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A basic Yautja Yautja, more commonly known as simply Predators or (in the Alien vs. Predator movie) "Hunters", are a fictional alien species featured in the movies Predator, Predator 2, and Aliens vs. Predator. They are most widely known for their distinct cloaking devices, which allow them to become nearly invisible. In the movies they are shown as lethal hunters, stalking and killing worthy adversaries using an arsenal of otherworldly weaponry. The Yautja seem to enjoy the hunt and challenge of tracking and killing their victims, and have even developed a whole tribal culture around this. Their code of honour dictates what they can and cannot kill and taking down worthy adversaries will make a Yautja or tribe more respected, keeping their strict code of honor intact. These creatures have a long and involved history with many species they hunt, including the human race and other Xenomorph life forms.

The name

The term Yautja stems from Steve and Stephanie Perry's novelisation of the comic series. The pronunciation is varied. Although the creatures are normally referred to as simply Predators the term Yautja has become the "official" name for them at least in the fan fiction, much like the expanded universe name Xenomorph has been widely recognized by fans as a name for the eponymously titled creature from Alien, which lacks any clear definition in the films save for one line of dialogue.

Biology and culture

Physiology

a Predator close-up Physically, the Yautja are bipedal organisms not unlike humans, although they typically are much taller (over two metres) and more athletically built. Yautja possess seemingly superhuman physical capabilities, with great strength and agility well beyond that of even the finest human athlete. The tissues of their bodies are more resilient, and they can endure physical trauma that would severely injure humans with only mild irritation or inconvenience. Many features of their anatomy differ markedly from that of humans. Most obviously, they have four prehensile mandibles surrounding their mouths, giving them an appearance not dissimilar to that of a crab. These mandibles appear to be involved in the production of audible clicks and chirps used in communication, and Yautja are also capable of mimicking sounds such as human speech. Other features that distinguishes the Yautja are a scaly skin somewhat akin to that of terrestrial reptiles, and the possession of what appear to be dreadlocks around their heads. It is clear that these are not made from hair, but seem instead to be fleshy. Aside from their outward appearance, Yautja also notably have luminescent green blood. Of particular note is that Yautja vision appears (from our perspective) to be shifted into the infra-red region of the electromagnetic spectrum; this is apparently enhanced by the masks the Yautja wear. When this mask is removed, its owner appears to experience a much-reduced quality of vision . This loss of vision quality is manifested in a reduced ability to discern contrasts in temperatures. Given that a species is likely to evolve a vision system that suits its habitat/lifestyle, this suggests that either the Yautja homeworld orbits a star with a different spectrum to our own, or that their planet's natural atmosphere filters all but the infra-red spectrum, just as ours filters almost everything but the visible spectrum. The Yautja may also have evolved in a different ecological niche to our own (e.g. nocturnal predator). The seemingly poor vision quality in the absence of a mask may simply be a consequence of the ambient light conditions on Earth. Under more appropriate conditions, Yautja may have perfectly serviceable vision. Alternatively, since Yautja do not seem badly impaired by the poor vision they experience on Earth, it is possible that other senses may, in part, compensate for this seemingly serious weakness.

Homeworld

A hint about the Yautja homeworld provided by both films is that the Yautja only hunt on Earth during the hottest years (this is remarked upon by one of the human characters in the first film). This would suggest a homeworld much warmer than the current climate of the Earth (though the Earth has experienced much warmer, and much cooler, climates in its past). It would most likely be a jungle environment, since the Predators seem very at home swinging through the trees with their athletic capabilities and desire the heat so much (they even wear warming mesh to keep their body temperature high). Certainly the planet would be closer to the sun than ours given the heat requirements of the Yautja and would have a different mix of air, made up perhaps of nitrogen and methane. However, the exact opposite may be true. It is possible that the Yautja homeworld is actually colder than Earth, and the Yajuta deliberately choose periods of unusual heat to hunt in order to make the hunt even more challenging and thus more rewarding. For now, we can only speculate as no official reports of the homeworld have been clearly made as of this time. The Aliens versus Predator novels have also insinuated that the Yautja social structure is matriarchal in nature, although the term is perhaps somewhat off. It is believed by some that Yautja females, like some Earth species of animal, are larger, stronger, and in various ways more intimidating than the male of the species. (One Yautja hunter implies that surviving mating season is almost as much of an accomplishment as surviving a dangerous hunt.) There are also implications that the males are allowed to go off on such extended hunting trips so that the females can essentially "get them out from underfoot" and get on with running things. Some Dark Horse comics have shown females hunting with males. These females were slightly smaller (but still bigger than most human males) and seemed to be favoring the anatomy of human females in the same way the males resemble human males. In the game Aliens Versus Predator: Extinction it suggests that planet to be an almost desert environment with massive flame engulfed firebirds which are often hunted by young Hunters for their fire resistant skins.

Social information

The Yautja are a clan-based society Yautja society sees its members earning status through hunting other species that provide for an adequate challenge, worthy specimens making admirable trophies. Each clan is typically led by a leader or group of elders who will ensure the survival and honour of the clan. In each clan, there are different sets of rules and codes of honour guiding the members of the clan. For example, some clans refuse to hunt down human beings in view that humans are intelligent beings and thus should be treated with respect, demonstrated more than once when Yautja and human have come together in the face of overwhelming odds. Fortunately for the movies, some predators have no such qualms about human trophies. However, they may demonstrate other anthropomorphized sensibilities. For example, in Predator 2, one predator aims his plasma cannon at the head of a child that has a gun, but relents when a scan identifies the gun as a toy. Later, the same predator scans a female victim, and upon discovering a fetus within her, spares her life. Most hunters can identify with this as a type of animal management, i.e. allowing immature prey to fully develop, so that they enrich the gene pool for better future hunting. Another proven fact is that predators do not hunt a prey that is not worthy of them. A man with terminal cancer is hardly worth killing, for instance.

Image:Want some candy?.jpg A Yautja relents when it realizes the child before it is harmless What this means is that predators only respect prey that is also capable of hunting them. They identify this generally by identifying whether or not the prey has the capacity to harm them. In the case of humans, it is generally when the human is carrying a gun or a bladed weapon, like when the predator in Los Angeles slaughtered a subway full of armed commuters and gang members, but they are still able to identify when the weapon is no threat, like the child with the toy squirt gun. This may be potentially due to them being poor sport rather than a sense of ethics, for example the first predator movie had it kill an un-armed wounded soldier, although, fans debate, he may have died anyway, and the Predator put him out of his misery. Perhaps simply the Predators' ethics do not extend to wounded combatants, or those already involved in a hunt. While Predators are mainly a hunting culture there is a presence of a military which deals with wars against the prey species. This is only done on the rarest of occasions and when done so the Yautja bring their full might on the battlefield. These Military Hunter Predators use weapons such as blazers and missiles to destroy the prey rather then hunt them for sport. The Yautja also have a title system. Yautja who can't hunt for any reason are called Non-hunters. Criminal Yautja are called Badbloods. Yautja who have not taken part in the "hard meat trial" (AVP) are called Unblooded. Yautja who have are called Blooded. Yautja who break away from the clan to hunt are called Warriors (the one that hunted down the commandos in Predator was a warrior). Yautja with many kills, over 100 or more, are called the Honoured (the individual in Predator 2). The Yautja that are skilled in the art of the hunt and have proved their worth making thousands of kills are the clan Elders (Old Predators in Predator 2 and AVP).

Honor

Elders defend the honour of the clan. Three are seen here aboard their scout ship in Predator 2. Yautja society is based around the concept of the Hunt. The Hunt decides who is strong and who is weak. As the Yautja are a nomad race, never settling down, the concept of the Hunt suits their society well. Hunts are done in packs. The Pack's Alpha Warrior decides the actions of the pack and it is his responsibility to ensure the survival and victory of the group. With each victory comes many trophies and with trophies comes honor. The more honor a Yautja acquires, the more respect he will obtain. Honor is a very important part of the Hunt. Like the Bushido Samurai of Japan and the Paladins of Europe, honor is a fundamental part of etiquette. The Yautja follow strict laws for the sake of their pride. This extends to their use of a self destruct device to prevent Yautja technology from falling into enemy hands and preserve their honor by not allowing their foe to claim their body. The entire Yautja race is divided into Clans. Each Clan is different in its own way, obeying different laws, using different weapons and hunting differently. There are thousands of Clans in the Yautja species. War between the Clans is very rare though - as the Yautja aren't a warring species. Some Clans however can go 'bad' breaking their laws and breaking away from the entire species. These Bad Hunters are extremely dangerous. They have little if no honor, and have no respect for the rules of their people. They steal weapons and do as much as they can to rebel against the other Hunters. Bad Hunters are generally referred to as 'Badbloods' - Hunters of little honor, and no respect. They are considered less worthy than prey, and are often killed on sight.

Technology

A Predator's stealth cloak is invaluable, but it short circuits when it comes into contact with water The Yautja are highly technologically advanced, evidenced by their capacity for interstellar travel and by their array of weapons and equipment. One particularly notable example of this technology is the mask that they routinely wear. This provides them with a breathable mixture of gases, multiple vision modes and some diagnostic capabilites, as well as serving as protection for their heads. Various mask types are used by the Yautja, the design changing usually because of individual taste rather than the need for it, but there are supposedly different grades of headgear. Ranging from acid resistant, extra strong alloy type helmets that can ward off attack from Xenomorphs to simple ones that provide the vision modes and air solution. Supposedly untrained Yautja wear the lightest version of the mask since they have to prove their worth without aid- this is seen in the AVP movie when a Xenomorph alien bites through the masks of more than one predator with its inner punching tongue, suggesting that these predators were wearing not too protective headgear in a situation that really called for it. The Yautja's mask has many different vision modes available to its user. The most notable of these is an enhanced thermal vision, greatly increasing the contrast between objects from the Yautja's natural sight, as seen in the first movie when the Predator removes its mask. In the second movie, the Yautja switches between multiple spectral modes when it finds itself under attack from opponents who are wearing thermal camouflage, selecting one that displays the ultraviolet lights sources from their shoulder lamp. In Aliens vs. Predator, the Yautja again has multiple vision modes, the two it uses primarily are the thermal vision for tracking humans and an "alien vision" it uses to detect xenomorphs; there are additional special vision modes which it uses briefly to see the internal structure of one of its human prey, allowing it to see that the human is actually ill and not worth killing. There are also numerous vision modes present in the various computer and video games which feature the Yautja.


Thermal vision. Note that the Xenomorph on the right side does not show up while the human on the left is highly visible.

Alien vision. Note that the Xenomorph on the right hand side is now very visible while the human on the left is much less distinguished.


A Predator mothership Other equipment includes a cloaking device to provide active camouflage, bending light around the wearer and projecting a semi-transparent image in front of the wearer making them virtually invisible. The technology is also used for their ships to hide them when moving within enemy territories. However, this is rendered inoperable when exposed to water. There is also a medi-kit for healing battlefield injuries. Their weaponry includes smart Disks, throwing blades, CombiStick (part axe, part spear), Netgun (for immobilising prey), Wristblades (for hand-to-hand combat) and a shoulder-mounted Plasmacaster (energy projection weapon). Supplementing these, each hunter also carries a nuclear explosion self-destruct device. Once activated, this device starts off a countdown, red LEDs in the Predator's gauntlet serving as a warning. After maybe a ten to fifteen second delay, the device sets off a small-scale nuclear fusion explosion, and is normally used as a final resort in order to preserve a warrior's honor. The Wristblades seem to be the most important weapon for the Yautja, as in the game AVP2, humans attempting to remove one from a captured Warrior found that it was impossible to remove the Wristblades without killing the subject. The human scientists came to the conclusion that the Yautja would rather be dead than helpless.

Inter-species relationships

Predators in ancient times (concept art for the AVP movie) The recent "Alien vs. Predator" movie suggests that the Yautja have existed in their current advanced form much longer than humanity. In an elaborate flashback sequence it shows that the earliest Terran civilization was established by Yautja for the purpose of a hunting arena, and its inhabitants worshipped them as gods while being sacrificed every 100 years for the hunt. The Yautja appear to have already developed their advanced technology even at this early point in time. The pyramid where AvP takes place seems to be a development from the early Alien script, where the crewmembers find a strange pyramid that shows some worship of the aliens taking place. The walls of the pyramid have murals and engravings on them showing the worship of the Predators and the alien life cycle, the style imitating that from inside the ship seen at the end of Predator 2. Both the "Space Jockey" race of extraterrestrial and the Yautja seem to have some long-standing relationship with the aliens. Some theories state that the "Space Jockeys" created them while the Yautja merely use them as part of their hunting culture, but similarities between the technology of the Yautja, the chitin of the aliens, and the technology of the "Space Jockey" suggest all three races are very closely connected. Perhaps both races were highly influenced by the aliens or (more likely, as the Yautja's technology seems beyond their almost singular interest in hunting), the "Space Jockey" played some oppressive (maybe even mentoring) role over both species before the Yautja rose up in rebellion or some similar event. There is also the theory that the "Space Jockey" created the Xenomorphs as a biological weapon for their own civil war and that their creation led to their destruction. Also, relating the Yautja, it is theorised that the "Space Jockey" race once had a scout ship observing the Yautja homeworld to ascertain whether it would be a useful planet in terms of building outposts, effectively eradicating the local species. When a pod ship was released to investigate the planet, it returned with unexpected visitors: extremely predatory Yautja who, at that time, were at the same level as prehistoric tribe/clan based humans. After disposing of the "Space Jockey" crew, the Yautja were eventually able to copy and mimic the new technology. This came naturally to them as their evolution had helped them to learn ways of mimicking calls and tools with great speed and efficiency.

Appearances in film and print

Movie appearances

  • Predator (1987) -- Directed by John McTiernan
  • Predator 2 (1990) -- Directed by Stephen Hopkins
  • Alien vs. Predator (2004) -- Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

Fan films

  • Batman: Dead End (2003) -- Directed by Sandy Collora

Design of the hunter

Evolution of the Predator design. Extra teeth and a bonier forehead were added in Predator 2 before the whole facial structure was revised for AVP with a larger chin and smoother surface. The design of the Yautja, especially that of their mouthparts, was a suggestion from James Cameron. While flying to Japan with Cameron, Stan Winston, who had been hired to design the Predator, was doing concept art on the flight. Cameron saw what he was drawing and said "I always wanted to see something with mandibles". Winston then included them in his designs. It was Stan Winston's studio who created all of the physical effects for Predator 1 & 2, creating the body suit for actor Kevin Peter Hall and the mechanical facial effects for those mandibles. The studio contributed a lot to the character. Winston's crew were hired after attempts to create a convincing monster (including Jean-Claude Van Damme wearing a much different body suit) had landed flat on their face, Arnold Schwarzenegger recommending Winston and his crew after Arnold's experience working on the Terminator which had involved a lot of special effects work.

Special effects and creature evolution

The original design from Predator The Predator's blood was originally made from a combination of the liquid out of glow sticks mixed with KY jelly. The mixture would dry up quickly so the on set guys had to make new batches of it up fast between takes. The technique is still used. The interesting and inventive camouflage effect was designed by people from R/Greenberg Associates, under the direction of Joel Hynek. The idea for the effect came in a dream one of the Thomas brothers (who wrote the film) had in which there was a chrome man who was inside a reflective sphere. The man blended in perfectly camouflaged, reflecting from all directions and only visible when in motion. It took quite a while before they figured out how to do it, which was basically an image repeated in a pattern of ripples in the shape of the Predator's body. It proved very effective and was a new way of presenting an "invisible man." Before there was digital technology all of the camouflage was done optically using photo-chemical means. This meant that you would never get the same result twice from combining the pieces of film. After the original movies Amalgamated Dynamics took over from Stan Winston Studio in creating the props for the Predators in the AVP movie and a number of effects houses worked on the various other effects. The design of the Predator and its attributes including the cloaking technology and self destruct device have changed over the years because of the advances in effects technology and will surely continue to vary in design in coming years.

Film portrayals

Kevin Peter Hall-- The Predator Throughout the Predator and Alien vs Predator movies the Predator has been one of the central and most crucial characters. One tough thing about making a movie with Yautja in it is that you need to find a guy who's seven feet tall to go inside the latex monster suit. Kevin Peter Hall was the man who played the Predator in the first and second movies (Though originally Jean-Claude Van Damme was slated to play the creature,) having been in many suit gigs before that including Harry & the Hendersons. He was trained in the art of mime and used many tribal dance moves in his performance such as during the fight between Arnie and the Predator at the end of the first movie. In Predator 2 Kevin persuaded some of the Lakers to play background Predators because they couldn't find anyone on short notice. Sadly, he died not long after Predator 2 was finished. In AVP, basketball player Ian Whyte took over as the man in the Predator suit, having been a fan of comics and the Predator movies he came to the role with vigour, knowing what kinds of dramatic poses would be needed for the film.

Crossovers

The Alien and Predator meet for the first time on the silver screen Since Predator, the Yautja have appeared in many spin-off comic books and other media, often in crossovers with the Alien series, in which the Yautja hunt the xenomorphs. This, the largest crossover, was an idea that came to comic book artist Chris Warner in early 1989 when he had a bathroom break. He and other people at Dark Horse Comics were trying to come up with a good character combo for a new comics series. Dark Horse had been publishing Aliens comics under license from 20th Century Fox since 1987 and Warner thought: "Aliens is Fox, Predator is Fox, why don't we just cross those guys over?" Immediately Dark Horse head publisher Mike Richardson got on the phone with the head of Fox licensing Pam North with their idea. He was expecting a long negotiating session but her response was said to be immediate: "Aliens vs Predator? Like King Kong vs Godzilla? Cool! Let's rock 'n' roll!" The deal that brought the two characters together was credited as "Deal of the Year" by Capital City Distributors, even though it only took a few phonecalls (a fact Dark Horse somehow neglected to contradict). Over a decade later the movie was released in 2004 under the title Alien vs Predator with director Paul WS Anderson at the helm. Although it had a story totally different to the comics there were many elements from them incorporated into it. As well as crossing over with the Alien universe, there have also been many other comic book crossovers with Superman, Judge Dredd, and Batman. In the comic Aliens vs. Predator vs. The Terminator they are also shown as a force of balance on a cosmic level, working to stop a flood of Terminators from decimating the population of the galaxy.

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