Movie Review: Predator

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In the Central American jungle, a squadron of tough commandos sent in to fight a human enemy find themselves facing an extraterrestrial hunter of extraordinary skill.

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John McTiernan, 1987

Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is called in by old friend Dillon (Carl Weathers) to find some important people who disapeared in the jungle where a group of guerilla fighters is known to operate. As he and a group of ridiculously muscly men head into the jungle they discover a series of strange clues, including skinned soldiers and a shoot-out with no tracks, that lead them to believe something weird is happening. After decimating a guerilla camp and taking a girl hostage, they find that there are more enemies in the jungle than they thought, as an alien predator picks them off one by one and they desperately try to escape or fight back. The Predator hunts for sport, and is uniquely talented at it. Finally Dutch faces off against the predator in an epic showdown against the backdrop of the jungle.

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I’ve been looking forward to seeing this for a while – it’s one of those movies everyone has seen except, apparently, myself. I love some 80s action movies, but I suppose I must have overhyped myself, because this one didn’t quite live up to my hopes. Firstly, the male characters were all appalling and irritating — I couldn’t wait for them to start dying, personally, and I’m not sure whether that was the intention or not. I found myself rooting for the Predator more often than not. It’s also baffling to me that this super hunter sees with a sort of heat-seeking night vision, something that makes me wonder how it even gets around at all – the effects for Predator-vision are horrendous, and not in a funny way like its “camouflage” suit and flashing yellow eyes. The creature effects still impress – Stan Winston must have had a blast designing the dreadlocked, mandible-mouthed alien, which is really the star of the movie. Towering over Arnie, the alien is a more credible menace when you can see it than when you can’t.

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Predator toy line’s latest model, Disco Predator.

It’s a thankfully straightforward story, which allows the tension and excitement to build with the aid of a hyperactive 80s score that never lets you relax for a moment. The jungle is used to great effect, particularly in the final showdown, which is when the film is at its best. Up until that point I spent a lot of time hoping the Predator would just kill someone already. The racially, if not gender, diverse cast are mostly pretty hopeless but hugely muscled caricatures (fun fact: writer/director Shane Black is the first to die, assumedly as punishment for telling horrible, sexist jokes), and there are essays to be written about homoeroticism in this kind of action movie. There are entire shots dedicated to showing off the ridiculous muscles in Arnie’s arms and shoulders. The girl seems to exist entirely to show pluck and then be a vulnerable member of the group to be protected, which is hugely disappointing. The real purpose of this movie is to showcase this awesome, mean, flawless predator from an alien world that provides a genuine threat to even the muscliest of men, and in that it accomplishes what it sets out to do.

Predator on IMDb

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