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Director Shane Black Took a ‘Butch-and-Sundance Approach’ to ‘The Predator’

The team behind “The Predator” wants to correct something about the latest installment in the three-decade-old science-fiction franchise. It’s not a reboot.

“It’s an attempt to do something — same world, same universe, just 30 years later,” explains Shane Black, the film’s director and writer.

The movie, which hits theaters on Sept. 14, follows a group of military veterans, some suffering from PTSD, who must form a “Dirty Dozen”-like team to battle alien invaders. The first film, 1987’s “Predator,” also focused on a team of soldiers battling a fearsome adversary, but that unit was led by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura. This one is dominated by Keegan-Michael Key, Boyd Holbrook and Sterling K. Brown, all of whom are better known for their acting chops than for their bench pressing.

“It’s a leaner, meaner approach,” says Black. “Instead of the slick, ultracool super-soldier approach from the first film, these guy are a more broken, marginalized and forgotten contingent.”

It turns out that the alien creatures that made mincemeat of Schwarzenegger’s crew have been routinely visiting Earth in the ensuing years, and a group of human beings have gotten wise to their incursions. They’ve set up a watchtower to monitor activity and try to determine when the predators will next touch down. But these creatures definitely don’t come in peace, and they’re more terrifying than ever. The film will also feature a genetically modified predator that wreaks havoc on anyone it encounters, according to producer John Davis.

“They’ve gone through an evolution that’s made them bigger, better and badder,” says Davis.

Black is known for mixing laughs and violence in films such as “Lethal Weapon” and “The Nice Guys,” and he promises to inject humor into “The Predator.”

“I tried to ground the light moments because nobody wants a jokey ‘Predator,’” says Black. “But when you’re under fire, one of the basic defense mechanisms is to grit your teeth and make a joke. I took sort of a Butch-and-Sundance approach. In that movie, they got shot to pieces at the end, but they never stopped wising off.”

There have been a number of “Predator” sequels over the years — from the execrable 2004 “Alien vs. Predator” to 2010’s “Predators,” with a buffed Adrien Brody.

But it’s been something of a case of diminishing returns.

“‘The Predator’ has been around for 30 years, through various incarnations, but each time it comes back it seems like there’s a certain acknowledgment they’re going to make another ‘Predator’ movie,” says Black. “Generally they’re made for a certain budget, they have a certain look and they recoup a certain guaranteed amount, but they haven’t been enough to sort of reignite a new, more long-standing passion for it.”

Davis, who has produced every film in the franchise, praises Black for finding a fresh take, and for grounding the scares by creating more believable characters.

“This is an auteur-driven reimagining,” says Davis. “Shane Black has a voice and a signature, and it kind of re-enlivens the franchise.”

The producer says that “The Predator” will set up two sequels that he hopes Black will return to direct. But Black doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.

“I would love to say we’ve been planning a trilogy, but I take one day at a time,” he cautions. “In motion-picture terms that’s one movie at a time.”

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