What do we know about the Yautja culture?
When discussing movie monsters, the hulking crab-faced star of the Predator The franchise doesn’t just stand out for its outstanding design or excellent action settings. The most interesting thing about this iconic alien threat is the set of unspoken but indisputable rules and traditions that guide their behavior.
1987 Predator tells a very simple story. A group of hypermasculine commandos are ambushed by the eponymous entity and must fight to survive being its prey. Its technology is clearly centuries beyond anything mankind has ever seen, but its culture depends on seemingly ancient hunting rituals. Five films and countless other media have followed that original work, with another film on the way later this year, and much has been learned about the Predator and its way of life.
The first time a Predator reveals something readable to the public, as the personality or emotion comes halfway through the original film. He’s clearly been smart from the start, at least more so than any animal. Compare its behavior with that of its mortal enemy, the Xenomorph of the Extraterrestrial franchise. Both stalk their prey using stealth, chase and take down their targets one by one, the two spring-loaded traps, but that’s where the similarities end. The Predator uses technology rather than its natural strength or weapons. He uses strange diversions, like recording the voices of his victims or leaving them as bait. He behaves like a hunter without any sense of decency. It’s cold and efficient, the perfect killing machine. That’s what makes him so breathtaking the first time audiences see him accept an honorable duel.
When Billy Sole, the team’s Native American tracker, challenges the Predator to a fair fight with nothing but a machete, he seems like the only one who understands its rules. He is quickly sent offscreen as the rest of the group flees, but he is also the only one the Predator takes as a trophy. Predators took that idea and continued it by showing combat. When the taciturn Yakuza enforcer Hanzo encounters the Predator, he too shows an uncanny understanding of his ways. He engages him in a duel, brandishing a katana against his blade, and the Predator fights on his terms. This seemingly heartless killer believes in the honor of a fair fight. That’s why he only faces trained soldiers, hardened criminals or serial killers. For a predator, a hunt is not a hunt if its prey is not capable of it.
Predator 2 offers another interesting story for the species and its interaction with humans. Most of the film is a weak dud that squanders the first film’s potential, but its final moments introduce an interesting wrinkle. After Danny Glover’s loose-barreled cop successfully kills the film’s new Predator inside his spaceship, he’s approached by a sudden entourage of his apparent peers. There’s a tense moment fans have never seen two Predators in one place, now there are a handful. Then the Elder Predator, their obvious leader, hands Glover an engraved flintlock pistol and blasts him away. No words are exchanged, but what is happening is clear. Glover has been rewarded for a successful hunt, he is respected by their people, and he has proven himself among them. The novels have a backstory for this gun, but there is no need to communicate its meaning.
predators and The predator shows a variety of alien species subtypes. Each new type has a different specialization, such as increased physical size, improved visuals, or the use of animal companions. predators was the first, and so far only, film to be set outside of Earth. This probably isn’t the creatures’ homeworld, it’s a planet used as a game sanctuary so predators can hunt as they please. There are apparent squabbles between the groups, they compete and fight. It’s hard to say exactly what they have to fight for, but it’s clear that their relationship is one of tribal animosity. It is this tribal societal structure that raises questions about the larger society of the Predator’s home planet.
the Aliens vs. Predator the movies, while rarely considered canon, gave audiences a ton of information about the creatures. The Predators have a long relationship with the hordes of Xenomorphs, hunting them for sport and using their natural power as a testing ground for their initiates. A predator meets a man with terminal cancer, realizes he is dying, and leaves him alone. Once he proves he’s still a threat, they easily kill him in a fair fight. When the series lead kills an alien queen, the Predator marks her as one of their own, as does the gun given to Danny Glover. The Predator grows stronger as a hunter with a culture of honor and rules that allow other species to gain rank.
The lion’s share of information fans have about Predator culture comes not from the movies, but from novels and comics. The name Yautja is also derived from this source, but the movies never called them Predators. There’s a ton that fans wouldn’t know about the middle species that created them. Hopefully later movies will allow for more depth for the Yautja species.
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