'Predator': A New Enemy for a Post-Reagan Era
It was the year 1985. Rocky Balboa had just defeated Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, narratively draining the antagonism of the Cold War's evil Russian. After knocking out the giant communist blonde in a Soviet Union ring, with the Russian people chanting his name, Rocky, the American Dream-embodied character, had conquered the greatest enemy of all time.
The recurring joke at that time was that for the imminent fifth installment, Rocky was going to have to fight an alien creature.
That joke was the inspiration for Jim and John Thomas's screenplay that a couple of years later would become Predator.
Script and Plot
The borderline-sci-fi-pulp plot revolves around a small elite command team led by Major Alan "Dutch" Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) which, at the request of the CIA, enter the jungle of Val Verde (the fictional South American country used by Hollywood to avoid legal and political issues, first used in Commando) to rescue an officer captured by local insurgents.
The twist, of course, is that everyone will end up being victims of the game of a menacing alien creature whose hobby is to hunt and collect human trophies.
The script captivated the most prominent Hollywood blockbuster creators, who understood the popularity decline of the Cold War narrative and the need for a new kind of enemy. Joel Silver decided to produce the script with a big budget.
With this project, he sponsored the new generation of filmmakers including director John McTiernan (who years later would make classics like Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October) and Shane Black (writer of Lethal Weapon and Iron Man 3, among others). Even James Cameron, at one point, gave some of his ideas for the design of the creature.
Critics and Legacy
Although not well received by critics when released, Predator has increased its legacy over time. The reasons for its classic status are several: The fantastic creature design (Stan Winston), Alan Silvestri's score (who was fresh from his great successful work in Back to The Future) and a memorable casting that included the iconic Carl Weathers, former wrestler Jesse Ventura, mysterious Bill Duke and the intense Sonny Landham. On top of that, intentionally or not, Predator also displayed a witty political satire.
What's Your Rating For Predator?
Story and Ending (Spoilers)
The irony is clear: This is a borderline parody armed "bro force" team full of testosterone, constant macho reaffirmation. They spent time measuring each other biceps, smoking tobacco, hiding fear, cutting themselves with knives and trying to intimidate in virtually all of their interactions. Also there is a corrosive American cynical patriotism, invading a rural South American land, something that was happening in real life in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Granada and Panama, only to end up retreating, applying asymmetric war and guerrilla tactics against a clearly superior enemy who just wants to reaffirm his lifestyle.
Spoiler warning, but I guess you can see it coming in this type of movies, no?
The climax even includes a nuclear mini-explosion that generates a mushroom cloud, a recurrent nightmare at that time.
Of course, this being Hollywood, the irony dies at the end to give way to the happy ending. Dutch, our hero, beats the enemy and survives with the (hostage? Love interest? Captured?) girl while literally disappearing into the horizon.
It’s ok. We’ll take the other 96% of the movie, happily.
This is not a great movie, but I really enjoyed it as a kid and still feel some nostalgia when it reappears on TV now and then. Hence the relatively high rating for this pulpy cinema.
Although there have been attempts to recreate the same success, Predator 2 and Predators, they never had the unique mix that made the original work.
Release Year: 1987
Director(s): John McTiernan
Writer(s): Jim Thomas, John Thomas
Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura a.o.