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Monday, 12 June 2017

Retro Review: Predator (1987) #Schwarzenegger

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Shane Black, Kevin Peter Hall
Genre: Science Fiction Action Horror
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $98 million

Plot: A team of commandos on a mission in a Central American jungle find themselves hunted by an extraterrestrial warrior

'Welcome To The Jungle'

Directed by John McTiernan who did Die Hard, Die Hard with a Vengeance and the least memorable, Last Action Hero, Predator sees the perfectly cast Arnold Schwarzenegger, once again butt heads with an evil nemesis. 

Dillion recruits 5 mercenaries, as well as best friend, Dutch and together, they go all out to rescue the hostages, who have been captured by guerrillas and infiltrate their base. As they do so, Dutch later discovers and notices a trail of slaughtered bodies in his wake by a fearsome -yet vicious creature, whose intent is to hunt down and kill those that he targets as his prey. With the killings mounting up, Dutch finds himself up against a voracious adversary. 

The remaining cast of soldiers includes former wrestler Jesse 'The Body' Ventura, Bill Duke who formerly turned up in 1985's Commando alongside Arnie and in Action Jackson with Carl Weathers and Shane Black, who penned Lethal Weapon.

The film operates in the same way as James Cameron's Aliens a year before as a slasher-type horror, with virtually all of the secondary characters being wiped out by the mysterious and deadly creature and leaving the main star as the lone hero, which in this case is Arnie as Dutch instead of Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, to fight the thing and to survive. Is it effective? Yes, especially as it plays to Arnie's strengths and utilizes his hulking presence and assets to show off his fighting skills, although the film moves at a slightly slower pace than Aliens.

The opening 10 mins is parallel to Platoon as a military guerrilla warfare movie and just like in Predator 2, Dutch and co blow up and defeat a bunch of human enemies in a massive shoot em' up fest and in wielding massive guns and rescue the hostages, before they meet their match against the Predator himself. The design of the Predator is well- crafted and imaginable that conveys the menace and danger that it epitomises; additionally, McTiernan successfully utilizes the jungle setting to maximum effect. 

The machoism and masculinity of this film are evoked in its usage of the term 'f*ggot', which by today's standards, would have been deemed offensive. That slightly marred my enjoyment of the movie. 

The sheer testosterone and use of heavy artillery permeate throughout the course of Predator. Predator wastes no time in killing off the mercenaries, one by one, whilst they go out to rescue the hostages, with each killing becoming more and more grisly. The score heightens the suspense and makes the film more nail-biting and gripping to watch; even though some will find it overbearing. 

The Dutch and Dillion rivalry is compelling to watch, with the betrayals and killings causing tension and friction between the pairing; this crisis is further deepened by Dillion's heavy-handed approach in treating the female hostage more roughly and Dutch trying to be more understanding of the situation at hand. But for Dillion and Dutch, the remaining characters were not much to write home about, lacking in dimensions and their depictions rendered more like typical macho action heroes. Aliens had Ripley, Hicks, Hudson and Vasquez: strong, memorable characters with varied demeanours, personalities and attitudes. Predator, on the other hand, has mainly Dutch and Dillion. Ventura's character looks fantastic, he chews gum/tobacco or whatever, but personality-wise, he is sorely lacking. The mid-way point with the soldiers talking was rather dull and I didn't really care for it.    
Unlike the Xenomorphs in Aliens, the Predator itself doesn't instill as much of that intimidation and threatening presence that makes their rivals not just effective onscreen, but also more memorable. 

Predator is not an out and out sci-fi movie for me, but rather a military action movie with sci-fi and horror elements. It has some interesting one-liners and one I wish I'd forget that mentions the f-word that ends with 'G'. 

Coming off the back of Arnie's previous huge hit, The Terminator 3 years on and undeterred by the negative reviews from movie critics, this was yet another entry in his successful reign as a Hollywood action movie star of the 1980s and 1990s. 

Final Verdict:

Predator tries to merge Commando, Aliens and The Terminator all into one and whilst it is watchable and good, the story and the remaining characters but for Arnie as Dutch, weren't as appealing. 

Predator was a huge hit because it had Arnie in it, as well as a bigger budget - if you remove him and that away, I doubt it would be as successful, or as watchable. Both Predator and Predator 2 has its flaws, as well as advantages, and whilst a lot of people knocked the sequel, having it set in the city and not the jungle was refreshing to see. Whereas with Predator, the suspense and tension is good; having it confined in the jungle, makes the film a tad more riveting and on several occasions, it pushes the boundaries to help further the narrative. 

That, and the film remains enjoyable. 

After an uneventful first 30 mins, the film gets better from the mid-way point onwards and thanks to Arnie, he really brings it home - well, just. The fight between Dutch and the Predator and the individual killings are worth seeing, besides everything else (the secondary characters are largely forgettable) and whilst the action is good in places, it's not as pacy and grand as in Commando, Total Recall, Terminator 2 and True Lies (for me, my top 4 Arnie movies). & for me, it's not as compelling as Aliens

20 years or so ago, I favoured Predator over Commando - having rewatched both of them in today's age, I now opt for the latter.

Still, Predator is very good and what it lacks in brains, it makes up with plenty of testosterone, suspense, as well as Arnie himself.


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