If you’re a fan of the Predator franchise, you’ll have recently seen the trailer for The Predator, the fourth film in the hugely-popular, ever-enduring sci-fi series. But what you might not know is that the third film, Predators (2010), starring Adrien Brody and Laurence Fishburne, was filmed in Hawaii. That said, you probably do know that Hawaii is no alien to blockbuster franchises.
The 1987 original – now a true sci-fi classic – pits Arnold Schwarzenegger against a marauding alien warrior that hunts for sport in a Central American jungle. And while its 1990 sequel opted for an “urban jungle” in the form of Los Angeles, the third film is set entirely on an alien world. So you could say that it brought the franchise back, quite literally, to its jungle roots.
Naturally, the mysterious and deadly jungle planet called for dense rainforests, epic waterfalls, rugged mountains and majestic valleys. And while just over half the film was shot in Austin, Texas (which involved mostly practical sets), it’s actually Hawaii that’s predominantly visible throughout, serving most of the film’s exterior shots. But perhaps it’s not that obvious.
The film begins with a team of criminals and mercenaries falling from the sky and landing on what transpires to be the alien world. Here they must put aside their differences and unite in order to survive a formidable enemy. A huge part of their journey was filmed in the incredibly-lush but challenging jungles of Hilo on the east coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.
If you’ve seen the film you’d be forgiven for thinking that many of these locations were purpose-built sets. After all, the seemingly-exaggerated trees along with their massive, bare roots appear somewhat artificial. But in the jungles of Hilo many trees are indeed as big as they appear onscreen, while their thick, twisting roots do grow above ground.
It won’t surprise you to learn that Hawaii wasn’t the first choice for Predators, though. Jungles throughout Puerto Rico, Mexico and China were among initial scouts. However, the filmmakers wanted an environment that would compliment both the story and the design of the “Predator” creatures themselves; a place that embodied a true “otherworldly” and “alien” look.
Ultimately, Hilo proved to be one of the ideal candidates. Its rainforests are dense, dark and rough, and according to the film crew “very difficult to work in”, which consequently brought a sense of realism to the actors’ performances. There’s also a mystical and alien quality to it all and, interestingly, much of the jungle seen in Predators (2010) had never actually been shot before.
Additionally, Mauna Kea would be used for skyline shots, while the northeast coast of the island, Hamakua Coast, served additional jungle scenes. With steep valleys, excessive rainfall and tropical winds, its rainforests are just as unforgiving. Back down along the coast towards Hilo, Kolekole Beach Park also featured, where the survivors fall 80 feet into a waterfall base pool.
2010 wasn’t the first or last time aliens visited Hawaii, though. Hamakua Coast previously served some of the lush rainforests seen in sci-fi masterpiece Avatar (2009), which was also set on a tropical alien world. And 2012’s Battleship saw aliens wage war against the USS Missouri off the coast of Hawaii and a number of locations across Maui and Oahu, including Pearl Harbor.
With no single identifiable trait, and landscapes that differ sharply throughout, one of the most unique things about Hawaii is its versatility. You only need to watch other blockbusters that were filmed in Hawaii to know this. Jurassic Park (1993) and Jurassic World (2015) were set against tropical backdrops, while Kong: Skull Island (2017) called for a more ancient environment.
It’s fair to say that Hawaii’s versatility is what truly sets it apart from other filming locations around the world. In fact, if you were to ever fall from the sky yourself (with a parachute, of course) and land in, say, one of Hilo’s rainforests, Hawaii is probably the last place that would come to mind. But then so is an alien jungle planet…
Predators’ follow-up, The Predator hits US theaters on September 14 2018.
Dan is a freelance writer from the UK who works for a number of online publications. He’s also working on a science fiction novel, and believes the impression Jurassic Park made on him as a child – both the Spielberg film and the book by Michael Crichton – to be the source of his passion to write. He previously critiqued theatrical releases for his local radio station, while his blog ‘Curious Rookie’ remains his platform for sharing film, travel and book reviews. Dan has also visited some of the most iconic film locations around the world, and his favorite destination is the island of Kauai in Hawaii.