It was a smart move for Fox to hand over the reins to FX whiz Robert Rodriguez on a Predator sequel. He promised to deliver them a $45-million movie--modest, for an action sequel--which he wrote and produced at his Austin Troublemaker Studios (with location shoots in Hawaii) with Nimrod Antal (Kontroll) at the helm. Rodriguez offers studios a one-stop shop on a somewhat smaller scale than Peter Jackson's Weta operation in New Zealand. The deal is, they leave him alone to deliver the goods. "Do your thing and make it cool and make it a Troublemaker Studios movie," Fox told Rodriguez. "We’ll release it, but you don’t have to make it a Fox movie."
Next on Rodriguez's platter is Spy Kids 4. He just handed the script to the Weinstein Co. It's set ten years later with a new set of kids. He wants to return to the look and feel of the first Spy Kids, with plenty of practical effects, he said: "That's my most loyal audience."
Rodriguez seems annoyed when I bring up Sin City. (Word is, he was unhappy with Sin City collaborator Frank Miller's The Spirit, which deployed the Sin City look and style less effectively.) So few people saw The Spirit that Rodriguez shouldn't let that bother him. Many Sin City fans are eager for more. The Jetsons and Red Sonja don't seem to be on the front burner right now. (Oddly, Rodriguez's ex-girlfriend Rose McGowan has signed on to Nu Image's new Conan, but not as Red Sonja.)
The Predators footage --two trailers and an extended clip--shown at SXSW was impressive. A new band of mighty warriors with a range of skills are plopped down on a planet and soon realize that they are the prey for a bunch of nasty alien hunters. "This planet is a game preserve, and we're the game," says one soldier, played by Adrien Brody, who joined Rodriguez and Antal at SXSW for a show-and-tell. (He added 25 pounds of muscle mass for the role.) Laurence Fishburne turns up as the one survivor on the planet--there to teach the newbies the rules of this dangerous game. He set the tone for the other actors, said Antal.
Rodriguez and Nimrod sought to return to the suspenseful fear of the unseen--although they don't wait 40 minutes (like the first Predator, which they admire) to give a terrifying glimpse of the enemy--they're "trying to keep the monster in the shadows," said Nantal. While there's plenty of action, the filmmakers focused on the characters, who are "the eyes of the audience," said Rodriguez. And most of the big action sequences use a mix of animatronics, practical and CG FX. Some key crew from the original Predators were on hand, and Rodriguez is also using the old
James Horner Alan Silvestri score in certain places, with Fox's blessing--"like the James Bond theme."