IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! Predator

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Monster movies. People just love monster movies. Back in the 30s, the monsters were mostly human in appearance, with Dracula and The Mummy setting the stage for what came after. The 50s saw the type of monsters growing into the more surreal, with The Creature From The Black Lagoon, Them! and It Came From Beneath the Sea just to name a few. A lot of these films relied on models and rubber suits, and most of the memorable ones involved Ray Harryhausen. As special effects techniques progressed, the monsters became more complex, like Geiger's xenomorph from 1979's Alien. While the 80s were more concerned about action flicks with big manly stars, one film from the decade not only brought back the monster movie but had a bit of fun at other action flicks' expense. It's called Predator and is, among other things, a movie about a monster FROM SPACE!

Courtesy Amercent Films

Arnold Schwarzenegger, long before his ascent to governor of California, is 'Dutch,' the leader of an elite "rescue squad" sent into a South American jungle to rescue a cabinet minister. His team is accompanied by his former squadmate and current CIA operative Dillion, played by the equally manly Carl Weathers. Along the way to the enemy encampment they find a lost team of Dillion's that had been brutally, almost ritualistically murdered and skinned. They find the enemy camp and blow it to smithereens, which to my mind makes it difficult to ensure a successful rescue, and find out the mission was a set-up. On their way back, though, the members of the team start dropping dead one at a time, and it turns out that these professional hunters are themselves being hunted by a single, alien being with advanced technology, a high level of cunning and an undying love for the hunt - the eponymous Predator.

One of the things Predator has going for it is relative simplicity. It moves from action movie to horror to science-fiction monster fight pretty smoothly, and doesn't waste time with extraneous plot or elaborate character development. I'd be lying if I said the film was well-written, though. The lines were clichéd twenty years ago and are even more so now, and they're delivered with such machismo-fueled ham-handedness that you can almost smell the bacon sizzling. Jesse Ventura (hey, another governor!) and Sonny Landham are particularly guilty of chewing the scenery in this flick. Some of the best moments in the movie come when nothing's being said at all, and we read the characters' expressions rather than hear them rattle off another self-congratulatory one-liner, which for Arnold is par for the course.

Courtesy Amercent Films
"Dillon, are you sure this vest doesn't make me look fat?"

When Predator was being made, studio execs clearly were viewing the success of The Terminator, Platoon, and Aliens with envious eyes. They wanted another big loud macho gun-heavy action flick, and asked director John McTiernan for exactly that. His reaction is well-documented, as he crafted a five minute scene of the cast doing nothing but shooting guns at practically nothing. He got the impression that the producers' and audience's fascination with guns bordered on the pornographic, and so delivered this more than slightly sexualized depiction of large, well-toned men unloading their weapons in a swelteringly hot environment. The fact that they hit nothing at all underscores the impotence of such diversionary film-making, and about the only thing that survives the masculine ejaculatory fusillade is the lampshade McTiernan hung on the whole idea.

All of that talk of hot man-love segues me neatly into the next glaring thing I see about this film that had me laughing the whole time I was watching it. There's a huge undercurrent of homo-eroticism that is pretty hilarious even if it's unintentional. You have several large men in an intimate situation often shown slapping hands, shooting guns and showing an odd amount of concern for one another, with long looks exchanged between each other as sweat slides down their skin. Considering this is meant to be a manly movie, the sort of flick that would arm-wrestle 300 in a back room at a bar (which may or may not be lit with candles), and "perfectly straight" guys are meant to be whooping and hollering at the screen, it wouldn't surprise me if a lot of this film's devoted fan-base either indulge in the sort of self-denying homophobic 'humor' that typifies most random Xbox Live people I've encountered, or want to protect the institution of marriage from those 'insidious' gays. And I also wouldn't be surprised if they were too dumb to notice.

Courtesy Amercent Films
Looks to me like the Predator's wondering what Dutch uses to exfoliate.

Despite the nits I've picked about this flick, it doesn't detract from the fact that as a monster movie, Predator does the job. The creature, a towering and truly alien hunter, is effective and exists as another example of Stan Winston's genius, may he rest in peace. The slow reveal of the predator's methods and technology build tension and suspense, and the final confrontation between it and Arnold do make for some decent action. It's a shame that the suspense is undercut by lousy line-reading, but the gradual and unhurried pace of the build-up towards the end still persists as an example of relatively good story-telling in a genre that usually looks at story as a vestigial growth meant to string the audience along from one gunfight to the next.

Predator isn't a bad movie, by any stretch of the word. It's just so unintentionally hilarious, especially in retrospect. As much as the special effects hold up despite its age, the writing and implications of certain scenes are just raucous in comparison. What's telling to me is that McTiernan went on after this to direct Die Hard which is not only one of my favorite action films of all time but is also what I'd call a 'thinking man's' action flick. Predator by comparison doesn't require much thought at all, but it's still diverting and plenty of fun. It's good to have on your Netflix queue if you have a summer weekend coming up and are looking for something to watch on a lazy sunny afternoon. From a guy's perspective, it's definitely best enjoyed with other guys, preferably in a dark basement with a cool beer at hand while you watch large, well-toned men unload their hot barrels.

...I mean, while you watch muscle-bound action heroes in close, intimate shots of their bodies sweating and slowly removing their clothes...

...that is to say, while leaning back to enjoy the back-and-forth action between...

Josh Loomis can't always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it's unclear if this week's film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain... IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

I never noticed just how "manly" Jesse Ventura was in this movie. I'll never look at the line, "time to take out Ol' Painless" the same ever again. Nice and fair review. Which reminds me, they're making another movie of the dreadlocked hunter, titled, "Predators." Might be good, might be bad, we'll find out.

I heard from someone that Predator is actually a criticism of the war in Vietnam, and that the main characters represent the big muscular US, while the stealthy Predator that kills them all off one by one is the Viet Cong. The manly soldiers are not prepared for this enemy, as they expected something much less capable of defending itself. I've also heard that the soldiers represent different kind of desperate reactions to fear. The guy who goes trigger happy due to the stress, the guy trying to keep calm about it but is really shitting his pants, the man who just gives in and takes what is coming to him, and then the guy who decides that fear will not get the upperhand, and ultimately wins.

I can even accept that people view it as a parody of what the publishers wanted. "You want big guns? I'll give you big guns, you closet-hiders!"

Great review, as always.

I have one big problem with this review: "Unintentionally hilarious". I'm sorry but Arnold Schwarzenegger movies are usually pretty self-aware especially with relation to the campy aspects to them, hence the full blown satire of this with his movie Last Action Hero. Sure, it's a serious movie that's very campy, but to say that the campiness is unintentional I believe to be a mistake.

Fightgarr:
I have one big problem with this review: "Unintentionally hilarious". I'm sorry but Arnold Schwarzenegger movies are usually pretty self-aware especially with relation to the campy aspects to them, hence the full blown satire of this with his movie Last Action Hero. Sure, it's a serious movie that's very campy, but to say that the campiness is unintentional I believe to be a mistake.

Unlike Last Action Hero, there's a lot in Predator that feels like it wants to be taken seriously. I know John McTiernan was taking the piss out of the genre in a couple of places, but the stuff with the Pred itself was trying to run mostly straight, at least from where I was sitting. I could be wrong, of course. I'm not claiming to be an authority - this is just my opinion/observations.

BlueInkAlchemist:
Unlike Last Action Hero, there's a lot in Predator that feels like it wants to be taken seriously. I know John McTiernan was taking the piss out of the genre in a couple of places, but the stuff with the Pred itself was trying to run mostly straight, at least from where I was sitting. I could be wrong, of course. I'm not claiming to be an authority - this is just my opinion/observations.

Perhaps it's that I watch this movie on an embarrassingly regular basis (though not as much as I watch Men in Black to be sure) but my many times watching this movie has led me to believe that there's very little of that movie meant to be taken straight. Especially in the context of current cinema: you should never go into a Schwarzenegger movie, especially and 80s sci-fi/action movie, and expect to take it seriously. It's at a point today where our level of special effects has made 80s sci-fi look laughable, and where movies like Alien still take themselves (and can be taken) seriously, most 80s sci-fi movies shed the mantle of seriousness along with animatronics(sp?). It's with that, regardless of the original intent (which I still believe to be pretty self-aware), that one can't go and expect to take Predator straight up.

Again let me emphasize: this is a Schwarzenegger movie. Should one take Commando seriously at any point? No, not really. Predator deserves that same level of respect. It's satire at its finest because almost purely because it hasn't labeled itself such.

Fightgarr:
Perhaps it's that I watch this movie on an embarrassingly regular basis (though not as much as I watch Men in Black to be sure) but my many times watching this movie has led me to believe that there's very little of that movie meant to be taken straight. Especially in the context of current cinema: you should never go into a Schwarzenegger movie, especially and 80s sci-fi/action movie, and expect to take it seriously. It's at a point today where our level of special effects has made 80s sci-fi look laughable, and where movies like Alien still take themselves (and can be taken) seriously, most 80s sci-fi movies shed the mantle of seriousness along with animatronics(sp?). It's with that, regardless of the original intent (which I still believe to be pretty self-aware), that one can't go and expect to take Predator straight up.

Again let me emphasize: this is a Schwarzenegger movie. Should one take Commando seriously at any point? No, not really. Predator deserves that same level of respect. It's satire at its finest because almost purely because it hasn't labeled itself such.

You raise a very good point, and I can't help but agree.

On the other hand, if the only quibble you have is with my use of the word 'unintentional,' I guess I can still consider the review a success. :)

I'm somewhat ashamed to say that I've never seen Predator its entirety. I've only see it in bits pieces as it airs on AMC or TCM or whatnot, and to be honest it seemed like a fairly serious action movie to me. However this is probably because I've seen more bits from the end than from the beginning, specifically the scenes where Dutch is the last man standing trying to take out the Predator and save himself. Speaking only about those scenes, I would say that it's a fairly serious action movie. Isn't it common practice for these such films to get all the standard machismo fueled dialogue out of their systems before the shit hits the fan so as to establish characterization anyway?

Fantastic review too, though I would've liked to hear more of your thoughts on the design of the Predator. Surely you could've included the anecdote about how a passing comment James Cameron made about Stan Winston's Predator prototype eventually made it into the final creature design? Those little tidbits of information are truly what make the special features worthwhile.

I really like Predator mainly because it had my former Governor in it Jesse Ventura

Maet:
I'm somewhat ashamed to say that I've never seen Predator its entirety.

I guess I can join you in shame. For I haven't either. Its okay, we can sit in the corner with that Cone hat.

Still, as with many in the series, despite not having seen the films it was still a pleasure to read.

(Woo! Hawks won!)

You seem to drift a little of course in the middle of the review. And I'm sorry, but the whole homosexual undertone you referring to is REALLY far fetched.

Stan Winston basically saved this movie by redesigning the Predator since the original design was apparently some kind of insect man.

Casual Shinji:
You seem to drift a little of course in the middle of the review. And I'm sorry, but the whole homosexual undertone you referring to is REALLY far fetched.

For me, it began with the "handshake" and just went downhill from there.

image

BlueInkAlchemist:

Casual Shinji:
You seem to drift a little of course in the middle of the review. And I'm sorry, but the whole homosexual undertone you referring to is REALLY far fetched.

For me, it began with the "handshake" and just went downhill from there.

image

This is just how one-man-army dudes say hi.

Maybe it's because I first saw this movie in my childhood bliss, maybe it's because I could never see Arnold, Carl, Jesse and Sonny as people who had sex (let alone the gay variety) , but the macho-gay thing never even once enterd my mind...untill now.

I guess, there are just some movies I can't understand someone could not like. Predator is just, it's,....it's AWESOME!

This review made me chuckle. I have to say, I never saw the homo-erotic undertones you mention (I've probably seen predator 20 times), but I'm sure the next time this movie comes up on Encore or Starz I'll be laughing at all the sweaty muscle men bonding over bagging the predator.

Nice review, as usual.

 

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