RogerBW's Blog

Predator 12 September 2023

1987 science fiction action horror, dir. John McTiernan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers: IMDb / allmovie. There's something out there waiting for us, and it ain't no man.

It's hard sometimes to remember that this came out after Aliens; it feels much more primitive. But it's similarly calling back to Vietnam films, and it has a similar sense of having a bunch of tough guys who are nonetheless doomed.

But the way it shows that is, in effect, to have a miniature action film as its first act, the standard story of the badasses who go into enemy territory and wipe out a bad guy encampment in spite of bad intelligence. This is the kind of thing Arnie did in Commando, but it's sketched in: we know this story, we know these characters such as they are, we don't need it laid out in detail, and the sub-story is over almost before it's started. Then we're stuck in the jungle with something out there…

(What was the extraction plan, by the way? You were expecting to hit the camp and then bail out, with rescued hostages who might be injured and a bunch more bad guys looking for you. Where did the multi-mile trek though jungle to a landing zone figure into this?)

Of course, then it becomes the Most Dangerous Game remake that it was always meant to be. Yeah, these guys are big tough mean soldiers, they're badasses who can destroy an insurgent camp and not get injured, but against this hunter they're just mildly challenging prey. It's heavy-handed, but it works. (I'm particularly impressed by the creature's self-surgery, economically making it quite clear that this is an intelligent entity, not just a random killer robot.)

If anything fails it's at the end, when it's just Arnie and the creature going hand to hand (because, like Bennett in Commando, the creature has fallen in love with Arnie and can't turn down the opportunity for a fair fight). At that point, it's basically the same Arnie in a fight that we've seen before, though admittedly it's a well-done fight; the story element that's more interesting to me is the one where the enemy is stronger and tougher and you have to out-think it.

Scorpions are poikilothermic, by the way.

I talk about this film further on Ribbon of Memes.

See also:
The Most Dangerous Game, Richard Connell

  1. Posted by Harry Payne at 11:32am on 12 September 2023

    Still the best of all the films with a Predator in it, and very rewatchable. The badasses are different enough to be interesting, and keep things buoyed up in a sea of testosterone without sinking into being too offensive. For film buffs, the original footage of the Predator is out there and certainly makes me glad they dropped it.

    Dan Trachtenberg’s Prey which pits a Predator against some Comanche in the early 18th century comes a close second best. It’s currently locked up behind the Disney+ paywall, but should be released on disc later in the year. Well worth keeping an eye open for.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 11:43am on 12 September 2023

    Welcome to the blog!

    I saw P2 in the cinema, and remember basically nothing about it except that I didn't enjoy it. I haven't seen any of the others, though I've heard good things about Prey.

    Some of the van Damme original suit footage is here – there's a persistent rumour that he didn't realise it would be CSO-ed into invisibility and thought it would actually look like that on screen.

  3. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 09:25am on 13 September 2023

    One of the most interesting takes I've seen of what makes this movie work is Patrick (H) Willems idea that it's a mash-up of two genres.

    OTT 80s Action meets slasher horror movie, making Arnie the final girl.

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 09:31am on 13 September 2023

    Fair. Certainly it does a good job of subverting its initial "tough guys do tough things" genre.

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