- Directed by John McTiernan
- June 12, 1987
A team of soldiers is sent into a Central American country ostensibly to save a group of Americans only to learn that it was all a lie and now, trapped in unfriendly territory, find themselves pursued by a hunter from the stars.
Predator is one of the great alien action survival films of all time. I dare call it a science fiction action classic. It was like nothing that came before.
I have a soft spot for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Heck, I have a soft spot for most of the major action stars from the 80s. As a general rule they produced testosterone fueled shoot-‘em-ups which featured over the top and almost superhuman central characters who were one man armies going up against impossible odds.
This movie has plenty of testosterone. It has so much it will jumpstart little boys into puberty. From that weird opening moment where Dillon (Carl Weathers) and Dutch (Schwarzenegger) meet and are doing that flexing kind of arm-wrestling thing to all the explosions and gunplay this film does not lack testosterone or machismo. It is a guy movie if there ever was one.
I use the term “guy movie” because this was a time when action films were directed towards men. Women were not considered significant to the action film audience even though a few by this time were headed by female characters. It is a serious disconnect in logic. I knew plenty of girls (I was but a kid myself when this film came out) that liked action movies, but they were ignored. My point is the characters were all overly manly and tough beyond words here with the target audience being almost exclusively guys hence the term “guy movie.”
Speaking of testosterone, Jesse Ventura as Blain who is a commando that carries around a minigun is especially ridiculous in a way that is only acceptable in an 80s film. There is no way a human being is casually traipsing around the Central American jungle with a minigun taken from a helicopter but the visual looks cool and Ventura looks good using it. His character is a tough guy that espouses on how chewing tobacco will make someone a sexual tyrannosaurus. It sounds great but to this day I am not sure what being a “sexual tyrannosaurus” entails.
It has been pointed out several times before and I must do it myself here: what is up with Mac (Bill Duke)? The character is always shaving. I mean always. It is done so much that the action of shaving is synonymous with the character. But why? What hair did the man have by the time the movie started? He had already shaved it all off. All that remained was epidermis. Put the damn razor down!
Schwarzenegger had fought everything else at this point in his career so why not a killer space alien? At this point I am not sure what else Arnold could have gone up against that would have been a match for his screen persona. On the screen he was an unstoppable one-man army as well as being the global projection of American might around the world all the while sporting a thick Austrian accent.
One of the things that helps this movie stand apart from similarly themed films is that it is set in the present day. Not much science-fiction occurs in the present. And I love that about this movie. A group from the present day is battling something from space.
The film effectively keeps the Predator mostly unseen up until the end. You get bits and pieces, but you do not get a full-on body shot until the end. At first you do not even get the weird distortion. And then you get bits and pieces of that until you finally get bits and pieces of the uncloaked creature. It is a slow reveal that helps make the whole film enjoyable. John McTiernan made a wise decision there. It keeps you involved in the movie and gives you a big payoff at the end. Not enough directors are willing to hide the creature. Too often they just toss it right at you.
Some of that may have to do with the Predator we got not being the original Predator used when production began. Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally cast as the Predator but for starters he was shorter than most everyone else and thus did not look like a threat. Toss in the disproportionate look of the original creature that was also not as agile when used as needed for what they were doing and they wisely reached out for a new design and hired the legendary Stan Winston who designed the creature based in part on a suggestion from director James Cameron while the two sat next to each other on a plane. Sometimes the stars align.
Predator has tension. You usually do not know who will die next or what the Predator will do next. All you know is it is going to pick them off one by one as it hunts. The only sure kill was Hawkins (Shane Black). He was the least fleshed out and in my opinion the worst character in the cast. Hated his character. I knew he would be first.
Predator is a great film. It changed the game of the survival film genre. It produced something that has been attempted to be copied but never quite equaled. This is a must see.