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In all too many cases when a movie becomes too ambitious by combining genres the results are, shall we say, less than stellar. To its credit Predator, manages to transcend this dilemma and produces a fine action/thriller/sci-fi. It does this by smoothly flowing from one type of film to another. It starts out as what we think will be a typical soldier rescue a lost platoon flick. Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) heads up a band of elite combat specialists to find a missing diplomat in the jungles of South America. Soon after the start of their mission, they find the skinned bodies of some Green Berets hanging from the trees. Since the local drug cartel is known for their perverse torture methods, this seems all within the normal scheme of things. There is a bit of mystery when the embedded CIA agent Dillon (Carl Weathers), is seemingly clueless as to why the berets are there in the first place. While the story might lull into a sense thait is a familiar genre at this point, the plot thickens when a young woman, Anna (Elpidia Carrillo) is found fleeing for her life. She tells a tale of a strange creature that horribly kills the men of her village. At this point, the motif shifts to an almost slasher flick quality. Subjecting members of Dutch’s team to a horrifying desath, one by one. The monster, in this case, is the Predator, an alien that is capable of cloaking himself in an invisible shield and armed with an arsenal of futuristic weapons. Finally, when the team is dead, except Dutch, the film shifts once again to the cat and mouse game. Dutch has to not only survive the overwhelming force of the Predator, but he is not set on revenge, thinking only of killing his foe.

While it is certainly true that the film is one of the better science fiction action movies that is capable of enduring through the years, but there are themes with significantly deeper meaning. When the extraterrestrial proved to be unstoppable; invisible cloaking, rocket propelled projectile weapons and infrared survival, yet alone success in the battle seemed impossible, ultimately it was Dutch’s ingenuity, resourcefulness, and superiority in tactical planning that won the day for the lowly human prey. These alien creatures have been using earth as a game preserve; a place for hunter’s content in their superiority travel to obtain a trophy they can mount and display with pride to others of their kind. A human hunter never considers a deer or even grizzly bear to turn the lethal hunt around by Dutch proved to be a better hunter and survivalist than his foeman, a story that celebrates the indomitable spirit intrinsically part of humanity.

What is noteworthy here is the way the film smoothly glides from genre to genre. There is an organic, natural feel to how the film proceeds. There is nothing forced about the combination here, it works. Part of this is the way the script draws the audience into the action. We get enough back-story to have some emotional investment in the characters even though we know from experience that most will end up in a bloody heap. The film is also novel in that although the alien here is technologically far in advance of us he prefers the thrill of the hunt. Seeing that this feeling is prevalent in today’s modern culture, it is not a far stretch to consider an advance but brutal race using Earth as a hunting ground. The total here is not a great movie but one that is entertaining and enduring.

This film has the distinction of having two of its stars go on to become governors, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jessie, (the Body), Ventura. While their political careers are subject to the judgment of history, there is no doubt that these men can deliver action. While the lamented Mr. Ventura is dispatched rather quickly, this film is one of Schwarzenegger best roles. He does what he does best; provide a sense of intelligence to his action roles. The way he plays Dutch is not as a man desperate to live, although this is a component to his performance; he is a thinking man, able to shift his strategy to face a far superior foe. His combination of muscle and brains brings this film in as better than most of its contemporaries. The Predator played by the gentle giant, Peter Kevin Hall. This 7’2" tall actor brings dimension to his role, a stanch determination that helps carry the flick.

Although director John McTiernan has recently turned his career into remaking classic films by Norma Jewison, this film represents what McTiernan does best, deliver action to the audience. Like his Die Hard films, his hero uses his resourcefulness as much as his brawn. This separates films of his from the senseless slaughter seen in so many films released recently. He creates a mood of dread and horror not only with the special effects but by crafting each scene with an expert touch. The lighting and set up for each shot drives the audience into this strange world. The feelings of the characters are almost palpable; you can feel the terror as it turns to a determined vengeance. The exposition is given is small enough doses so as not to interrupt the flow of the action. There are no dead spots (no pun intended) that would result in the audience becoming disinterested. I hope that McTiernan returns to this type of film instead of remaking classic films.

There have been several releases of this film on DVD including a special ‘Collector’s Edition’ which did enjoy the distinction of the most favorable with a two disc set providing a considerable amount of extra material. But technology marches ever forward with the inevitable remastering to high definition standard and a Blu-ray release. That release provided details previously not readily noticeable with the DVD’s standard definition. With a second disc dedicated to additional content that edition held its place for a considerable amount of time, the next stage of home theater enjoyment has been breached with Real 3D. The conversion of this movie is I the vanguard of this trend, but unlike some contrived remastering efforts, the result here is worthwhile.

The algorithms necessary to extract the information required to provide a suitable illusion of depth while retaining the preexisting high definition information is still relatively new. The burgeoning methodologies cannot yet compare to a de novo real 3D initial filming. While the 3D effects are acceptable, they lack the sharpness and natural look and feel provided by a film originally shot in 3D. There are some notable improvements obvious other similar attempts both the necessity artistry is still lagging behind.

Note: Special Features On DVD Only:

bulletIf It Bleeds, We Can Kill It Documentary
bullet7 Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes
bulletRare Deleted Scene
bulletRed Suit Special Effects Clips
bulletCamouflage Tests
bulletAudio Commentary by Director John McTiernan

Posted 12/14/2013            02/08/2017

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