McKenna who is introduced as the ultimate soldier, but one that is plagued with the burden of favouring his duties as a soldier over the responsibility of being a father. His son, Rory is a gifted youngster living with Asperger’s syndrome and the story does well to introduce this ailment as one of his greatest strengths. In fact, his incredible abilities prove essential in the latter half of the novel which comes to fruition better than the movie on almost every level. Where the movie plays loose with the facts surrounding the utilisation of these key abilities, the novelisation reveals them in detail and makes their appearance toward the finale far more noteworthy. The resolution of their storyline is far more poignant than it is in the movie and reconnects an estranged father to his wounded but brilliant son and in true Predator fashion, they mourn the passing of their fallen friends and comrades together.
Making their pivotal duo into a trio is Doctor Casey Brackett. Throughout the duration of the theatrical version, Brackett appears to be a superfluous addition to the plot. She seems to serve very little purpose to the overall storyline, but in the novel, she plays an intricate role in proceedings and this only adds weight to her character. Even in the final act, she is seen fighting alongside the McKenna’s which culminates in her putting herself in harm’s way to protect them from the “upgrade” Predator. Her attack on the creature is far more visceral than we see in the movie and represents the conclusion to her integration into their dynamic.
The same can be said for the “upgrade” Predator. The novelisation strips the alien hunter back to its original format and evokes the same nostalgic resonance of the Schwarzenegger classic making the DNA harvesting plotline much more plausible. The first half of the motion picture worked tirelessly to restore this nostalgic ambience, only for it to be undone in tragic fashion by the finale. In the novelisation, even the depth added to the “upgrades” final moments adds way more gravitas to the hunter than the motion picture. Whereas so many elements to the plot are omitted and replaced by glitzy action sequences and imagery, the novelisation grasps onto them tightly and keeps the story poignant in the same manner as the original movie.
Sadly, it is the omission of these often-major plot points that prove to be the critical shortcomings of what should have been a fantastic Predator movie. The simplicity of the screenplay is where its greatest strength lies, but this is neglected in the movie which unfortunately screams the unwelcome trait of studio involvement. The genuine finale remains true to the spirit of its predecessors and upholds the essence of the Predator mythology making it the natural conclusion to a great story.
I am delighted that the novel DOES NOT include the bizarre finale where humanity is gifted an “Iron Man” suit. Unfortunately, this micromanaged plotline was added to propagate the prospect of a future franchise. The studio attempted the same short-sighted approach for Independence Day: Resurgence which ultimately failed, and sadly it has failed with The Predator. If only 20th Century Fox had remained true to the screenplay and not tampered with what was essentially a true “Predator” movie Shane Black’s effort would have been applauded instead of berated.
Though their writing style is a little too brazen for my taste, Golden and Morris have simplified the plot and have presented it in a way which is far easier to digest than the theatrical version and makes the adventure far more personal which is the essence of good storytelling. Being a fan of the Predator franchise, I have been delighted by their efforts on this novelisation, sadly its brilliance only cements my fear that the motion picture incarnation was a missed opportunity ruined by corporate greed and short-sighted marketing.
For me, The Predator official movie novelisation is a fundamental read for all Predator fans. It is the sequel we deserved and if 20th Century Fox hadn’t meddled with the screenplay, it would have been the movie Shane Black delivered. Thankfully, we can revel in its original awesomeness thanks to Christopher Golden, Mark Morris, Fred Dekker and Shane Black.
The hunt has evolved.
The Predator: The Official Movie Novelisation by Christopher Golden and Mark Morris is published by Titan Books and is available to buy from all good retailers NOW.
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