Saturday, March 3, 2012

Predator (1987 movie review) (1st of 5 reviews)

         Okay, time to pay tribute to the biggest badass of Science fiction, the Predator. From 1987 to 2010, the Predator has had 5 action packed, Sci-Fi thrillers and has gone on to be a cultural icon amongst Sci-Fi, horror and action fans. So let’s look at his film legacy beginning with the 1987 movie “Predator”. The 1980’s was the great golden age of Sci-Fi, Action flicks and movies like “The Terminator”, “Aliens” and “Robocop” were all the craze. “Predator” was originally intended to be just another run of the mile action flick but it quickly grew a cult following and now it’s regarded as a great B movie classic, on par with films like “Jurassic Park” and “Jaws”. 

    The premise is awesome, combat solders are deceived into rescuing hostages from an enemy camp out in the jungles of Central America. However, it’s all a ploy to get this rescue team to attack and assassinate everyone in the camp and stop an invasion. This alone was a great opening and could have held its own film but this is only the beginning, as the team latter discover there the targets to a monstrous hunter that’s taking them out one at a time. Unlike most slasher films, this isn’t a group of dumb and weak teenagers getting killed off one at a time, this was an awesome team of powerful, armed to the teeth combat solders and felt very reminiscent of tough groups of people in films like “The Wild Bunch” or “The Magnificent 7”. The first great strength of this film that makes it better than average popcorn flicks is just how awesome and memorable these characters are. Their interactions are great, their individual personalities are great and you never want to see any of them get killed off. There are so many great little moments with these guys like this one scene when one of the solders dies, and his best friend looks down upon his fallen comrade, there’s no tears, no over dramatic speech but so much emotion and drama is felt in his simple expression, mannerism and subtle background music.

     Let’s not forget the one liners, honestly I’ve often considered this film to have the greatest collection of awesome, campy and quotable one liners of all time. Here are a few good examples: “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”, “This shits something...makes Cambodia look like Kansas.”, “Stick Around!”, “I aint got time to bleed.”, “That’s a real nasty habit you got there.”, “Payback Time.” and the always classic “Your one ugly mother Fucker!”   

      Leading this awesome team of solders in none other than my personal favorite action star of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Before I’d seen any of the Terminator movies or “Total Recall” this was the first movie to introduce me to Schwarzenegger and I became an immediate fan of his action flicks (see my top ten favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger flicks for more about that). One great coincidence that everyone loves to bring up is that this film stars two actors that would become governors (Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura). Director John McTiernan (who also directed “Die Hard”) gives his usual sharp, action movie direction. The musical score is great and really draws you in to what’s going on. The Jungle setting is also the perfect location, the hunter could be hiding in any tree, ready to strike and it makes you feel isolated, like there’s no one to come and help you when you get into trouble. 

      Now on to the main event, the Predator itself and honestly, one of the coolest creatures of all time. In the costume is Kevin Peter Hall and he does a great job bringing this creature to life, everything from his body poster to his hand movements are all very sinister and help give it this very evil and effective movement. The creatures spectacular design came from Stan Winston (the same guy who designed the Terminator) and I really love the esthetics for the creature, I especially love how it has mandibles as opposed to just a mouth full of teeth (the idea for the mandibles came to Stan from “Avatar” director James Cameron ). Predator also comes complete with a slick looking mask, an energy cannon, a dual bladed gauntlet, a clocking device, a voice recorder to confuse his prey and a nuclear bomb. DAMN, this hunters packing some series heat. It’s also very effective that we don’t see what the creature looks like until the very end but we can still feel its presence. There are times when we see the predator under cloak and it helps give us the excitement of its presence without spoiling what he looks like. There are also times when we view the predators perspective of how he sees things which is very unique and it’s here that we learn its weakness. He can only see a humans body heat but if you cover your heat with something like mud, then your invisible to the creature. One last element that makes this creature so great is it’s mystique, where only given a brief clue that it’s an alien (because we get a small glimpse of a space ship in the opening) and where given simple ideas as to what it is and it’s motivations are without fully analyzing it. The best kind of monster is one shrouded in mystery and hiding in the shadows waiting to strike. The only time the creature ever felt out of place (yet still awesome) is at the very end of the film, he triggers his nuclear bomb and gives the biggest evil laugh I’ve ever heard in my life.

     There’s lots of awesome, gun shooting action scenes, most notably the attack on the camp in the opening of the film. But the real excitement of this movie comes from all the buildup and set up in the first two halves of the film. Everything just keeps building and building up to the climax. Unfortunately, if I was to pick out one problem in this film, it would be that the payoff is hit and miss. The climax starts off very well, as Schwarzenegger stops running and faces his foe head on, not through brute force but through stealth and clever sneak tactics. This first half of the climax was handled beautifully but when Schwarzenegger’s cover is blown, the predator challenges Arnold to a one on one dual to the death and it’s here things start to get slightly disappointing. Schwarzenegger spends the entire fight crawling on the ground while Predator repeatedly beats the hell out of him. I do like seeing Schwarzenegger as the underdog of a fight and it is genuinely intense but I was still hoping for Arnold to be putting up more of a fight like what he did at the end of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”. 

     Overall, “Predator” isn’t an A+ masterpiece but it is still a B movie classic and one of the all around greatest monster movies ever, a great shoot em up action film and a stellar Arnold Schwarzenegger popcorn flick. I give “Predator” 4 stars. Stay tuned, a review for “Predator 2” is up next.    

      To Be Continued.......

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