Let’s go to the jungle (and back in time).
I am doing a great job with up-to-date movies on the blog lately…
We decided to power through all of the Predator films to prepare for the new one that came and went from theaters a little too quickly.
It is strange that the franchise has had such a hard time gaining traction (the new release seems to be a second reboot), and the AVP films are middling at best (but I will save comments on that for later). The poor quality of the sequels doesn’t really do the original justice, which is one of the better 1980s action/science fiction films.
We follow a crack commando unit led by Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) under the command of Dillon (Carl Weathers) on an operation to find a diplomatic who was shot down over the jungle. We also have Jesse Ventura here (meaning two actual governors are in this movie) and a host of other super-badass-dudes.
What makes the first Predator work is that we don’t know what is going on. It begins as a fairly standard action film. Granted, we find skinned American special forces hanging in the trees, so something sinister is going on. We also get the POV from the Predator himself, but we are still in an action film. The over-the-top siege our soldiers lay on the enemy rivals just about any popcorn action as everything is blown up, on fire, or a combination of the two by the end of the sequence.
The film then slowly transitions to more of a horror film. The men realize they are being stalked, but they can’t see what is chasing them. Despite firing into the jungle they hit nothing, and are left trying to figure out what is happening.
The blend of horror and action works quite well here. We don’t get a lot of the predator, and this is wise (though we do get too much of his infrared POV). Having some of action’s biggest stars melt before the predator also establishes how severe of threat he is.
Some of the CGI is dated, but the predator himself still looks pretty rad. The reliance on more practical effects means the visuals of this film aren’t as dated as others from the era. However, we do get some awesomely bad 80’s dialogue throughout. Further, we get to see Arnie channel his inner Kevin McCallister as he totally home-alones the predator in the fight.
I like this film, and it is weird to think that such an over-the-top action film manages to be one of the better science fiction films, ever. Part of this film’s success is that the premise is simple: special forces are hunted by an alien predator as they try to leave an area. The idea of humans being hunted as trophies resonates well, and the moment-to-moment survival becomes the sole driving factor of the film. Complicating the narrative (for stupid reasons) is a major failing of the later films. Predator knows exactly what it is and delivers fully.