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Alien Nation 

Are you ready for another Predator invasion?

With a new Predator movie — this one simply called Predators — opening Friday, we figured it would be useful to recount the menacing creature's history, which dates back to the days when Reagan was secretly sending troops to fight meaningless battles in Latin American jungles. A sequel to the first two Predator films, this one stars beefed-up Oscar winner Adrien Brody as a mercenary hunted by a new breed of alien critters. To prep you for it, here's a recap of the Predator's career exploits.

The Franchise Concept: So...there's this tall, generally villainous alien monster civilization that has nothing better to do than stalk dangerous life forms (like, say, humans) for sport. The first Predator has been called the Ultimate Guy Movie for its hyper-macho cast, led by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura.

To Live and Die in L.A.: Predator 2 moved the action to a garishly drug-saturated Los Angeles. Danny Glover was shoehorned into the terminator-cop-hero role. After this, the Predator species showed up mostly as a guest villain in comic books. Batman and Robin fought them. RoboCop might have too.

Two Monsters Are Better Than One: The Predator enjoyed a shot in its scaly arm with an appearance in the groundbreaking video game Alien vs. Predator. In 2004, a movie based on the game's concept was released. This mind-meld of franchises reveals that Predators have been breeding Alien's creatures as prey. The 2007 sequel, Alien vs. Predators: Requiem, unveiled a glimpse of the Predator's home planet and promised even more sequels.

Predators Today: Producer Robert Rodriguez wrote Predators in 1994, right before he made Desperado. It's about Predators who abduct humans and other interplanetary dwellers, then set them loose on neutral ground to see who survives. It smacks of the old Star Trek episode "Arena" and about a thousand other sci-fi short stories. But that's no surprise: Originality is one quarry the Predator has never bagged.

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