RETRO REVIEW – ‘Predator’

Review by J.T. Johnson

4-12-stars

ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: June 12, 1987
DIRECTOR: John McTiernan
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Donald McAlpine
WRITERS: Jim Thomas, John Thomas
MUSIC: Alan Silvestri

By 1987, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bon-a-fide action movie star, having already starred in films such as “Conan the Barbarian” and “Commando”. Then, in 1987, “Predator” was released and it was another film that cemented Schwarzenegger’s superstar status. This movie also introduced audiences to one of 20th Century Fox’s biggest movie monsters after the Xenomorph in “Alien” known only as the Predator.

The story is insanely simple. Dutch (Schwarzenegger) leads what appears to be a private military team and they are asked to go into a Central American jungle to rescue some hostages. When they arrive, they soon learn that they are being hunted. The only problem is that this is no man that’s hunting them, but an advanced alien bent on hunting down humans for sport.

It’s a sci-fi twist on the old “Most Dangerous Game” formula. Dutch and his team consist of your usual action archetypes. While Dutch himself is very much the muscle and the leader, Jesse Ventura and Bill Duke are the brothers-in-arms while Sonny Landham is their expert tracker. There is also the female lead played by Elpidia Carrillo and she is vital because she’s already had encounters with the deadly Predator and can give us valuable information.

While the movie might fall short with the story it more than makes up for this in the action department. There are intriguing moments where the Predator is tracking its prey, learning how Dutch’s team speaks and observing their strengths and weaknesses. The team, on the other hand, is just trying to figure out what the hell is trying to kill them.

The movie is often cited as a horror film due to the fact that it is technically a monster movie, but there is nothing really horrific about the movie. There are a few jump scares as the Predator attacks, but for the most part this film falls solidly under the science fiction and action genres. The true highlights of the film include the Predator’s amazing design and the climactic battle.

After a failed attempt at making a monster suit that was too clunky and just didn’t look good, director John McTiernan approached designer Stan Winston to develop what ultimately became the Predator suit we know and love. The look of the mean as hell Predator with a faceless mask and an even more horrific visage underneath impressed audiences and the creature has gone down as one of the legendary movie monsters.

Finally, what impresses the most is the final battle between Dutch and the Predator. After losing most of his comrades, Dutch knows that the only way to stop the Predator is to stop running and face him head on. The resulting fight is down and dirty and one of the most memorable on film.

The movie is a bit thin on story and if you’re not a fan of muscle-bound action flicks, then this one may not be for you. It also contains a fair amount of cheesy moments, most of which includes some rather over-the-top one liners. I am an action junkie, however, and I truly love this classic ‘80s action flick with a sci-fi twist.

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