'Predator' (1987) A Thrill of the Hunt Movie Review
Get to the Childhood
With the release of a new video game under the franchise’s belt, Predator: Hunting Grounds, I began feeling nostalgic for the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger/John McTiernan sci-fi classic. And then I said to myself, “Hey, dumbass. You own it. Watch it.” So I did exactly that. Which led me to where I am right here, right now, writing about what everyone knows to be one of the best action films of all time. As a kid, Arnie was my number one action movie hero as I absolutely loved the hell out of Schwarzenegger’s awesome slew of movies through is stint in 1980s and 1990s; Predator (obviously), Terminator 1 & 2, Conan the Barbarian, Commando, Total Recall, True Lies, Last Action Hero, Running Man, Twins, and Kindergarten Cop are all masterpieces in my book! No, I will not take that back.
In all seriousness, out of the ever-growing bunch that Arnie was shelling out, one of the few titles my whole family would consistently revisit was ’87’s Predator. For good reason; the action is a spectacle and a half, every single character is bad ass and easily memorable, the constant one-liners throughout are some of the best that cinema has to offer, Arnold himself is a brick house of oozing charisma, the special effects are some of the best ever seen, and of course the Predator itself is one of the most iconic sci-fi baddies ever projected onto the big screen. Predator is pure adrenaline and testosterone with the intensity of true war. As of late, admittedly it’s been difficult to commit myself to writing movie reviews with my current mental state. After a solid, happy 107 minute thrill ride here, I am presently the cheeriest mother f*cker around!
Arnold and his ragtag team of commandos are hired on a mission to save a group of hostages from a guerilla army within the depths of a Central American jungle. As the team ventures deeper, they find themselves being hunted down by an alien warrior with only one thing in mind… Killing our heroes one at a time. Now it’s down to figuring out how to survive and kill this creature before it wipes out the entire team on the way to the chopper… I had to.
Re-Watching the Classic as an “Adult”
Every time I come back to Predator, I honestly forget just how much lust for visual carnage there is within the action sequences which is wickedly glorious to behold. Bullets shred through jungle and dozens of casualties like nobody’s business throughout this whole movie. I love it so much. I’m not sure why that is an aspect that I continuously struggle to remember, but when I hit ‘Play’ it all comes roaring back and I can’t help myself from grinning ear to ear as the chaos ensues. It also makes me realize that this movie could never be made again in today’s modern moviemaking. With how much violence there is and glorification of basically guns mowing down people and trees alike, this production would instantly be hit by the thousands of uppity parents and obnoxiously sensitive ‘adult-babies’ declaring this film “unsafe” or “problematic” for our nation to see.
Not to mention the fact that even on a production value level I feel as though if Predator were made or remade today, we would not be viewing the same luscious locations or sets that capture the jungle environment like what we see in the 1987 film. More likely than not, in the year 2020, Predator would be strictly a “green screen” movie. They wouldn’t fly our stars out into the boiling heat of the amazon, nor would they prepare many, if any, sets to be filled with astonishing foliage for the characters to physically immerse themselves in. 2020’s version of Predator would more than likely be a cast of hot youths in their early 20s, it would be post-apocalyptic for some reason while the sexy team of gloomy CW channel misfits have to engage in some sort of stupid obstacle course to the death while the world is being invaded by misunderstood aliens or some virus that turns people into zombies that aren’t zombies “but something much, much worse.” It would be wildly and depressingly unrecognizable. Plus, I’m sure it would be rated PG-13; a slap in the face to the original to fall anywhere under an R rating. Luckily that never happened and I hope to God it never will.
Strange how simultaneously far we’ve come in movie magic, yet how far we’ve regressed as well. We’ve created such remarkable sights with the help of CGI, however does it compare to the potential and weight that’s achieved with some latex and plastic? Leading me to another guess I’d make if Predator were produced today, the creature effects would undoubtedly be 100% fully computer generated rather than traditionally crafted by practical means. Why is it that with all this technological progress we’ve made in filmmaking, it’s somehow so difficult to simply get a guy in a monster suit nowadays? Then any time we do get good use of practical effects, they get covered up by a bunch of unconvincing CGI… Jurassic World… So to say that I’m glad that Predator is from the 1980s where special effects were at their best is probably the understatement of the century.
A Vietnam War Flick Stumbling Across a Horror FilmClick thumbnail to view full-size
The beauty within this screenplay is how this is a kickass ‘80s action movie that so happens to stumble its way into a sci-fi monster movie. Everything that entails both genres being cheerfully blended into one gigantic, heart pounding experience. Big time explosions, jungle warfare, dozens of horrifically mutilated victims, a terrifying creature that is tactical as well as resourceful and can hold its own in one on one combat, slow and quietly driven suspense, and on top of it all we’ve got the most ‘80s action hero Schwarzenegger to go toe to toe with our creepy baddy. There is nothing here that I don’t love about Predator, but the fact that it is one of my favorite kinds of film where one genre will seemingly by accident walk its way into another genre is always such a treat for me. This so happens to be two polar opposite genres of a war movie and a sci-fi horror movie that doesn’t often merge in the cinema. Off the top of my head, the closest example I might muster up is undoubtedly James Cameron’s Aliens as that was obviously combining the two genres mentioned in a manner. Although I would personally argue that Aliens leans heavier towards science fiction with its futuristic and other worldly setting while Predator grounds itself heavily in our own reality.
Arnold “Mother F*cking” Schwarzenegger
What can I say that already hasn’t been said by countless others in the past about Arnold Schwarzenegger? He’s cool, he’s funny, he’s a big goofball, he’s totally badass, intimidating, charming, built like the Himalayan mountains, and he is one of our all-time greatest action heroes. These are simply facts and I love the hell out of this guy’s work. Predator was basically made at the peak of Arnold’s action career and it is a fantastic highpoint, I must say as the man is firing on all pistons in this baby. His performance here is everything we love about Arnold that I’ve just listed above and he doesn’t miss a beat when he either has to be charismatic or intense, he’s balances both modes perfectly. Only Arnie can spout out the beautifully cheesy one-liner, “Stick around” while impaling a man with a knife the size of my forearm.
From my understanding of how production went on the set of Predator, Arnold really took the reigns in being a huge support system for the whole cast and crew. Trudging through all this harsh terrain, over hundred degree heat, rolling through mud and dirt and bugs, constantly pricking himself on thorns from all the trees and foliage, yet took it all with a big smile on his face and an infectious optimism that spread among everyone around him. Honestly, that is really cool to me that he is willing to go through basically hell just to provide some fun for the audience and help a movie become a reality for the filmmakers. There is no one like Schwarzenegger and I don’t believe there ever will be, he’s a one of a kind treasure that I have gotten hundreds of hours of sheer blissful entertainment from. All I can truly say at this point is… Thank you, Arnold, for being so fantastic at what you do.
The Team of Testosterone
Back to the elements that would most definitely be toned down in modern cinema, the testosterone fueled squad of men that try out-manning each other. Today, if Predator were fresh off the Hollywood assembly line, it’s cast would be filled with angsty hot youngsters with producers attempting to cover every demographic possible in terms of race and gender in order to appease everyone on the planet. Not to say that to strive at being diverse is a bad thing, it’s not. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with trying to support diversity in film. Although sometimes there are simply some movies where it is wholly unnecessary and contributes nothing to doing so; Predator, in my opinion, is one of those movies that wouldn’t benefit in the slightest with a cast meant to cynically cash in on race or gender equality. The cast is flawless as they are and they work astonishingly off one another in their hilarious banter.
I’m aware that no matter how I phrase this subject it will likely be taken out of context or misinterpreted, but to me it feels as though Hollywood and television programs are currently hellbent on supplying equal representation to everyone in everything no matter what. Unfortunately, most of the time it comes across as condescending or disingenuous and I weep at the thought of if Predator were made today. To me, this a “man’s man” kind of flick. I wish I knew of a better way to describe the characters, but that’s the best way that comes to mind; these are manly men that do men things and are uber manly about it. Hopefully no one thinks that I’m saying this is a movie strictly for men. No, not at all. But how else can one describe this merry military band of foul mouthed, constant shaving, tobacco chewing, boombox jamming, carnage loving, “ain’t got time to bleed” type men that are all built like brick houses who are relentlessly ribbing one another throughout every frame? There is no other way to put it other than these are mother f*cking MEN and I adore every second they’re on screen as the film wholeheartedly embraces this adrenaline rush of manliness and goes for it unapologetically.
With all that said, every actor is utterly perfect in their respective roles in the squad and easily make for some insanely memorable characters:
- Carl Weathers as the treacherous bestie of Arnold, Dillon, who uses Arnie’s team as a means to his own goals and he was also a son of a b*tch! Not to mention he’s a great, right handed pitcher.
- Jesse Ventura as the beefcake Blain with a nasty habit of chewing tobacco and implementing some questionable terms into his vocabulary. Also a fan of Mtv and not getting his heart blown out of his chest.
- Sonny Landham as Billy, the intensely focused and cunning Native American with some of the greatest buildup to a rather dissatisfying payoff I’ve personally ever seen in a movie sadly… But he’s still awesome.
- Richard Chaves as Poncho, the man who thinks he can make it… He doesn’t make it.
- Elpidia Carrillo as Anna, the poor woman who stumbled into the wrong place at the wrong time when an alien decides to start murdering people in her territory. Although she’s smart enough to know when it’s time to combine strengths in order to survive. She also believes the jungle comes to life and kills men at random.
- Shane Black as the lovable Hawkins, a man who only wants to makes jokes about vaginas being too big and to not have his skin ripped off. Luckily, one of those things he’s allowed to do.
- Bill Duke as crazed, vengeful Mac who has a distaste for boars and trees and scorpions. But absolutely will not turn down singing a song to himself in the middle of a hunt.
Mac / Bill Duke
Upon my most recent viewing of Predator, I came to the sudden realization that Bill Duke as Mac is an incredibly underrated performance. Duke is chewing up scenes with every frame he’s in; whether as a stone cold killer or driven to complete madness in his quest for vengeance against the Predator. As the movie went along, I couldn’t avert my eyes from his deliciously over-the-top crazed performance. Honestly, it got to a point where I began wondering why Duke’s role isn’t more appreciated or mentioned among the fan base. Bill does a phenomenal job delving further down into insanity as we reach the third act, exhaustedly singing to himself while desperately hunting down the alien bastard who murdered his friend. Obviously this talented actor is having a grand time in the role and I do hope he can get a bit more recognition for his efforts here as I genuinely believe that Duke is relatively overlooked when Arnie and the Predator are taking up so much of the spotlight.
If It Bleeds... We Can Kill The Predator!
There is no question that the Predator is one of the most iconic movie monsters ever put to screen. We all know what it looks like, what it sounds like, how it moves and acts and we’re afraid of it. Something that could have been extremely easy to do with this unique movie baddy were if the filmmakers decided to make the Predator itself simply a brute that mindlessly attacks, resulting in a mostly forgettable and generic monster if that were the case. Thankfully, we had smart writers behind this movie that thought out exactly how this thing works, lay out exactly what it’s doing and why. Fleshing out the fact that this creature is actually quite intelligent, studying its prey and setting up a plan before it goes in for the kill. The Predator doesn’t randomly attack the team all at once, the writing and the execution of this alien establishes that while this is a very capable warrior, it’s not dumb enough to take on seven men at once. So it waits, watches, sits back for long enough until it sees an opportunity present itself and immediately ceases the moment. Hell, the Predator honestly doesn’t even reveal its presence to the team until approximately the 45-minute mark.
A major key element to why the Predator is as cool and intimidating as possibly depicted in the film is because of the physical performance provided by the talented actor, Kevin Peter Hall. For the first and second picture of the franchise, Hall was in the suit (for the most part, we’ll touch more on that later) as the alien hunter we all know and love. The strange physicality that he brought to the Predator added immensely to an otherwise barebones role. Without this special approach to how the creature moved and looked, I don’t believe the film would have been as successful as it turned out to be. Who’d have thought that Harry from Harry and the Hendersons could be so frightening? Sadly though, Kevin Peter Hall passed away not long after the release of Predator 2 due to an accident with a blood transfusion which resulted in the actor contracting AIDs. Hall was only 35 years old, but he left behind a terrific legacy and I hope his family is very proud of the work he achieved in the history of filmmaking.
Something that I get a kick out of as I watch the Predator taunt and stalk its prey, it’s the fact that half the time it doesn’t seem as though the Predator is even trying to necessarily kill some of the team members right away, but rather screwing with them first before going in for the kill. Especially with the dynamic between Predator and Arnold’s character, where it comes across more as the Predator wants to teach this little human bastard a lesson for causing it so much trouble; smacking Arnie around, making him think he’s safe when he’s not, convincing Mac and Dillon that they have the upper hand when in actuality the Predator is luring them in, and then it’s kind of great with how petty the Predator gets when it’s defeated at the end. All these elements combined make for a unique movie monster that we all love to see time and time again.
Predator Looked a Little Different at First
Originally, in case any readers are unaware, there was a vastly different design for the Predator and it was also being portrayed by action star Jean-Claude Van Damme in the starting weeks of production. That’s right. Timecop himself was the Predator… for a couple weeks. Although in his stages of principal photography, the Predator was less what we know today and more like a giant roach design that is reminiscent of a 1950s sci-fi B-movie monster. Although that’s when the details begin to muddy up as according to producers, Van Damme was supposedly fired for constantly complaining about how ugly the suit appeared on set and relentlessly badgering the filmmakers to include his martial arts skills within the costume. On the other side of the argument, however, Jean-Claude claims that he was asked to do a dangerous stunt that he personally refused to go through with and left production as a result. Truth be told, I’m not entirely sure which is true or false on the matter. All I know is that because of Jean-Claude’s contributions, we were able to receive a better design from the legendary Stan Winston and a great physical performance from Van Damme’s replacement too. So in the end, I think that everything worked out for the best.
If I repeat the word “iconic” in describing this movie one more time, I just might smack myself. It’s really difficult though because it’s truthfully hard not to call everything about this movie as what it is… Which is freaking iconic. That includes the musical score by Alan Silvestri, which is to die for. How can I even describe the score of Predator? It’s epic yet simple, bombastic yet quiet, primal yet sophisticated. The score works on a ridiculous amount of levels simultaneously, it’s rather cumbersome to analyze in a way that makes sense in the written word. More than anything, this music encapsulates the feel of its title, Predator. There’s not a single beat or tempo that is even remotely off the mark, every sharply lethal melody flowing seamlessly into the next tactically aggressive theme. Hearing the score re-emerge while playing the video game demo for Predator: Hunting Grounds frankly contributed such a badass, cool factor and completely boosted my confidence in my gameplay. The fact that the now 33 year old musical score alone can accomplish such an impact is worth much high praise and merit.
My One Minor Gripe
So I briefly mentioned this little detail earlier in my review, but I think it’s worth digging a tiny bit into with my criticism. While I do believe that 99% of Predator is flawless in every way, there’s one scene that has always bothered me since I was a kid; that being Billy’s underwhelming demise. For approximately the first hour of the film, there is a tremendous amount of tension being built up between Sonny Landham’s Billy character and the Predator as Billy sporadically gets a gut feeling that he’s being watched by someone. Nail biting sequences where it’s almost as though the two characters are having a standoff with one another to see who’s going to make the first move. Then finally after all that buildup for the Predator and Billy to finally duke it out, mono y mono… the film cuts away and Billy is next seen getting his spine ripped out post-mortem. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a cool visual payoff to see what Billy’s fate is after his death, but it has always rubbed me the wrong way how we were given so much tension building only for the movie to drop the ball and kill Billy offscreen. It’s a pretty substantial disappointment that I haven’t been able to shake after all these years. At no point has it ever ruined the movie for me, I still love it with all my heart, I simply wish that we could have gotten the ultimate final showdown between those two. Thankfully, 2010’s Predators managed to sort of rectify that specific hiccup in a way via homage, so it isn’t as much of an issue for me nowadays. Part of me still wishes we could have seen Billy and Predator fight though. Oh well.
What Came After
When it comes to the topic of the Predator series as a whole, admittedly I have some relatively strong and unpopular opinions about the sequels of the ’87 classic. Brace yourselves, this might get bumpy. Alright, here it goes. Personally, I find all of the sequels (EXCLUDING Alien vs Predator & Alien vs Predator: Requiem) to be criminally underrated. For whatever reason it seems that the strictly Predator sequels either garner a lot of critical flack or fumble in the box office or both. Which is a shame since I believe that every single one of them has something to offer in terms of entertainment value.
Predator 2 is one of the best sci-fi action/horror sequels ever made and you can quote me on that, I don’t care because I love the hell out of Predator 2. More often than not, it seems that Predator 2 gets a bad rap because it doesn’t star Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the movie didn’t need Arnold, it stands entirely on its own. I could go on and on about this unappreciated gem, which I will soon in a separate review, for now though I will leave this movie to tackle another time in greater detail. To anyone who hasn’t seen Predator 2 or dislikes it because Arnold isn’t in the movie, give it a real shot as the movie plays with expectations as well as the screenplay formula of blending two genres together; only this time with a gritty cop thriller and a monster movie, which is awesome!
- 'Predator 2' (1990) A Concrete Jungle Movie Review
The first movie... A classic! The second movie... should have also been a classic! Why isn't it? Well there's only one way to find out. Talking about the movie. Duh! So do you wanna do it? Let's do it. C'mon! Don't be chicken. I promise it'll be fine
Predators, again, a really fun flick that’s a solid throwback to the original while also a great return to form with some R rated gore to enjoy. By no means perfect or a masterpiece by any stretch, but there was more than enough for the fans to appreciate. Or apparently not, since it seemed as though it was mostly overlooked by many fans as a cash-grab, supposedly complained that there weren’t enough Predators in the flick (there are 4), and still maintained qualms with the leading man not being that of Schwarzenegger. As much as I love and adore Schwarzenegger, I don’t quite understand why so many people argue that he must be in every one of the sequels even if it doesn’t call for his presence. From my point of view, the movie is a fun ride that stands mostly on its own while still paying respects to 1987 feature.
2018’s The Predator, out of the bunch I will say that this installment is easily my least favorite. Yet somehow I’m still more fond of this flick than most everyone else who went to see it. Less of a legitimate Predator movie and more of an almost early 1990s knockoff crossed with Fred Dekker’s Monster Squad. Tonally speaking, it’s a little messy, but the entire cast is quirky and lovable while in the middle of some R rated action and some pretty funny dark humor. Yet again, the movie got a lot of flack for not being as good as the original; if everyone keeps unfairly comparing these entries to the original movie, then no one will ever be satisfied. At this point, these sequels need to be recognized on their own merits and not that of the past.
To keep my next thoughts short, simple, and to the point; Alien vs Predator is not very good and it’s rated PG-13, which is a middle finger to both franchises. Aesthetically speaking, it looks cool and has some neat fan service, but it’s got some real issues with character writing. Alien vs Predator: Requiem goes back to being rated R yet is somehow so much worse than the first film and visually looks like sh*t to put it bluntly. Not a fan of either installments, they’re both big letdowns and mega wastes of opportunity.
Do I really need to explain this argument any further? Predator is a great film, it set a high mark for what combining genres can do; providing mind blowing action amidst spine tingling suspense and grounding a sci-fi monster flick in the middle of it all. There’s likely not a soul on the planet that hasn’t heard of Predator and if they haven’t, shame on their parents for depriving them of a childhood. Anyways, I love this film, I could watch it a million times over and still be content. Actually, I probably already have seen it a million times and I’m ready for my next million viewings. If this review isn’t enough to sell people on Predator, well… I believe it’s time to re-evaluate your own lives then, don’t you? Seriously though, if someone reading hasn’t experienced this epic combination of action and horror, please do yourselves a favor and seek Predator out immediately! Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Best Predator Outing
What's your favorite 'Predator' movie?
That’s All Folks!
Predator… It’s f*cking great! What do you think though? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Curious about how many tries it took the Predator to perfect the art of ripping a man’s spine and skull out of his body? I’m thinking 12. Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a good hunt of a day!
© 2020 John Plocar