MARC’S REVIEW – Predator (1987)

This weekend’s movies are being viewed in Dan Allmond’s memory. Four weeks ago, in anticipation of the new film “THE Predator,” Dan offered up his affection for the original 1987 film. Below is what he had to say:

In my anticipation for The Predator I’ll be giving a short review of each movie in the franchise. First off Predator!!! This movie worked so well because it started off as an awesome commando type movie and slowly became a action horror. The best thing about this movie is that even without the predator it would be good. All the characters are either likable or interesting and not just generic arch types. The practical effects are amazing and the predator himself is still astonishing. I have a nostalgia factor with this movie because my dad and I would rent this all the time and it’s still exciting every time I watch it.

My take:

“Predator” is not only my favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger film, it also remains as one of the best action films of all time.

The main reason for my praise stems from its cast consisting of the Austrian headliner followed by Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, Bill Duke and Sonny Landham. The cast is sensational because they take the science fiction material seriously by evoking their machismo gradually evolving into fear. Director John McTiernan displays all of this very well through quiet and covert close ups as each character sums up the possibility that they are being hunted for sport by an entity they are not familiar with.

McTiernan makes use of his setting to the point that the real life dense jungle of trees amid thick humidity is its own character. I don’t know how he did it but in this film, McTiernan and his cinematographer capture flawless tracking shots of running over uneven grounds and roots, leaves and low hanging trees. It’s really spectacular how it all moves fast without any chopped up quick cuts like a Michael Bay movie for example. In this movie, the chases are actual chases.

An outrageous Oscar crime is that this film lost its Visual Effects prize to “Innerspace.” That gnaws at me when you consider the vagueness of the Predator’s chameleon like invisibility shape. It leaves the viewer intentionally as confused as these expert Gung Ho military men are. They can’t quite make out what this thing is because McTiernan wisely follows Spielberg’s “Jaws” technique by not showing you the creature until all the cards are dealt, thereby leaving the viewer curious and aware but still in suspense. There’s a kaleidoscope of transparency in the figure that scopes these men but what is it, really? The best horror films show you the horror by not literally showing you the horror.

I like how this rescue team is continuously displayed with their talents for covert sabotage, hand signals, caution and focus. The actors are actually setting up the booby traps and climbing and ground crawling.

It’s honestly a very well acted piece most especially from, yes Schwarzenegger, as well as Bill Duke and his psychological trauma during the 2nd half of the film, and Sonny Landham as the Tracker Billy who can relay what had transpired with a keen Native American sense of environment. It’s really a great collection of characters all together.

Sadly, (and Dan does not agree with me) the majority of the follow up films in the franchise do not live up to what originated here. In the first installment, the story is condensed in quite an efficient 90 minutes that leaves enough time for one story of adventure and rescue before it gets to all its sci fi suspenseful showpiece. The follow up films never took advantage of the strengths used here from over 30 years ago.

“Predator” is a brilliantly edited, well shot, taut and gripping yarn of imagination and fear.

From 1987, it hasn’t aged a bit.

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