Tue, 06 Dec 2022

Predator

Director: John McTiernan
Screenplay: Jim Thomas & John Thomas

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger (Maj. "Dutc" Schaeffer), Carl Weathers (Maj. George Dillon), Elpidia Carrillo (Anna), Bill Duke (Sgt. "Mac" Eliot), Jesse Ventura (Blain), Sonny Landham (Billy), Richard Chaves (Poncho Ramirez), R.G. Armstrong (Gen. Phillips), Shane Black (Hawkins), Kevin Peter Hall (The Predator)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 1987
Country: U.S.
Predator Ultimate Hunter Edition Blu-Ray

Predator

Predator is perhaps the perfect 1980s movie, melding as it does the three most popular mainstream genres of that decade: action/adventure, science fiction, and horror, specifically slasher horror--and it's an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie to boot. It takes all those components and mixes them up into a heady brew of violent action setpieces, hammy dialogue, macho posturing, and point-of-view stalking that twists everything around by making the prey not nubile, half-naked teenagers at a summer camp, but rather a group of special-ops bad-asses who in any other movie would be the aggressors.

Of course, that's how they start off. When the movie opens, a special team of commandos led by Schwarzenegger's Major "Dutch" Schaeffer is flown into an unnamed South American country to lead a rescue mission to reclaim some high-profile hostages from a band of guerillas hidden deep in the jungle. Tensions rise early when Dutch is outranked by Maj. Dillon (Carl Weathers), a soldier-turned-bureaucratic pencil pusher who isn't to be trusted because he wears a tie.

Dutch's team, on the other hand, is a motley assortment of ber-masculine soldier types who wouldn't be caught dead in a tie, including Bill Duke's Mac, who relives tension by running a disposable razor up and down his face; Sonny Landham's Billy, a Native American tracker; and Jesse "Don't Call Me The Body'" Ventura's Blain, who carries a massive machine gun that looks like it should be outfitted on the side of a tank.

The rescue operation doesn't exactly go according to plan, but it does allow the movie to divulge in plenty of explosive pyrotechnics and ruthless gunning down of the South American guerillas, who are never given any ideological impetus for their actions; rather, they're just game pieces to be knocked down by the American soldiers. Screenwriters Jim Thomas and John Thomas, who later penned scripts for Executive Decision (1996) and Wild Wild West (1999) among others, eventually reveal that the so-called rescue mission was not exactly that, which plays as a stark reminder of the Reagan era's legacy of violent, covert noodling south of the border. But, any sustained critique of such activity is roughly on par with the fantasy bureaucratic stonewalling to hide POWs in Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) and is quickly subsumed by the movie's action-oriented obligations.

As it turns out, there is something else in the jungle besides interchangeable guerillas: an invisible alien predator that begins picking off the returning U.S. soldiers one by one. Slowed down by a resilient female guerilla hostage (Elpidia Carrillo), the soldiers become easy prey, especially since they are slow to realize that they are dealing with something nonhuman. The rest of the movie sustains a nicely realized dance between the increasingly desperate commandos--stripped of their physical and military superiority, they have to resort to any trick they can just to stay alive--and the brutal Predator, who mixes futuristic technology (laser gun, invisibility cloak) with a taste for sadistic rituals that primarily involve disemboweling and skinning its victims. The fact that the Predator is never given any reason for its presence on earth makes its hunting seem all the more ruthless, and the point-of-view shots we get through its eyes where everything is seen as variable electronic hues representing heat neatly mimics the monster's mindset by reducing the characters to faceless victims.

Despite being little more than a man in a rubber suit that bleeds glowing green highlighter ink, the Predator itself is a marvelous creation engineered by effects maestro Stan Winston (with some input from Aliens director James Cameron). It's a creepy combination of insect, reptile, and professional wrestler with inexplicable dreadlocks. Played by Kevin Peter Hall, who stands an imposing seven feet two inches, the Predator has enough physical presence to overcome the basic simplicity of its outward appearance.

Not surprisingly, the movie eventually boils down to a mano-a-mano standoff between Schwarzenegger and the Predator, with the stakes more even when Dutch discovers his own path to invisibility. It is here that Predator really announces its affinity for all things primeval, as Dutch, stripped of his guns and armor, has to reach deep inside himself and become a primordial warrior--caked head-to-toe in mud and bearing homemade spears and a bow and arrows, he is primal man writ large (the enormity of Schwarzenegger's muscular bulk at this point in his career is still jaw-dropping).

Predator was director John McTiernan's sophomore project (following the atmospheric horror movie Nomads, which he wrote and directed the previous year), and it kicked off his brief standing atop the American action-directing heap (his follow-up projects were 1988's Die Hard and 1990's The Hunt for Red October, after which came the debacle that was 1993's Last Action Hero). In Predator we can see his recognizable style taking shape, particularly his elegant tracking shots and his love affair with rack focus.

At its heart, Predator is little more than an overstuffed classic B-movie concept; one can almost imagine it having been made 30 years earlier in black and white with a more rubbery monster. Yet, McTiernan's style elevates it to something more, even when the dictates of the Schwarzenegger movie, including bad puns following violent action, threaten to drag it down where it belongs.

Predator Ultimate Hunter Edition Blu-Ray

Aspect Ratio1.85:1
Audio

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround

  • English Dolby Digital 4.0 surround

  • French DTS 5.1 surround

  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround

  • width="100">Subtitles

    English, Spanish, French
    Supplements

  • Audio commentary by director John McTiernan

  • Text commentary by film historian Eric Lichtenfield

  • Deleted scene and outtakes

  • "Evolution of the Species: Hunters of Extreme Perfection" featurette

  • If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It retrospective documentary

  • "Inside the Predator": Seven making-of featurettes

  • "Predator Special FX" special effects featurettes

  • Predator Profile

  • Photo galleries

  • Theatrical trailer

  • Sneak peek at the new Predators

  • Distributor20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
    SRP$29.99
    Release DateJune 29, 2010

    align=left>VIDEO AND AUDIO

    This is actually the second time Predator has been released on Blu-Ray, as its first release back in 2008 was rightly decried for having a lousy transfer that did little to show off Blu-Ray's high-def capacities. This new release seems to have addressed that problem nicely, as the new, remastered 1080p transfer features more than twice the bitrate of the previous release, which makes all the difference in the world. The transfer was made from a clean print and features excellent detail and clarity, as well as rich colors that make the primordial jungle come to life and give the Predator's electronic vision a particularly sharp edge. The transfer also seems to have addressed some of the grainy shots from previous transfers, resulting in a generally smooth presentation that should makes fans of the film quite happy. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround soundtrack boasts a heavy, but clean and crisp mix with active surround effects and deep, booming bass to punctuate the many firefights and give the electronic hum of the Predator's heat vision just the right punch.

    align=left>SUPPLEMENTS

    The previous Blu-Ray release was also completely bereft of special features. For whatever reason, 20th Century Fox was holding out, as this second release contains all of the extras that originally appeared on the supplement-heavy two-disc DVD that was released back in 2004, plus a new 11-minute retrospective featurette titled "Evolution of the Species: Hunters of Extreme Perfection." The screen-specific audio commentary by director John McTiernan starts off a little slow, but it soon turns into a frank discussion of the difficulties of shooting an action movie on location and the complexities of working in Hollywood in general. McTiernan has been through highs (Die Hard) and lows (Last Action Hero, Rollerball), and he speaks with authority about when and where he compromised and where he stood his ground, even as a young, relatively inexperienced director. He also tells some pretty funny production stories, including one about an embarrassed monkey in a red suit. McTiernan's comments are complimented by an exhaustive text commentary via an optional subtitle track supplied by film historian Eric Lichtenfield.

    Also included is If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It, a 28-minute retrospective documentary that mixes interviews with McTiernan, producer John Davis, and stars Bill Duke, Shane Black, and Carl Weathers (who looks quite odd without his moustache) with circa-1986 on-set interviews with just about everyone else, including Schwarzenegger and screenwriter brother Jim and John Thomas. "Inside the Predator" is composed of seven separate featurettes on various aspects of the film's production, ranging from character designs, to location shooting, to stunts, to a tribute to the late Kevin Peter Hall, who played the Predator. The lengths of the featurettes range from 3 to 7 minutes. The "Predator Special FX" section contains a look at the Predator effects in their work-in-progress stages. These include 3 "red suit" special effects segments (which include a look at the original and quickly discarded Predator design, which included a big, insect-like head on a long neck) and several segments of footage testing various means to create the camouflage effect. Other supplements include a deleted scene which is actually an extension of the sequence in which Schwarzenegger is running from the Predator; a series of brief outtakes; photo galleries of publicity, behind-the-scenes, and continuity photographs; and the original theatrical trailer. The only other new supplement is a "Sneak Peek" at the upcoming Predators, which fans of the series should enjoy.

    Copyright 2010 James Kendrick

    All images Copyright 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

    Overall Rating: (3)

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