Posted in Other Media

Countdown to October: Movies 13–15

Predator

Year: 1987
Runtime: 1h 47m
Rated: R

Director: John McTiernan

Writers: Jim Thomas, John Thomas

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Kevin Peter Hall

Initial: Rewatch.

Production Notes: Jon McTiernan’s follow-up movie would be Die Hard (1988).

What Did I Think:
Growing up, horror movie were out of bounds, but action flicks, especially those with Arnold Schwarzenegger, were fair game. Hellraiser came out the same year as Predator, and has a similar number of flayed bodies, but I can’t imagine being allowed to watch the former. The latter was a family movie night. Surprisingly, there is more casual sexism and homophobia in the latter. Ah, the 80s . . .

Once upon a time, Predator was an original, non-franchise idea. While a military squad of the future had gotten their butts kicked by aliens just the year before (Aliens (1986)), Predator starts firmly in 80s action movie territory: a rescue mission in Central America led by a wise-cracking Schwarzenegger. The details of the mission are unimportant because the rescue team quickly finds that they are being stalked by an invisible force.

Aliens probably does the action team set-up better because the military group in Predator is over-shadowed by our eventual “final girl.” We kind of know that they are all canon fodder and the end of the movie is going to come down to a one on one between the Predator and Schwarzenegger. Predator does good job establishing the alien without giving away every little detail about it. The effects aren’t half bad, though I would have been happier with less Predator-vision.


Predator 2

Year: 1990
Runtime: 1h 48m
Rated: R

Director: Stephen Hopkins

Writers: Jim Thomas, John Thomas

Stars: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Kevin Peter Hall

Initial: Rewatch, though I’ve probably only seen it once or twice and it’s been 20 years.

What Did I Think:
I remembered the general set-up of Predator 2, a Predator goes hunting in the concrete jungle, but I thought is was set in New York instead of Los Angeles. While the audience now knows what the Predator is, this sequel starts in other familiar 80s-90s movie territory: a vice cop movie. Danny Glover takes the role of “loose canon,” a competent police detective who gets things done by breaking the rules. Rival drug gangs are battling in the streets, but, again, those details don’t matter because the Predator has decided that Glover’s Harrigan is the apex predator in the situation.

The wrinkle in this sequel, aside from the change of setting, is that a government agency is also hunting the Predator. The science of this installment is probably the best of the three. It’s much easier to believe that radiation can flummox the Predator’s vision system instead of mud.

Great things about Predator 2? I’d forgotten Bill Paxton was in this, plus a young Adam Baldwin! But it’s the end scene that really makes this movie (another aspect of the movie I’d forgotten about). And perfectly sets up a prequel that would come out 32 years later . . .


Prey

Year: 2022
Runtime: 1h 39m
Rated: R

Director: Dan Trachtenberg

Writers: Patrick Aison, Dan Trachtenberg, Jim Thomas, John Thomas

Stars: Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro

Initial: I might have seen Predators (2010) (it should tell you something that I don’t remember if I did), but otherwise, I haven’t paid too much attention to the Predator sequels/Alien crossovers. But Prey looked kind of good . . .

Production Notes: My concern about Prey was whether it was made with the sensitivity to the indigenous peoples involved. And it was. The majority of the cast are indigenous and there is a full Comanche language dub of the film available.

What Did I Think:
Prey is absolutely the most well-made and best produced of these three movies and maybe of the entire Predator franchise. It’s a beautiful film and it would have been great to see on a big screen. (It’s only available on the streaming service in the US, probably due to it being one of the final fast-tracked projects of former 20th Century Studios president Emma Watts before she stepped down and Disney fully took over.)

This is back to the basics for Predator. Instead of the alien squaring off against the top of 1980’s military technology, this Predator is up against Comanche warriors and French trappers—the height of 1700’s warfare technology. There is a nice running theme of predator and prey relationships throughout, as we see the Predator working their way up the food chain. Naru, our heroine, is given plenty of believable weaknesses while still being pretty kick-ass.

The effects are obviously better than the 1987 or 1990 films, though the CGI over-reaches in a couple non-sci-fi cases. One plot point, dealing with the Predator’s infrared vision, bugged me mightily, but generally I enjoyed Prey.