If it bleeds, we can kill it!
Dir. John McTiernan
Runtime: 110 minutes
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, Richard Chaves, Elpidia Carrillo
When somebody joked that the only person that Rocky Balboa hadn’t fought was “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial” (1982), little did they know what kind of ideas that might spark. One of the tinder’s that was sparked was the concept for John McTiernan’s 1987 Sci-Fi action horror film, “Predator”, which stars everybody’s favourite Austrian muscle man, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Despite objecting to it, Major Alan “Dutch” Schafer, a retired Vietnam war veteran and elite mercenary rescue team commander, is assigned to a new mission by his former commanding officer, General Philips. The mission will see Dutch and his team (and a CIA operative), rescue a foreign cabinet minister from guerrilla forces in a South American jungle. On the way to their destination, they all feel like something is wrong – something is watching them, and signs of brutality, including skinned corpses, seem to be a warning to them. Not deterred they reach their destination where Dutch finds out it has all been a set-up and the mission was really to retrieve intelligence for the CIA. As they hunt for their extraction point, it seems that the hunters will become the hunted. Something in the jungle, maybe the jungle itself is stalking them – Anna, their hostage/rescuee sums it up perfectly in a way the troops understand (sort of); “She says the jungle… it just came alive and took him“. They need to keep their wits if they intend on making the extraction point alive, but an alien Predator is hunting them for fun.
… or… here’s a Summary in 180 characters or less…
Hunters become the hunted as alien warrior stalks an American commando unit in the South American jungle.
I need to get something off my chest – I love this film! I first watched in in the very early 1990’s, and I must have watched it hundreds of times since. I know pretty much all the lines – Hell, I use the lines in conversation on a weekly basis (maybe one of the reasons I don’t have many friends!). While critics and fans don’t consider this a 10 out of 10 – it is still one hell of an action film all the same.
“Predator” is an action film, it’s a horror, it’s a Sci-Fi film – it’s bloody brilliant! Arnie is on top of his game as super macho but equally intelligent Dutch in this epic film. There is a lot of machismo to go around in fact – but that’s obvious from the off as Dutch and Dillon embrace with a mid-air arm-wrestle of sorts. A lot of the acting cast were signed up because they were larger than life action stars – Carl Weathers had been Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” (1976) films; Jesse Ventura had once been a wrestler going by the nickname Jesse “The Body” Ventura as well as a being a Navy veteran (he was also appearing alongside Arnie in “The Running Man” which was released the same year as this); Bill Duke was a mountain of a man who had faced off against Arnie in “Commando” (1985).
There might even have been more muscles in the acting cast had the muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme, stayed with the production to play the predator. In case you did not know, Van Damme was originally signed up and even turned up to filming. Because he was dwarfed by the other cast who were all 6ft+ body builders he didn’t look intimidating next to them. He also (apparently) complained about the suit he had to wear as the predator and how it didn’t give him much flexibility/ movement, and how it hid his face from the audience. There was also a suggestion that he spat his dummy out at not being credited higher up the billing too. In the end, 7’2” Kevin Peter Hall played the predator with Peter (Optimus Prime) Cullen voicing it.
So, you have a group of muscle-bound action stars wandering around a jungle (filmed in Mexico), and they really did just that. They endured all the fun of the jungle too; exceedingly hot weather during the day, cold weather at night, bugs, leaches, cuts, bruises – all sorts.
Special make up an effect’s creator Stan Winston helped create the Predators look while on a flight between commitments. He had worked with Arnie before on “The Terminator” (1984), as had that film’s director James Cameron, who tossed in occasion comment about how the Predator should look – including mentioning that it should have mandibles. R/Greenberg Associates created the optical effects of the predator – the blood, the invisibility, thermal imaging, etc. I always find it interesting to read about how effects were created, and it tickled me to learn that the Predators blood is a mix of glow-sticks and ‘personal’ lubricant (?). I also got a kick out of reading that it was impossible to use green screen techniques in a jungle (because of the foliage of course), so a red suit was created to give the effect of the Predator hiding in the trees.
One of the reasons why this film works for me is it does not treat the audience stupid. Short of the CIA stitch-up, there aren’t untold themes and plots going on that are intertwined with the journey of the film. Everything is laid out in front of the audience and they can get on with enjoying the adventure of the journey the characters are on. You don’t need to know backstories; you don’t need to know what conflict is going on in the background; it doesn’t matter which President is in charge or the state of politics in the world. The film just starts; you see what happens in front of you; and then it ends. It is self-contained, it’s simple, it’s explained when it needs to be, it’s visually good, sometimes it might be gory but there is also an unseen horror which is triggered from imagination too – it is just a nice an easy good old fashioned action film which works as a timeless story.
With its simple approach and not going into backstories or motivations this was part of the criticism it received back in the 1980’s. Why was the Predator attacking people in a jungle on Earth? What did the CIA know and want to protect? Some audiences and critics seemed to need this to be able to enjoy the film and buy into it. Cinema has come a long way since 1987, but not explaining everything from the start or at the end is still something that is employed these days post 2020. For me it doesn’t matter about the why’s and the who’s – I sit back and watch what’s in front of me. This film allows me to do just that.
“Predator” has spawned sequels, reboots, and crossover films with the Alien franchise of films… it has made it’s way into comics, novels, video games, and toys. I love the film and always enjoy watching it. It’s censorship rating has decreased over the years – what started as an R, became an 18, and then became a 15. So, I’m sure that all those people who thought it was too brutal for the 1980’s will be shocked to see how times have changed. I love this film and have no issue recommending it on different fronts: It is one of Arnie’s greatest films; it is a great film that crosses different genres while being grounded in action; it’s simple; and it’s a hell of a lot of fun; and it’s massively quotable too – which just adds to the fun – so “Get to the CHOPPA” and watch this great film!!