predator-posterDirector John McTiernan’s 1987 film Predator is one of those interesting cases where one has to wonder how different it is watching it many years later. Nowadays, with Alien vs. Predator and various other spin-offs and merchandise, everybody knows what the Predator is and what it looks like, and what the basic concept of the film is. I was only 8 years old when the film came out; I do not remember the way that it was marketed, or what people at the time knew about it before they went to see it. But from what I can see, it seems as if the alien killer was hidden from the audience. The poster just shows Arnold Schwarzenegger — one could easily think Predator applies to him the same way Eraser or Commando would. And the Predator itself isn’t revealed until a fair way into the film.

Schwarzenegger plays the leader of a crack commando squad, sent into the jungles of Colombia ostensibly to pull off a rescue mission. Carl Weathers plays his commanding officer, and much of the early film consists of the tension between them as Weathers withholds key information from Schwarzenegger. Most of the squad are fairly indistinguishable cannon fodder, but Jesse Ventura stands out as the brash redneck-esque Blain. Elpidia Carrillo plays a Colombian woman they take captive because they believe she holds key information, and there’s some aggressive tension there as well, as the first few attacks they blame on insurgents and expect her to know what’s going on.

The first half of the film, before the Predator itself is revealed, operates on a similar principle as a suspense movie. It keeps the characters in the dark, wondering what is out there and who is attacking them. Once the Predator is revealed, it shifts gears into a more straightforward action movie with Arnold going head-to-head against the alien attacker. It’s successful, if not spectacular, in both formats. While it isn’t really the top of the genre in either case, it’s not hard to see how it had some lasting appeal, particularly with the visual design of the Predator. One interesting decision that helps preserve the suspense is that the Predator’s origins are never explained; no spaceship is shown, there isn’t any expository dialogue saying he came from outer space. He’s simply there, hunting, an inexplicable threat to his prey.

The film is about what one expects from an Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie. It doesn’t have a lot of great acting, it doesn’t have a particularly deep plot. But it does feature a lot of fun action sequences, and some great visual effects. So it may not be a great film, but it’s an entertaining one.

Rating: 3 Stars

About Morgan R. Lewis

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16 Responses to Predator

  1. Spikor says:

    Maybe it`s because I was younger when I first watched it… or maybe it`s because there`s a few years since I`ve rewatched it… but I couldn`t disagree more about this being middle of the road. I remember deaths from this movie. I remember the Predator and its gadgets. I remember and quote lines from it. For me, those are hallmarks of a classic action movie that excels.

    A middle of the road action movie, for me, would be something like Commando, which had absolutely no impression on me, but I can remember that I watched it, and enjoyed the experience.

    I`m not telling you you`re wrong or anything. It`s got issues. I know for sure that the first half of this movie has pacing issues that would bother me on a re-watch today. But I could say that about almost every action movie pre-Terminator 2. I`m sure there`s other flaws as well. I just think that if something leaves as much as an impression as this one does, it`s hard for me to agree it`s not among the top of its genre.

    • Fair enough… like I said, this may be suffering quite a bit from the fact that I’m coming at it as a new viewer some 25 years after its release, already knowing a fair amount about it.

  2. jjames36 says:

    Great review. And completely agreed.

  3. drakulus23 says:

    This is one of favorite movies and I don’t care how bad the acting is. I freaking love this movie!

  4. brikhaus says:

    Very nice review. But, like Spikor, I have to disagree about it being middle-of-the-road. It’s a fantastic action/sci-fi movie, and one of the best of the 80s. The way that it starts out as more of a suspense/thriller type and then suddenly changes directions is one of the reasons why it stands out. Plus, it is quite inventive, especially with how different Predator is as a villain. For me, this is one of Arnold’s top movies.

  5. Good honest review. I only watched Predator for the first time from beginning to end last year (I’ve caught bits and pieces on TV). I have to say I enjoyed it a lot but I was in an 80’s action film mind-set.

    • That’s definitely the mindset to be in with it. And I do think it would have worked better for me if I had seen it when I was younger and hadn’t been exposed to as much of the hype for it.

  6. Dan Heaton says:

    I totally agree that the story benefits from the lack of exposition about the Predator. If we weren’t aware of the plot before seeing the film, there would be a lot of suspense about where we were going. I think the slow burn approach is what’s the key in making this film so memorable. Arnold is also well-cast, and the showdown with the Predator is surprisingly tense. This one still works for me.

    • I’ll agree about Arnold being well-cast in this. A few of his later films, it’s easy to get the feeling that he was cast because “He’s Arnold Schwarzenegger”; here, it feels more like he was cast because he truly fits the role.

  7. Monkeyboy says:

    I’d have to disagree as well (sorry). I don’t really think of it as an action movie, even though there is action. It has the most iconic alien after, well, Alien. And possibly for the first time, you have a real credible threat for Arnie. It’s a very cool sequence when he’s hiding, covered in mud, and you see the first full reveal of the Predator, all seven foot of him, and you kinda go, “Oh fuck, this thing could actually kill Arnie!!”

    It’s also my go-to movie when I want to dust off my Arnie impression.

    “Get to da choppa!” and “I’m here! Kill me! What are you waiting for? Do it! Do it nooooow! Kill meeeee!” 🙂

    • Perfectly all right to disagree with me (particularly when you’re in good company on this one! :D) Though I do think this is definitely an action movie first and foremost.

      You make a good point about how physically imposing the Predator is. By 1987, we’d seen Arnie taken down by underdogs (The Terminator), but we hadn’t seen Arnie as the underdog.

      And yes, this is a good film for Arnie impersonations. 😀

  8. Interesting take on this one. I didn’t see Predator until a few years ago, and I absolutely loved it. Part of that could have been that I saw a midnight screening with a raucous crowd, but I got a kick out of the trio of Arnold, Weathers and Ventura especially.

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