The face of the Predator is a distinctive and iconic aspect of this species' anatomy. It is characterized by its famous dreadlocks, mandibles, and sharp eyes, showcasing the exemplary work of Stan Winston. Throughout production, the design of the Predator's face underwent several stages, with some initial concepts later appearing in the expanded universe. This overview provides a comprehensive look at the Predator's face, including behind-the-scenes insights and details of each facial feature.
The Predator Face In The Initial Screenplay
The first concept of the Predator's face came from the screenplay by the Thomas brothers, named "The Hunter". This script had a very different Predator from what ended up in the final movie. He was more like a chameleon with green skin and a lizard-like face, able to shape his form into an animal. The Predator acted less like a hunter, and more like a scientist, being interested in the physiology of the humans (he wanted to dissect them). Dark Horse Comics planned to create a comic book based on this original screenplay (and even released a cover, seen here), but it was canceled when the license moved to Marvel Comics.
Behind The Scenes Origins Of The Predator Face
The behind-the-scenes and in-universe origins of the Predator's face are tied together. Behind the scenes, Jan Claude Van Damme was hired to play the prototype version of the Predator, wearing an insectoid costume with an ant-like face. The biological chameleon concept from the first script had by then been dropped. However, no one was satisfied with this costume, including Van Damme himself, who soon left the production. The Predator costume (mostly involving the face) went for a big overhaul by Stan Winston Studios, who together with help from James Cameron, came up with the Predator face design with mandibles. The mask on top of the face received several updates as well, it looked originally like the mask of the Guardian Predator or the Celtic Predator.
In-Universe Origins Of The Predator Face
In-universe, the Predator face design is tied to the Alpha Predator, an albino warrior who led a successful rebellion against the Amengi race. The Amengi used the Predators (then named Hish) as slave labor and prize fighters for entertainment purposes. The insectoid Amengi looked almost like the initial design of the Predator, a clever callback. The Alpha Predator (named Kaiil) can be considered to be the first true Yautja, even though he had white skin. The celebrate the victory over the insectoids, the Alpha wore the face of an Amengi as a mask and their bones as armor, coming full circle with Van Damme's original costume.
The skin color of the Yautja varies based on the Predator type and other factors. The renowned Jungle Hunter had brownish skin, while the Alpha Predator, featured in Predator: Hunting Grounds, had white skin. The skin is likely thicker than human skin, providing protection against melee attacks and bullets. The Predator's eyebrows and chin have small, spike-like appendages resembling their dreadlocks. Predators typically do not wear clothes over their skin and prefer hunting in warm climates.
The Predator's forehead is larger and broader than a human's, indicating a sizable skull underneath. While mostly smooth, some Yautja variants have ridged foreheads like Klingons, possibly indicating age. The Yautja Blooding Symbol is typically placed in the center of the forehead, often burned in with Xenomorph acid as a rite of passage for Young Bloods. The forehead is hairless, with dreadlocks situated around it, although some smaller hair-like structures may be present on the eyebrows.
Typically, Yautja eyes are either yellow or green, centered with a black pupil. The natural vision of Predators tends to be somewhat hazy and has a reddish hue, but their bio-masks effectively offset this by offering various vision modes for diverse scenarios and environments. Interestingly, some Predators, like the City Hunter and Assassin Predator, appear to possess thermal vision even in the absence of their bio-masks. This suggests that these particular Yautja might possess enhanced or advanced visual capabilities. Notably, the Assassin Predator is even able to view a tactical interface complete with an English-to-Yautja translation in his upgraded vision.
The dreadlocks of the Predators, a hallmark of their appearance, function as their version of hair. These can be styled and adorned, and some sources suggest they contain blood vessels, making them challenging to cut. Dreadlocks can be forcibly removed, as seen with the Stone Heart Predator. They grow longer and change color with age, turning grey or white in Elder or Ancient Predators. The Shaman Predator, for instance, has exceptionally long dreadlocks.
The Absence Of A Nose
Predators lack noses but possess a keen sense of smell, comparable to certain Earth insects or crabs. According to "Aliens vs. Predator: Prey," Yautja can detect the "musk" emitted by other beings' emotions, akin to pheromones. However, they have difficulty sensing this in humans. The Yautja's own smell is described as oily and bitter, intensifying when agitated. Their blood, in contrast, has a sweet scent.
The Predator has seemingly small cheeks, but they expand much wider when the Predator opens its mouth and widens its mandibles. The Predators from the movies usually keep their mouth open, only the Jungle Hunter and City Hunter from the first movies kept its mouth closed in a natural way. In the later movies starting with Alien vs. Predator, the Predators have "flappy" cheeks, that don't expand and retract naturally and look like thin pieces of rubber. This can be attributed to the costume makers not paying attention to this relatively small detail.
The Predator Mandibles stand out as a distinctive characteristic of the Yautja. These appendages, resembling crab claws, produce a clicking noise that can terrify their prey and form part of the Yautja's intricate language. The tusks are breakable and do not regenerate, as demonstrated by Greyback in Predator 2. Additionally, these tusks serve as a last-ditch defensive tool; for instance, the Assassin Predator used his mandibles to decapitate a Stargazer soldier. When not in use, such as when the Predator is masked, the mandibles are typically held closed.
The Predator possesses a tongue, though it's often not easily visible. Resembling a viper's forked tongue, it sits just behind the Yautja's four lower teeth, protruding from its throat. This tongue feature is prominently seen in Predator 2, particularly when the City Hunter uses a painkiller from his medicomp. In other films of the Predator series, this aspect is either overlooked or portrays a different Yautja subspecies with unique anatomical traits. The tongue of the Yautja likely aids in feeding and, combined with the mandibles, plays a role in their communication.
The Yautja possess excellent auditory capabilities and do have ears, concealed behind their dreadlocks. Their hearing is further amplified by their bio-masks. The most visible depiction of their ears can be seen on the sculpted head of the Fugitive Predator, a creation of StudioADI. These ears are shaped like small ovals, located on either side of the head, just beneath where the dreadlocks emerge. In contrast to humans, the ears of the Yautja do not extend outward from the head. Whether these ears contribute to the Yautja's balance, or if this is a role played by their dreadlocks, remains uncertain.
Differences Between Yautja Faces
The wide variance in Yautja apperances, especially their faces, are noteworthy. Most likely, they evolved in different regions of their home planet, Yautja Prime, with diverse environmental conditions influencing their development. For instance, the Feral Predator likely evolved in a desert-like area, resulting in darker skin, wider eyes, and thinner dreadlocks. Some have experimented with hybridization, enhancing their DNA with other species, leading to outcasts like the Fugitive and Assassin Predators. Like with humans, age causes big differences in the Yautja faces.
In conclusion, the evolution and design of the Predator's face reflect a fascinating blend of creative vision and narrative development. From the initial chameleon-like concept to the iconic mandible design, each aspect of the Predator's appearance serves to enrich its character and lore. Predators have many different faces, depending on their subspecies, age, gender, and other aspects.