Friday, September 04, 2009

“This stuff will make you a god damned sexual Tyrannosaurus, just like me.”

I know what you want. You want a movie starring two elected governors running around the jungle with a bunch of sweaty muscular dudes trying to fight off a monster. Well, in 1987, John McTiernan delivered the backscratcher for that itch. That’s right kids, its time for Predator.

So there’s a squad of elite special forces operatives sent to some South American nation to rescue some dudes that have been captured by the bad guys. Which bad guys? You know, the bad guys. That’s not important. They go into the jungle, find the bad guy camp and find out that it wasn’t a rescue mission but a bit of wetworks to stop an army from invading a friendly nation. It’s standard military action movie stuff, but the very beginning starts off with a spaceship launching a capsule at Earth, and therein lies the simple beauty of the concept. After the bad guys get taken care of, the squad is beset by an unknown third party that starts picking them off one by one and skinning them and/or taking their skulls.

Dutch: Arnold Schwarzenegger is the leader of this team of badasses. Arnold makes a good leader for the team and is a convincing big scary dude. He’s not as jokey in this movie as in say, Commando but the few one-liners he has are classic (“Stick around” and “Get to the choppah!” are the standouts). Arnold may get a lot of flack, but he’s actually perfectly suited for the action movie genre, and he’s got some fantastic facial expressions.

Dillon: Carl “Apollo Creed” Weathers is an old buddy of Dutch’s who’s gone into the CIA. He’s a guy who doesn’t gel with the squad very well since his desk job has gotten him soft.

Hawkins: Shane Black is the bespectacled communications guy on the squad. He’s a nice enough fella who likes telling off-color jokes about his girlfriend’s privates. Also the first member of the squad taken down by the Predator.

Blain: Jesse “The Body” Ventura is the squad’s heavy weapons guy, a takbaky-chewin,’ Aussie-hat-wearin,’ storm-cussin’ guy who carries around a chain gun named “Old Painless.” He’d be more badass if he was in the film longer.

Mac: Bill Duke is the squad’s sergeant. A quiet man with a shaved head and a habit of dry shaving before going into battle, he’s bro’s with Blain and takes his death rather…badly.

Poncho: Richard Chaves is the Hispanic demolitions guy on the team, carting around a grenade launcher that sees a lot of use in the first battle.

Billy: Sonny Landham is the squad’s Native American tracker, which makes him essentially Spirit from the G.I. Joe cartoons. Only much, much cooler. He senses something’s wrong in the jungle before anyone else does, and does a lot of really badass stuff. It was a tough choice, but the fact that he does a lot of stuff in the movie and is probably the “Not-Arnold” soldier who gets the most screen time makes him my badass of the movie. Also, the Predator records his mighty laugh and mimics it. How badass is that?

Anna: Elpildia Carrillo is the lone survivor of the squad’s attack on the bad guys, and its kind of vague if she’s with the rebels or a prisoner or what. Anyway, she knows information about the bad guys, so Dillon decides to take her with them

The Predator: Kevin Peter Hall is our Villain, an extra-terrestrial big game hunter who travels to Earth to hunt the most dangerous game: Man! It’s a very simple premise, but one that works. Hall’s performance in the suit has a lot to do with it, as there’s definitely a lot of savagery with the creature when he leaps around like a giant ape, but also cunning. The Predator’s got the tech and the savvy to hunt humans, and he plays some mind games with his quarry, observing them, recording their voices and basically toying with them.

First, John McTiernan knows how to film action. The pacing is tight, the atmosphere is tense and the action scenes are both full of explosions and awesomeness. There’s a lot of night scenes, but its always well lit so that you can see what’s going on.

Now, onto the big guy himself. Stan Winston’s creature shop made a masterpiece with the Predator alien. The guy’s inhuman, has a bevy of alien tech, a bitchin’ vision mode and really well done active camouflage. Even his alien blood, a Day-Glo green mix of glowstick fluid and KY jelly, is pretty awesome. He may be one ugly motherfucker, but as far as movie monsters go, he’s kickass.

The script by Jim & John Thomas is sparse. There are only a few characters and the pacing moves forward relentlessly. Dialog is sparse, but also crisp enough, and the one liners are pretty classic. Probably most importantly for making a great movie about a monster that slowly whittles down the characters, you actually like the characters being hunted. It invests you in the movie, gives you a side to root for, but also shows you that the monster isn’t just futzing around with low-threat targets (coincidentally all are things I find the slasher subgenere does horribly, terribly, unforgivably wrong).

Alan Silvestri delivers a completely appropriate action score and more percussion than you can shake a stick with a folded up leaf filled with gunpowder at. Very nice.

Also, sound effects. Yeah, haven’t covered those here in a long time. They are very awesome in this film, particularly the Predator’s signature growl that sounds like a rattlesnake purring.

Predator is a badass little film. It rolls action, horror and sci-fi elements together into one sweaty jungle crawl for survival. It’s a lot of fun and its nice to go back and see the franchise in its prime, before being violated by the two crossover movies with another alien franchise that should have been awesome but failed utterly. You know the ones I’m talking about. Predator doesn’t try to get all deep with a message or anything. It just delivers violence and head taking and machine guns and… Well, if any of those things appeal to you, then Predator is for you.

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