Usually, I try to focus on newer movies and TV shows for my reviews, but while I was researching potential things to write about, I came across last year’s The Predator, a remake of the classic 1980s action/sci fi film Predator.
Now, if I were a fair-minded person, which I often claim to be, I would have given The Predator a chance.
However, I’m not really that fair-minded. Ever since I heard they were working on this remake, I just couldn’t get over the fact that there was no reason to remake the movie. I’d have been much happier if they’d just re-released the original in theater.
Because if you’re looking for a veneer of outrageous, over-the-top 80s action overlaying a far more complex science fiction tale, then you can’t do better than Predator.
So, for that reason, this week I’m reviewing the original (and best) Predator.
Before we start, I should probably note that when I was a teenager I loathed this movie. I wasn’t a big fan of action movies, especially those from the 80s, and was put off by what I considered a ridiculous premise/execution.
Then when I was in grad school, I realized that there was something gloriously amazing about those 80s action movies I had so long reviled. Part of this was me forsaking some innately snobby ideas that teen me had about what qualified as a good movie.
Another part of this was me realizing that I really don’t like modern action movies. As a general rule, they take themselves way too seriously and are way too long. 80s movies, on the other hand, have no sense of shame or pretense about what they’re trying to be. They know you’re there to watch things blow up and see the heroes leave a trail of destruction and mayhem in their wake, and they’re more than happy to make sure you get what you came for without forcing you to sit through a lot of padded material.
That being said, Predator transcends the genre because it is willing to play with audience expectations. Oh there’s ample explosions and destruction and mayhem, but what starts out as a fairly stereotypical Manly Men Doing Manly Things™ movie in which a team of hardened commandos are tasked with a mission in the remote Central American jungle quickly descends into something else when the Manly Men find themselves way out of their element and at the mercy of a mysterious and murderous antagonist.
The pacing is exquisite and follows a pretty solid traditional 3-act structure. It never pads the running time and effortlessly switches from a macho war film to a role-reversal where the hunters are the hunted before ending with a tense, protracted cat-and-mouse game between the last survivor and the predator in question.
It also benefits from its robust cast, including but not limited to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, and Sonny Landham. Some of these guys aren’t necessarily what I’d consider great actors, but they all work really well for this particular movie and their individual characters and their roles. Special kudos are due to Kevin Peter Hall for his eerie performance as the Predator. He really does a great job of bringing this otherworldly creature to life.
What’s even more remarkable about the quality of the movie is how chaotic it was behind-the-scenes. Filmed in miserable conditions, the production was notoriously troubled, with creative difficulties and more. I think my favorite bit of trivia from the making of Predator is that one of the actors was so volatile (Landham) that the insurance company required the producers to hire a bodyguard — not to protect him but to protect other people from him (and this wasn’t entirely effective in keeping him corralled).
Oh that and the Predator originally was Jean-Claude Van Damme before he was famous. He was apparently fired and replaced by the 7’2″ Hall because Van Damme was constantly complaining and was not physically imposing enough.
Regardless of the troubles on set, Predator is an effective blend of action, science fiction, and horror. The special effects still hold up remarkably well, and it’s well worth revisiting.
Did you see the new Predator remake? Do you prefer the original? What’s your favorite Manly Men Doing Manly Things™ movie? Tell us in the comments! As always, please follow this link to our online library catalog for more information on any item or to place holds.