If it bleeds, we can kill it.
In the 80s there was a Cold War between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Stallone had huge success with the Rocky sequels and Rambo series with Schwarzenegger having success with The Terminator and the Conan films. In 1987 John McTiernan (Die Hard) directed Predator and ‘peak’ Arnold Schwarzenegger was realised. Set in the middle of a South American armed conflict, a crack team of commandos, led by Schwarzenegger’s Dutch are sent deep into the jungle to extract a team of diplomats and get them back to safety. What they encounter in the jungle is something all together otherworldly.
Schwarzenegger is the alpha male within the group but each of the commandos are given enough screen time to develop their characters. See Blane, the ‘sexual tyrannosaur’ of the group, Carl Weathers as Dillon and his ‘muscle offs’ with Arnold, Bill Duke as Mac and his propensity for shaving, and the late Sonny Landham as Billy (who had a bodyguard on set to keep him out of trouble). Each and every character feels a part of the group, with each caring for the next and feeling a sense of loss as each of them are picked off by the marauding alien.
Most heroes are only as good as their bad guys and the predator is the irresistible object against the immovable force of Arnie. After much back and forth Stan Winston was brought on board to redesign the creature from head to toe. Under immense pressure his team were able to pull it out of the bag and his dreadlocked, crab like predator has become a classic. Digging deep into the history of the production, the previous incarnation which looked like an ostrich would have quite easily turned this masterpiece into a farce.
Predator as a stand-alone film (lets forget about the sequels and crossover films shall we) is an out and out classic not just of the 1980s but of the action and sci-fi genres it is defined by. McTiernan directs within the claustrophobic confines of the jungle with a fluid and assured hand, staging the action with confidence but also managing to build tension and create atmosphere. This is helped immensely by the score provided by Alan Silvestri who provides what the film demands to sell the mood. Tribal drums and animal noises permeate the soundtrack and this sound design heightens the cinematic unease as we hear the squeaks and squawks of the jungle as the commandos travel through it; complimented further through the predators’ heat vision.
Overall, the film is presented and released in cinemas for a limited run to celebrate its 30th anniversary. This, along with McTiernan’s 1988 classic Die Hard is the type of film evocative of the 80s but one which doesn’t feel dated because of it. All out action with a scattering of sci-fi sensibilities makes this the stone cold classic it always has been and always will be.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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