'The Predator' 101: Everything You Need to Know About the Galaxy's Most Feared Alien Hunters
20th Century Fox
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Check out the 30-year history of one of cinema's most enduring franchises and learn everything you need to know about the hunters, their technology and their unique code of honor.

It's one of the most popular film franchise of all time, and yet "The Predator" is only the fourth solo film for these terrifying alien hunters. Shane Black returns to the franchise to direct this sequel, bringing something new, a twisted sense of dark humor, and something old, the Predator is still terrifying.

More than three decades since its inception, the brilliant design of these creatures as well as the special effects that captured their cloaking technology and infrared vision made them something way more memorable than the plots of any of their films.

It's the Predators themselves that lurk in our minds and memories, tantalizing us with their mysterious warrior's code, towering physique and unexpected sense of honor. These are more than just terrifying monsters, this is a reasoning species. They just often reason to kill us.

Kicking off in 1987, the first "Predator" was a testosterone-fueled action movie built around Arnold Schwarzenegger in his physical prime. That cast also included other tough guys like Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura and one Shane Black, who's come full circle to direct the latest entry in the series.

There have been two crossover films with the "Aliens" property, as well, but most fans agree those are garbage and even "Predators" producer Robert Rodriguez tried to distance the franchise from them with their third and most recent solo outing.

It's been eight years since "Predators" graced the silver screen, so there's a whole generation of new fans who know nothing about these technological savages. And for the rest of us, it's been long enough that a refresher sounds pretty good, too.

Below is everything you need to know about the Predator, as well as "The Predator," in theaters today.

ALL ABOUT THE PREDATOR

Jean-Claude Van Predator

Action star Jean-Claude Van Damme was the original man in the rubber suit for the "Predator" film, but producers quickly realized one striking problem. The film's stars Schwarzenegger, Weathers and Ventura all dwarfed him with their massive physiques.

And so the 5'10" martial artist was replaced with the 7'3" Kevin Peter Hall and the creature underwent an entire design overhaul by renowned creature designer Stan Winston. That took care of any size concerns with the rest of the cast.

Hot Mask

One of the coolest visual elements of the Predators are their unique masks, that not only hide their terrifying natural visage, but also offer them thermal vision, enhancing their natural infrared vision. This allows them to see the heat signature of their prey, which may seem like an unfair advantage in most situations.

Okay, it totally is, but these are their rules, and in their defense they've gone up against foes far tougher than man. Did we mention two crossover films with the "Aliens" franchise? Yeah, those things are even more terrifying!

Winston came up with the signature facial features of the Predator, as well, including those creepy mandibles that open their mouths in weird and terrifying ways and those appendages on top of their head that totally look like dreadlocks, but totally aren't.

Invisibility Cloak

Long before Harry Potter inherited an invisibility cloak, the predators were masters of stealth movement, using their own camouflage technology to become effectively invisible. In fact, they could only be seen when moving, a signature aspect of the creatures that serves to heighten suspense as they could be lurking anywhere.

The effect for the first film was created using photo-chemical techniques and shooting the same sequence twice, though digital advancements have made mimicking that crude-but-effective look much easier in subsequent releases.

Trophy Hunters

The "Predator" aliens are terrifying not just because they are great hunters, but because they do it for sport. This is what initially brings them to Earth, seeking armed military men to practice their sport on. Their game brings them in the crosshairs of Schwarzenegger and his team, when they are dispatched to find the Predator's first victims, another elite military group.

They are a unique hybrid of ancient hunting traditions and advanced spacefaring technology. They use advanced weaponry, armor and scoping devices as part of their hunt, but theirs is the code of the warrior, one with honor and very simplistic understandings of respect and disgrace.

Honor Among Aliens

First witnessed in the inaugural film, the Predator displays his honor by discarding his weapons and mask to take on Schwarzanegger's character mano a mano. Of course, this is hardly a completely fair matchup no matter how ripped the 6'2" Schwarzenegger was at the time ... and dude was ripped!

In the second film, after Danny Glover's character manages to dispatch the new young Predator who sets his sights on the drug wars in Los Angeles, the Predators who come to dispatch his body leave him with a memento as a sign of respect. No petty revenge among these hunters; it was a clean kill and worthy of honor.

Later, a Predator actually teams up with human hunters in "Predators," becoming not only an ally, but a hero. They are an advanced, yet primitive, warrior species, and so they respect the code of combat. If their respect is earned, they will work together toward a common goal; usually to dispatch something even nastier.

Super Predators

Their look has changed slightly over the years, with the addition of piranha like teeth on their upper jaw for "AvP" and even a totally sleek new look for the introduction of "Black Super Predators" in "Predators."

Those were leaner creatures with their "dreadlocks" swept back and cleaner looking. These "Super Predators" even had their own hunting dogs, except these were terrifying four-legged spiked-hyena-beasts out of our worst nightmares.

But all of that happens in the future, per the timeline of the series, and that's not where Shane Black is looking for "The Predator." He's looking right here and right now.

ALL ABOUT "THE PREDATOR"

It's All Connected

Black has revealed that the events of "The Predator" take place in the present day, slotting it between "Predator 2" and the later "Predators" film. His intent is to return to the more intimate style of the original "Predator" film, focusing on one Predator and one elite group of men and women tasked with bringing it down.

One of the connections he makes is in the casting of Jake Busey as Sean Keyes, the son of "Predator 2's" Peter Keyes, portrayed by Sean's father Gary Busey. While the cast has changed with every film -- there's a pretty high mortality rate in this franchise, it's nice to see a direct connection, both in character and casting.

Convicted Predator

The film and Black have come under some unwanted scrutiny after one of its stars, Olivia Munn, spoke out against the stealth casting of a convicted sex offender, Steve Wilder Striegel.

Munn was particularly incensed because she was the only member of the cast to share a scene with Wilder, and Black did not disclose that he was a registered sex offender. Black hadn't told the studio either, and so when Munn did, those scenes were excised.

Black said he was trying to help out a friend, but later released an apology, saying he felt "misled" by Striegel about the nature of his conviction. "I apologize to all of those, past and present, I've let down by having Steve around them without giving them a voice in the decision," Black said.

Critical Drubbings

With the latest "Predator" film coming up short in critical acclaim, it's encouraging to think that it joins a storied history of "Predator" films hated by critics. Even the first film, now considered by many one of the best action films of all time, was considered empty of plot and character by contemporary critics.

The latest chapter has received similar complaints, as well as additional problems with Black's inclusion of humor into the usually dark subject matter. For most critics, that didn't work, either. But it's important to remember that these are popcorn action films, meant for fun and entertainment. Nobody's trying to win an Oscar here.

"The Predator" stars Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhoes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen and Sterling K. Brown. Directed by Shane Black, it is in theaters now.

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