The following reviews were actually completed over the period between 2010 and 2012, which might explain things if I make the same points or (alleged) jokes. It might also be my excuse for any references to days gone by and things no longer relevant, like CDs and Mel Gibson…
Aaah the 80s. The decade of the stupid jock.
- When you could go shirtless and carry a big gun (the bigger the better) as long as you had huge muscles.
- When brawn trumped brains every time.
- You could shoot whoever or whatever you wanted and the cops would never come unless you wanted them to.
- Where you could bang chicks with big hair after saving their life and dragging them by one arm from one car chase to another while they stumbled over their heels and shrieked occasionally.
- When a slap in the face from that same chick simply meant that she was just gagging for it!
- When you simply couldn’t shoot someone without spouting a catchphrase immediately afterwards.
- When as long as there were enough explosions and a high enough body count no-one ever asked you to justify the plot or picked through logic holes: “Why did that happen? It just did OK! BANG!”
What a great decade to be a teenage boy it was: Sly, Jackie Chan, Van Damme’s (brief) career high and another new wannabe action star vehicle being released seemingly every week… but all the time there was Arnold.
Conan – Terminator – Commando – Raw Deal – The Running Man – Red Heat – Predator – Total Recall! Never before has a man turned so few syllables into so much cash, so little ability into so many rewatchable hits. Every sub-40 guy instantly forgave every terrible joke and every botched line as soon as he churned through the next batch of largely interchangeable bad guys. We cheered at every wink or raised eyebrow as if we were on the joke, and if Arnold said anything even vaguely self-deprecating we lost our collective shit: “Do you think I still pass the physical?” “Wooh-hooh Arnold, but you’re huge! Of course you do!”
Now we live in the Tennies. In the Tennies it is no longer appropriate to be dumb and simple (yet entertained), we need more – apparently, at least that is what the critics keep telling us. Nowadays “Big Dumb Action” is not likely to be put on the movie poster, as nothing Big and Dumb could possibly be entertaining, but my counter argument might be what about reality TV? OK bad example, there is nothing entertaining about reality TV.
If the 80s was the decade of the jock, then the Tennies seems destined to be the decade where the Nerds take Revenge.
Examples? The last few years have given a generation of teenagers the wrong impression:
- 9 foot tall blue creatures as heroes in a world where violence is only used as a last resort.
- Where ludicrously costumed superheroes have gone mainstream and garnered critical and public acceptance, and big box office bucks.
- Where the biggest trilogy was filled with mythical creatures like orcs and trolls, and no-one mocked them and made jokes about armour points and Dungeons and Dragons references.
- Where a Star Trek movie was released and “normal people” went and watched it… and most enjoyed it!
- Where the biggest movie in the brand new decade is about dream-thievery and the prevailing agreement is that while no-one can really understand it we must admire the intricacy and audacity.
9 foot blue heroes where the White-Man is the bad guy?
What has gone wrong in this topsy-turvy world? Anything taller than 6 foot needs a crew cut and an M16, and they better speak English in a wonky accent. AND ONLY ENGLISH. I ain’t readin’ no durn words in mah moofies.
Predator harks back to a simpler time, when anything non-human needed a bullet, or better yet thousands, and the musclier you were the more likely it was you would win.
Arnold is Dutch, and he and his team of well muscled meatheads with names like Poncho, Blaine, Billy and Mack are venturing into the deep jungle with Dylan (Carl Weathers) in tow to represent the brass. This well trained and professional unit are used to this though, this is their job, they actually move through the dense jungle like soldiers not cowboys, everyone moves in unison without instruction aside from a quick whistle and a point or signal where necessary. I can’t stress this enough, nowadays if someone refers to a “crack unit” we are supposed to just swallow it as truth, which is why we have an A Team with a geriatric old man in charge and a plot that was supposed to be intricate but was dumber than most “Big Dumb Action” plots.
Moving on, Dutch and co are on a search and rescue mission, only very early on they find there is precious little worth rescuing, and that most traces of those that needed rescuing will fit into a couple of jam jars. There are no tracks and little evidence that the deceased knew what was happening even as it happened… which is a concern to Dutch as the victims were all highly trained soldiers.
As they continue on their mission it becomes evident that they are all being watched, Billy their Indian (looking at least) point man seems to twig first, he is Indian after all, and the right kind! My internal editor has advised me to provide some clarity, what I meant to infer was that there aren’t too many examples of excellent soldiers in films with names like Ravi or Duleep, but if you come across a guy named Sneaky-Wolf or Dakota-Joe and you can put money on him that he knows the way.
That PC enough?
After a pretty great gun battle where the good guys slaughter the bad with no casualties aside from a scratched arm (thank the Lord that Blaine “Didn’t have time to bleed”, that could have been serious!) the crew continue through to the extraction point with a young female hostage in tow. This is where the movie gets good-er-er.
The previously unseen onlooker progressively becomes more evident, either he is lazier or they just thought the “clickle-lickle-lickle” sound effect wasn’t going to be enough on it’s own. In saying that though I guarantee if you play that two second grab to any guy under 50 and 90% of those guys will instantly recognise the origins, the other 10% are re-watching Avatar for the 11thtime and spanking it to the 8ft Zoe Saldana creature. Prove me wrong sticky hands!
The Predator tracks the soldiers using a heat registering device, initially he is content just to watch and learn. He apparently has a sense of fairness and only hunts those that might prove a worthy adversary, therefore the unarmed are left alone. The Predator “Ain’t ferm around heyre”, that much is obvious, it engages sophisticated cloaking devices to blend in with the surroundings, which means that only the audience can see it most of the time for some reason.
After the initial kill there is a brief sighting that leads to approximately eleventy-three kajillion rounds being unleashed, levelling an area that I think now is used to graze the entire MacDonalds herd.
From this point the Predator turns serial killer, picking off the soldiers one by one and taking various trophies for himself (think spines and skulls rather than earrings and wallets), he is a seemingly invincible killing machine that appears destined to kill off the entire cast without so much as breaking a sweat.
We learn because the female hostage tells us that “only in the hottest years this happens”, and that the Predator is essentially a game hunter here on a bit of a safari of sorts. The news that this is simply a lark for him is a sobering thought to the trained soldiers he is toying with, so Dutch decides that they have no choice but to kill it. Bold words, but a few minutes later and it is a 1 on 1 battle between two huge gargantuan looking behemoths, one an alien incapable of discernable speech who communicates in clicks and grunts, the other is the Predator.
The Predator itself looks like a rasta-crab complete with dreadlocks and four alternately moveable fangs, I’m not sure how the creature effects were done but for 20 + year old work they are pretty masterful and seamless and hold up extremely well today, in fact the effects on the AVP movies are distractingly dodgy or in some cases CG, strange given that technology should make things more convincing.
The final fight involves Arnold taking it Ol’ Skool and eschewing weapons to rely on his wits and primitive fighting methods, that should be a problem but after the biggest preparation montage in cinematic history the Big Dumb Action sequence that closes the movie is excellent and caps of proceedings nicely.
It should be noted that there are three main reasons why the original Predator film has held up so nicely:
1/Arnold is at his super-buffest and most action-friendly. At this stage of his career Arnold knew he ruled Action films and is totally convincing as perhaps the only thing that might be able to kill the ultimate killing machine.
2/ The Predator itself, a super-cool creation (like the Terminator) that is both scary, daunting and admirable, a worthy adversary and after the Terminator almost the ultimate bad guy. It most definitely helped that the creature design and effects made the character totally convincing and realistic.
3/John McTiernan as the director plays the entire thing out with a deft hand by taking everything seriously, the soldiers move in a realistic manner so that we forgive the fact that 6 guys can take out 60 heavily armed bad guys with nary a scratch. This adds more weight to the abilities of the Predator when he starts picking off the super-soldiers one by one. McTiernan has been a little hit and miss over the years (Rollerball anyone?) but with this and of course Die Hard his legacy is inarguable.
Often imitated but never bettered, Predator is an awesome action sci-fi experience. Rather than watching the Danny Glover sequel (OK) or the new Predators reboot (also OK), or the excrement that was AVP and sequel, check out the best. First.
Final Rating – 8.5 / 10. Big Dumb Action is very rarely this Fun. There’s a reason why the Clickle-lickle-lickle sound effect and the washed out heat vision the Predator employs are so memorable to so many guys. They are Awesome.
The original Predator is an undisputed science fiction masterpiece, with a brilliantly realised other-world assassin, a series of kick arse action scenes and a cigar chomping Schwarzenegger in his genetically engineered prime spouting stupidly catchy catchphrases.
It was always a concern when they couldn’t get Arnie back, especially when they replaced him with no-one’s favourite action hero Danny Glover. And surely switching from the steamy South American jungles to the gang infested Los Angeles streets was a death sentence for the series?
Surprising not, for while Predator 2 is hands down the silliest mainstream film this side of Shoot ‘Em Up the gleefully ridiculous Crank films (all of which I heartlily recommend), it is ludicrously entertaining also, taking full advantage of Predator – the real series hero.
The Los Angeles in Predator two is a strikingly similar environment to that in Robocop and Total Recall, colours and characters are bright and larger than life, and uber-violence can break out at any minute with only scant interest from bored onlookers.
This Los Angeles is especially rife with gang warfare, in the streets vicious gangs differentiated by only the nationalities of the members wage street battles with the undermanned and outgunned police. Fortunately Harrigan (Danny Glover) is on the side of the boys in blue, appearing whenever things are at their lowest ebb to save the day by blowing holes in bad guys.
So when someone else starts elbowing in on Harrigan and Co’s turf – someone blurry – he and his crew, which include Maria Conchita Alonso, Pill Paxton and Ruben Blades, take notice.
So too do the ‘authorities’, so dubbed because they apparently don’t officially exist. They are fronted by Keys (the inimitable Gary Busey, who is already so off the wall despite still having about 15 brain cells left in 1992, a far cry from now when he is just as likely to chew on your hand as to shake it), and they desperately want to track down the Predator for themselves, though not necessarily to kill it.
Back to the new blurry kid on the block. This time around the Predator sports far more toys than last. He has a cool net, a long pointy spear – with extensions! – and a discuss looking thing that is apparently a do-it-all tool. Thankfully though things don’t get too silly where he is concerned, though the mimicking selective phrases thing gets old real fast.
The arrival of P2 has all in a tizzy, Harrigan and Co, the ‘normal’ police force, the Busey lead ‘authorities’ and the drug and crime gangs that litter the city. The arrival of the Jamaican crime boss ‘King Willie’ might come and go in a scant few minutes, but it manages to squeeze in enough phrases and quotables in that short span to provide sufficient samples for a decade’s worth of rap albums.
Ultimately though this film was always going to end in a face off between Harrigan and Predator, perhaps the filmmakers realised this was inevitable too, as the sequence runs for a long time, during which the Predator must make it at least appear that he is evenly matched with this middle aged man who to that point in the film has spent 90% of screentime sweating and yelling.
Despite this – or perhaps because of it – Predator 2 is absurdly entertaining and in my opinion has unfairly been relegated to the ‘Why bother?’ section of cinema history. Sure it is rude, crude, vile, outlandish and often clumsy, but it ain’t bad.
Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. After being the bad guy Arnold Schwarzenegger decided that for the rest of his career he wanted to stay the good guy. The Predator was the only single nemesis worthy of an in his prime Arnie. I bet he wished he hadn’t knocked this film back when the scripts for End of Days, The 6th Day and Jingle all the Way started looking like viable alternatives.
Before I discuss the good points that made Predators an enjoyable couple of hours I must address some gaping holes in logic that I simply could not ignore.
1/ The movie opens with all human characters being dropped into a harsh jungle environment while unconscious. Those that wake up and fumble for a parachute they did not know they had survive, at least initially. Those that don’t go kersplat. Given the purpose of the human cargo this would seem counter-intuitive to the grand plan, if you plan to use something you at least show a little more care initially.
2/ (This happens a lot in films lately.) Attacking creatures can take a number of bullets with only a jolt or a spot of blood indicating they were even hit, except on occasion:
- A bullet hits a weak point or sweet spot,
- A super-bullet is fired,
- They reach a tolerance level and can simply take no more…
… and they flat-out explode in a tornado of flesh and blood which looks OK on screen but makes no sense. This happens to both creature and human so it is not a result of shoddy DNA.
3/ The entire film utilises a jungle setting, which is cool, after all so did the first. I would argue though that it might take a little more than seeing a couple more moons than normal in the sky to expect a worldwide audience to swallow this “fact”. I mean if you were on the planet fine no probs… But finding a planet with terrain exactly the same as vast areas of Earth, with a breathable atmosphere, drinking water and all the same properties, show me more than a couple of moons please.
But just because these things annoyed me doesn’t mean it is a bad movie, just a reasonable one with plot holes. To enjoy the film more perhaps you can ignore those things above. You can overthink these things to your own detriment I guess, as one guy in the foyer post film said “Yeah but how did they capture all the humans without waking them?”
Yeah, that’s the unbelievable part, not the crabfaced creatures with green blood hunting humans on an alien planet.
To explain: Think about a renowned musician. He creates an original album and basks in the credit. A few years later along comes another guy who (with permission) sets out to remake the album.
First questions = Why? Is there a demand and what new stuff are you bringing to the table? Is the older work in need of an update?
Assuming the reboot can be justified, more questions = Should you change what worked and risk alienating fans, or keep it the same and risk being accused of simply ripping off the original? Unless you bring something new to the table even if you remake the thing verbatim what creativity does that show anyway?
The team behind Predators decided it was worth making again, let’s look at their answers to the above questions shall we?
Why? = $, and a potential franchise. It’s easier to use someone else’s ideas than it is coming up with your own.
Demand? As long as there are movies there will always be a market for good movies with memorable bad guys, the Predator creature is a great bad guy.
Update? The original 1987 Predator has no need for an update. It is a brilliantly conceived 80s actioner that served as a great vehicle for Arnie and his biceps, but revisit the answers to Why? Above.
Change or same? 95% is the same, some scenes are eerily similar to the original, even featuring the exact same backing music, and there is no evidence of new stuff even where the new film claims to be different.
Creativity? Nada, zip, zero. A guy with no musical creativity can sing and play Stairway to Heaven, that doesn’t mean they could ever write something as good even in a million years of trying.
So the Predators decided they had enough frequent flyer miles and started bringing their prey to them. Obviously sourced from all over the shop the new “meat” is shipped in seasonally and then systematically hunted down by three-man teams of predator creatures. This particular batch includes a bunch of humans from all over the planet – we have mercenaries, freedom fighters, assassins and cold blooded killers, even a Yakuza. All of them are varying degrees of dangerous, thus providing the predators with a challenge.
After being given a little while to acclimatise the predators set about learning about their new prey by watching them from afar and testing them out with various methods including siccing the many-horned exploding attack dogs on them, setting up the “bird with the broken wing” technique and by trying to divide them up to wipe out the small groups left over.
Adrien Brody is one of the humans, he notices things long before anyone else, the terrain, the tactics, even the weaponry they are up against, perhaps John Edwards should see if he was a predator in a former life? The one thing Brody is not is a friendly team player, he is out for #1 and only seeks or gives assistance when it suits him. There are seven humans to start with, then as you might guess less as the film progresses. (After 5 minutes you have a pretty good idea of who will be around until near the credits.)
After a few brief encounters with the Predators a long-time survivor first-time helper emerges from nowhere to provide some plot development. Somewhat of a hermit, the man tells those left just how he has managed to avoid capture or worse for so long, he even takes them to his hideout and explains that there are two different types of predators, that the two types don’t like each other, and how they operate to most effectively wipe out their targets. Then the Hermit does something so boneheaded and out of character that it makes no sense whatsoever… (I’ll address this after some spoiler warnings at the end of the review.)
Also, as far as the two types of predators, there was zero difference aside from one seemed a bit taller and had longer fangs, hardly a different sub species. You couldn’t have told them apart unless they were standing next to each other. Disappointing.
So Brody and his Brody-buddies run around trying various things to avoid detection and death, ultimately deciding on a risky plan to escape. There are multiple scenes and bits straight lifted from the first film, at one point the guy I was there with leaned over and said “Here comes the Billy part”, seconds later he was proved absolutely spot on.
(Which makes it especially lucky that a Yakuza guy was able to find an ancient samurai sword shortly before on this barren alien planet!)
I have read elsewhere that this is a very bloody and gory film, I don’t think I am yet that desensitised to violence that I missed all the blood and gore but it wasn’t that bad, I mean exploding dogs and people looks cool but is hardly scary or upsetting. There was really only one bit I remember as being even a little icky and that was exactly the same as the original and even Predator 2 from the 90s.
None of the kills are particularly inventive, nothing that the humans or predators try seems especially groundbreaking or memorable, and Brody switches to action hero mode by making his voice a little raspy. Not Batman-raspy, just I have the flu raspy. He did get pretty ripped though for his shirtless scenes, (I need to make a movie just to get rid of my gut). The rest of the humans have not been described aside from generic descriptions as they are merely predator fodder exactly as intended.
The only one worthy of a mention in a hardened death row crim, whose unsavoury comments and desires repeatedly raise the eyebrows.
All in all this was – to answer my own query raised earlier – an unnecessary remake, but worth a shot as it would be far better to look forward to a new “great” predator movie than it is seeing that another Alien Vs Predator shitfest is on the horizon, and even though I like the original a lot it was hardly Die Hard, T2 or Aliens, things that just don’t need to ever be remade.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. This will not change your life, it won’t even change your weekend. But on the night you watch it you might feel a little better than you did before.
Now to discuss the hermit. Need I say “Spoilers ahead”.
The hermit has survived for 10 seasons by avoiding everyone else and keeping to himself.
So in his 10 minutes of screentime he:
- Saves a bunch of strangers even though he knows they will likely soon all be dead anyway and worse do him harm or put him in harm’s way.
- Takes same strangers to his own impenetrable undiscovered hiding place.
- Decides to kill them anyway, putting his undiscovered hiding place and himself at risk, whether it be from their response or the predators is irrelevant.
Needless to say 10 seasons of great care and staying under the radar being fucked over for a quick chat made no sense. He wasn’t going to eat the others and they had no value to him, so ultimately there could only be a downside by even approaching them. As Dory said he should “just keep swimming” and stay the hell away from them.
Oh and to rub salt into the wound he then got to be one of the exploding guys as well, that’s two logic holes for ya Larry!