'No killin' what can't be killed' – what makes the Predator franchise so awesome...

On the face of it, Predator is just another big dumb action movie, complete with Arnold Schwarzenegger, an arsenal of heavy artillery, and 
a straightforward plot concerning a team of elite troops being picked off by a lone foe. But fans of this 1987 hit know better, considering it a high point of the decade, of Arnie's career, and action/sci-fi cinema.

Now, more than 30 years later, 
a new entry in the saga is arriving on Blu-ray/Ultra HD Blu-ray, while the original movie, plus two sequels, were reborn on 4K disc last year. It's an exciting time for fans of the dreadlocked trophy hunter.

Not many franchises have this sort of staying power, or have lasted this long without descending into DTV dross (although it came close...). But with only six movies (including spin-offs) released over the three decades, has Hollywood missed a trick? And how do those movies stack up?

'I ain't got time to bleed'
Along with Twentieth Century Fox's other great killer alien series (Alien), Predator has something that much of the competition doesn't – originality. Its antagonist isn't just a guy in a rubber suit, even though it actually is, and played with graceful, animalistic charm by 7ft 2in man-mountain Kevin Peter Hall (once, famously, Jean-Claude Van Damme had been deemed unsuitable for the role during early production). Nor is it slaying victims for no reason – instead we have an extra-terrestrial that hunts for sport, arming itself with funky weaponry, an invisibility cloak, and a pocket-sized nuclear bomb in case it needs to bring an early end to proceedings. It's an idea that feels like it came from a fan-favourite comic book, not the notepad of scriptwriting duo Jim and John Thomas.

Going up against the title character is Schwarzenegger's special forces rescue expert, backed up by plenty of muscle in the form of 
Carl Weathers, ex-WWF wrestler Jesse Ventura and Sonny Landham. It's a testosterone overload, but the subject matter demands it, and we're quickly shown that this will be a fight where brains, and not sheer brawn, are required.

There's more that marks Predator out as an A-grade endeavour. John McTiernan directs the jungle-set action with an assurance that he carried into the likes of Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, Alan Silvestri's score sends shivers up your spine, and Stan Winston's creature design looks frighteningly real. And, most importantly of all, it's a movie with notable tension, keeping its villain under wraps for its opening act and dragging its viewers into the mystery along with Arnie and pals.

'Want some candy?'
With Predator earning nearly $100m from its $15m budget, Fox naturally began planning a sequel, and delivered Predator 2 three years later. 
Yet this wasn't a straight-ahead follow-up. The absence of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and John McTiernan, results in what almost feels like a reboot. Danny Glover stars as detective Mike Harrigan, tracking the titular alien across a near-future Los Angeles (the urban jungle, rather than the actual jungle), under the guidance of director Stephen Hopkins, whose most recent project had been 
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5.

Critical response was mostly negative, and Predator 2 is certainly a film that's easy to pick holes in. Audiences were expected to accept Glover as an action hero, having only just seem him cast as a 50-year-old cop in Lethal Weapon with one eye on retirement. The violence is over-the top, with blood splattering everywhere. The time jump to 1997 is almost completely pointless. Supporting actor María Conchita Alonso appears incapable of delivering even simple lines of dialogue.

But, but, but... in its own madcap way, Predator 2 is brilliant. The seriousness of its forerunner is jettisoned in favour of a tongue-in-cheek, larger-than-life narrative, where renegade cops chase drug dealers across rooftops, the Predator has a xenomorph skull in its trophy cabinet, and Gary Busey dons a silver HazMat suit and quotes The Wizard of Oz. Its final 40-odd minutes, where the action segues from a subway shootout, to a tense game of cat and mouse in a slaughterhouse, to a final fight in the Predator's ship, is a masterclass in relentless pacing.

Despite earning a cult following, Predator 2's weak box office killed the chance of any possible direct sequel. Once again, the franchise went back to the drawing board – but in two different directions.

'It just came alive and took him'
A face-off between the extra-terrestrial stars of 
Alien and Predator had occurred as early as 1989, 
in a series of Dark Horse comics. This franchise-melding concept then became a spec-script, acquired by Fox in 1991, where it languished throughout the 1990s as the studio delayed putting both its eggs in one basket. During that time, Robert Rodriguez wrote his own script for a standalone Predator sequel, where this time the action moves 
to the creatures' home planet...

Both films would eventually be made, but it was Alien Vs Predator that would come first in 2004. Directed by Paul WS Anderson, and with original Alien writers Dan O'Bannon and Ron Shusset helping with the story, it cooked up a sub-Antarctic battle royale where a Predator and Sanaa Lathan's human explorer form an alliance to overcome a swathe of acid-blooded beasties.

In one way the film was a risk for Fox, as it effectively put the lid on any future Alien movies and drew the ire of the franchise's leading lady Sigourney Weaver – she said the film was 'something I'm quite happy not to be in.' Yet at the same time, that franchise had lay dormant for seven years, and it was 14 years since the Predator had been in cinemas. 
Was there really much to lose?

Running for a brisk 100 minutes, and not allowing a convoluted backstory to get too much in the way 
of the promised clash of the titans, AvP isn't the disaster some will have feared. It's an effective B-movie, with enough nods and winks to its parent films to keep fans onside. James Cameron famously rated it as his third favourite Alien flick.

A sequel, Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, duly followed three years later. Unfortunately for those who bothered to watch it, this proved to be one of the most depressingly idiotic movies to hit cinemas in decades, with an uninvolving plot and poorly staged action.

'This is getting better by the minute'
Once AVP:2 had finished horrifying film critics and studio bean counters, Fox did the only sensible thing. Ridley Scott was greenlit to continue exploring the Alien universe with Prometheus, and Robert Rodriguez – a decade after he had penned his Predator sequel script and by now considered a Hollywood heavyweight – was asked to reboot the series. The result, which Rodriguez produced, but did not direct, was 2010's Predators, where Adrien Brody (pictured above) fills the boots of Schwarzenegger and Glover as a military mercenary facing his toughest challenge yet.

Predators is a worthwhile addition to the franchise, with thrilling action beats, a fan-pleasing expansion of the series mythology, and an obvious desire to hark back to the original with its jungle-bound setting. Yet it's hard to watch it without getting the feeling that Rodriguez's initial pitch of taking audiences to the Predator planet had been lost along the way, replacing a potential super-size story with something smallscale and compact. 
He confirmed as much during the film's publicity 
run, saying that in its potential sequel 'you can really go crazy'.

But that never sequel happened. Instead, in 
2014, yet another 'reboot' was ordered, with screenwriter/director (and minor cast member in 1987's Predator) Shane Black calling the shots. It's this movie, dubbed The Predator, which lands on 4K Blu-ray this month.

Potential sequels have been mooted, but that was before the film's less-than-stellar 2018 box office performance. Fox may now go back to the drawing board 
with its franchise once again. For die-hard Predator enthusiasts, 
it's a story we've heard repeatedly over the last thirty years. At least we can now watch Arnie shout 'Get to da chopper' in 4K...

Read our Predator 3-Movie Collection Ultra HD boxset review.