The only sci-fi franchise more maligned than “Alien” may be “Predator.” At least “Alien” has two fully great installments before deteriorating; “Predator” has the classic original and an underrated, largely unrelated sequel (“Predators”), but most of the series’ post-1987 highlights are limited to the crossover films with, yep, “Alien.”

All of which is why there is so much to be excited about in “The Predator,” a movie eager to acknowledge a broader mythology of extraterrestrial hunters and the humans unlucky enough to run afoul of them, but mostly just interested in exploring an absolute banger of a premise in the in-depth and relentlessly entertaining way that it deserves. With the film shuffling into theaters soon, it felt appropriate to shut off the cloaking device that seems to be shrouding its arrival, and set the timer on a few essential reasons that are certain to explode your interest in the film like a small nuclear warhead strapped to your forearm.

1. The Premise


“A young boy (Jacob Tremblay) accidentally triggers an alert that brings the Predators back to Earth. The universe’s most lethal hunters have genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other alien species.” This is the official plot line revealed by Fox, and showcased briefly in the film’s trailers. Especially after Tremblay survived the horrors his character dealt with in “Room,” fending off herculean aliens with advanced technology should be a piece of cake.

2. The Filmmakers

Even if that concept doesn’t sell you immediately, what makes it irresistible is the fact that it was directed by Shane Black (“The Nice Guys”) and written by Black and Fred Dekker (“Monster Squad”). These are guys who know how to deconstruct machismo, and have fun with a premise that teeters on the edge between cool and corny.

Black co-starred in the first “Predator,"  so he has real bona fides with this franchise, and especially after tackling “Iron Man 3,” he seems more and more sure-footed when it comes to mounting fun, fast-paced action that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

3. The Mythology

It’s yet unclear how much of the previous films Black directly drew upon to build what has been described as a more “intimate… event-based” movie, something evoking the original “Predator” in terms of both its exciting self-containment and its whiffs of a larger universe, just outside the frame. But the casting of Jake Busey as Sean Keyes, the son of “Predator 2” character Peter Keyes, indicates that at the very least, Black respected the franchise to integrate a few Easter eggs into his story.

4. The Disgruntled Science Teacher

This is apparently how Olivia Munn’s character is described in press materials, and quite frankly, we are 100 percent here to see how that plays out against a Predator. (Knowing our high-school science teacher, that Predator better have his homework done -- or else.)

5. The Really, Really Great Cast Alongside Olivia Munn

Black cast Tremblay, Munn, Travante Rhodes (“Moonlight”), Keegan Michael Key (“Keanu”), Boyd Holbrook (“Logan”), Thomas Jane (“1922”), Alfie Allen (“Game of Thrones”), and Sterling K. Brown (“Black Panther”) among several others.

It’s not just that the cast is diverse and eclectic; it’s that there’s a murderer’s row of talent on screen all at once, promising the perfect sort of alchemy for a Shane Black project -- something that oozes a deeply self-aware acknowledgment of action movie archetypes and conventions, but comments on them so skillfully that it’s still fun to watch in earnest.

6. The Super Predator


I’ve gotta be honest: other than the fact that this beast is twice as big as the other Predator in the trailer and throws it around like a rag doll, I don’t know what this term means.

But given the bullying physique of that species, the series’ history with bigger and bigger adversaries for our unfortunate human protagonists and Black’s razor-sharp creativity, I’m guessing that it spells doom for a lot of secondary characters, and a lot of entertainment value for the audience.

7. The Sequels…?

There seems to be some dispute between the good folks at Fox and Black over the future of this franchise, but not long ago, producer John Davis said that he wants the filmmaker to come back and direct not one but two more movies in this cycle, further building on the world created in 1987 by Jim and John Thomas.

Black wisely was reluctant to put the cart in front of the horse, but if this film delivers, it sets the stage for -- if nothing else -- two more possible Shane Black movies, which is a good thing, whether they’re set in this world or not.