Sci-Fi Nerd: Commentary, reflection and accolades from a fan’s point of view on all things sci-fi and fantasy.
An alien hunter has a chip on his shoulder combined with massive future-tech advantages when he challenges a group of human mercenaries for the role of alpha male in the jungles of earth.
This movie comes from a time when Arnold Schwarzenegger could do no wrong. Predator is a great example of the stuff he was cranking out during his peak, sci-fi concepts loaded with action, and was part of a string of hits for Arnie that started in 1982 with Conan The Barbarian, and continued with barely a misstep until 1992 with Terminator 2.
Directed by John McTiernan, the movie is one his most memorable in the role of Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer who leads a merry band of testosterone-fueled psycho killer mercenaries, portrayed by Bill Duke as Mac Eliot, Jesse Ventura as Blain Cooper, Sonny Landham as Billy Sole, Richard Chaves as Jorge “Poncho” Ramirez, and Shane Black as Rick Hawkins. After being contacted by his old friend Major General Homer Phillips (R. G. Armstrong), Dutch and the boys are given a job to rescue some hostages from a south American rebel group. They are joined by CIA agent George Dillon (Carl Weathers). This cast is one of the main reasons this film is as good as it is, and highly regarded by fans of the film.
Predator wastes no time getting down to the business of telling its story, and begins by setting up the premise by depicting a sleek alien spaceship approaching earth, and dropping something off as it veers away from its course toward the planet. The plot is explained through exposition combined with the arrival of the guys led by Dutch.
The film is methodical in its setup and the portrayal of the crew, and what they are capable of, as they are dispatched to the jungle that serves as a setting for what follows. The jungle is the perfect setting for this story, a primal environment for the primal anthropological themes the movie portrays. The group quickly locates the target of their mission and makes short work of the rebels and their base in a barrage of gunfire and explosions with the obligatory flying bodies and people on fire, etc.. They are joined after the attack by hot Latina woman Anna Gonsalves (Elpidia Carrillo) captured by the group and brought along for interrogation later.
Once the film establishes how good these guys are at what they do, it begins to reveal what they are up against. Apparently earth does not have a monopoly on testosterone, or violent ways of expressing it either. Intermittent shots of the group’s activities, depicted in infrared vision, by an unseen observer, serves to indicate there’s someone else around that’s watching from afar.
They are up against one of the best movie creatures ever created for science fiction in the Predator, a technically enhanced, humanoid alien who is apparently part of a civilization that prizes their hunters and holds what they do in high esteem. He kills for sport not out of necessity, and takes grisly trophies as part of doing his thing. His enhancements include heightened vision that allows him to see in a visual spectrum beyond human eyesight, a laser targeting device that helps him aim the deadly explosive charges he launches from weapons built into his outfit, and the ability to be nearly invisible using a camouflage device. The suit even has a built in emergency first aid kit and self destruct function that enables the user to cause a near nuclear level explosion that removes all evidence of his presence if needed.
It becomes obvious to the group they are being hunted by someone, or something as they are picked off one by one, and they decide to go old school on whatever is dogging their path as they attempt to reach a rendezvous point for an airlift out. When the mercs decide to make a stand and defend their position, their attempt fails. As the situation worsens, one of Arnie’ most famous movie quotes is uttered by Dutch when he yells “Get to the chopper” as all hell breaks loose and he is wounded by their assailant. As Dutch attempts to escape he falls down an incline which result in his falling into a body of water below a cliff followed by a fall over a waterfall
This is when he finally catches a break, in the form of some mud that covers him as he exits the river, which makes him nearly invisible to the group’s assailant. Once he determines this he realizes he can turn the tables on his would be assassin, and having lost his modern weapons goes all Tarzan of the jungle, devising traps and weapons from what is available, designed to turn the hunter into the hunted. His plan only partially succeeds, and when he is forced into the water again the water removes his muddy camouflage, and he once again becomes visible to the alien creature he is trying to kill.
The creature’s techno-outfit is damaged and he removes it, finally revealing his face and appearance. This is a dramatic and amusing moment when Dutch reacts by calling him an ugly motherfucker. Instead of just killing Dutch, he decides to challenge him in a final hand-to-hand macho battle. After a brief fight where the creature clearly has the upper hand, Dutch attempts to steer the creature into a trap that ultimately works to fatally wound his alien opponent. As a last act of hostility the alien triggers a self destruct device he wears that Dutch, realizing what’s up at the last moment, barely escapes
This movie is not Shakespeare, not even close. What it is, is good dumb fun based mostly on the sort of cliched premise we have seen in innumerable western and other stories of this type that result in a confrontation between a strong heroic type going up against an equally strong villain in a final showdown to the death, a theme repeated in many of Schwarzenegger’s films.
Predator is a parade of macho cliches, barely helped along by some pretty run-of-the mill special effects, a great cast, and a memorable antagonist. The film is marked by the depiction of a lot of manly sweating, muscle flexing, grunting and so forth with lines like the one uttered by Jesse Ventura’s character when he says “I don’t have time to bleed”. Despite not being very good, the film is still highly regarded as one of Arnie’s best by fans and some critics alike, while it is considered a classic by a core of fans of Schwarzenegger’s films.
The film gave birth to two sequels, Predator 2 (1990), and Predators (2010), as well as two crossover films with the Alien franchise, Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007), have been less than stellar. Another entry into the franchise is in the works at 20th Century Fox, which may or may not actually become reality in the relatively near future.