If there ever was a film that symbolized the glory of ‘80s action cinema, Predator would be a good choice. Inspired by a joke involving Rocky Balboa fighting an alien, and initially designed as a starring vehicle for burgeoning action star Arnold Schwarzenegger, Predator became a men-on-a-mission flick for the ‘Austrian Oak.’
It’s a simple concept. Dutch (Schwarzenegger) is the commander of a first rate extraction team hired by CIA operative Dillon (Carl Weathers) to rescue a “Cabinet minister” on the wrong side of the Guatemalan border. The first act of the film follows them as they go on this ill-fated rescue mission, leading to an insanely over the top action sequence that most likely comprised 2/3 of the effects budget, but the latter two acts reveal something that turns the film on its head: They’re not alone. An alien (Kevin Peter Hall) from another planet is stalking them in the jungle and eventually makes his move. Taking them down one by one for sport, leading to a finale of mano y mano combat in the jungle.
The best comparison for Predator is that it’s the action version of The Magnificent Seven, which is what Schwarzenegger had always wanted to do. He had been a fan of westerns as a child, two of his favorites being that film and The Wild Bunch, and there’s a lot going on in the film that cribs from both of those films (and other, similar westerns as well as Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai). It just has an action frame over it, pure and simple, as this is a film with simple characters facing an impossible task.
The more amusing thing about it is the difference in tone from the modern action film to this one, two decades plus in the rear view mirror. Nowadays there’d be more range, from fear to acceptance. Arnold and crew agree with one sentiment as soon as they figure out what’s hunting them:
“If it bleeds, we can kill it.”
That’s what makes this so much more of an interesting film than merely a group of bad-asses taking on an alien, or rescuing someone held in enemy territory. By turning the predator into prey midway through the film, and making the team having no qualms with the prospect of their own deaths, is what makes it special. It’s in how they face death that makes it special; when Billy (Sonny Landham) faces off with the Predator with nothing but a knife, knowing he’s walking into certain death, there’s a nobility to it in how he’s completely accepting of the fact that he’s probably going to die but is going to take that knife and do everything he can to kill the beast.
And that’s what keeps the film relevant in the age of CGI muscles and lightweight action heroes; these aren’t teenagers in a slasher movie whining about the deaths of their friends or the deaths of the previous extraction team. When dealing with something taking them apart, one by one, these are not the sort of “girly men” who cry over the death of their friend and complain about it. Instead they vow revenge with as much ammunition as they have on them.
Predator remains a masterpiece of action cinema, immensely quotable and iconic.
After one subpar release on DVD, and a slightly cleaned up special edition, the Blu-Ray of Predator is the sort that showcases just how much better the format can be when given the right film. When compared to the original release, this is such a marked improvement that it is remarkably impressive. Everything about the transfer, from its visuals to its audio, has been cleaned up and enhanced. The green variations in the forest come through starkly clearer than before, amongst other things.
Predators: Sneak Peek is a quick look at the Robert Rodriguez produced sequel to this film.
Predator – Evolution of a Species: Hunters of Extreme Perfection is a look back at the film’s production 20 plus years after. Picked up by a young producer friend of Schwarzenegger, who found it slipped under his door by the Thomas brothers, Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal talk about how the film influenced them. The two discuss some of the technical aspects of the film, including its lighting and genre mixing, as well as how it influenced them as filmmakers. Rodriguez points to the film as part of the inspiration behind why he did From Dusk ‘Til Dawn and he indulges how his original plan for Predators, developed in between El Mariachi and Desperado, was basically evolved around him throwing everything he can into the script because he wasn’t going to direct or produce it.
John McTiernan provides a Commentary Track and there’s a text commentary track from film historian Eric Lichtenfeld as well.
If It Bleeds We Can Kill It: The Making of Predator is a feature ported over from the first special edition of Predator and is a making-of piece.
Deleted Scenes, Outtakes and Short Takes are included, as well as a Photo Gallery
The extras aren’t extraordinarily impressive, but the reason to pick this up (besides it being a great action film) if one already this on DVD is for the transfer. The film has not looked this good, not even in the theatrical release, and is the ideal film for showing off the ability of the Blu-ray format.
Fox presents Predator. Directed by John McTiernan. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Shane Black, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura. Written by Jim and John Thomas. Running time 107 minutes. Rated R. Released on Blu-ray Disc: June 29, 2010.