In preparation for Prey, we’re returning to cover the full franchise starting today with Predator (1987).
It’s always strange to come to a decades-old film for the first time. You can recognize some of the traits that more recent films picked up over the years. As a result, it can be relatively confusing to separate those thoughts from a first-time viewing. It’s been something I’ve struggled with as I’ve watched Alien, Ghostbusters, and even Terminator over the years. With that, let’s dive into my first viewing of Predator.
The film follows Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) as he leads an elite special forces team in Guatemala. The mission: to rescue what they think is a kidnapped Guatemalan cabinet member. What they find instead is a member of a highly advanced extraterrestrial species, the Predator (Kevin Peter Hall) hunting down anyone with a weapon they can find. This turns into everyone but Dutch and rescued spy Anna (Elpida Carrillo) dying in a slasher feeling romp through a Central American forest.
Predator is most definitely a film of the 1980s. The jokes are crude, but were acceptable in society then, and it’s important to note the improvement in the film industry from there. Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers play well off each other, and after only seeing the Rocky films for Weather’s early career, it was cool to see him branch out. I will say, I was happy to see the “black guy dies first” trope was not present here.
The idea of a final battle lives continuously in any “unknown villain” plot. In Predator, it feels like this battle is solely meant to get Schwarzenegger mostly nude for the last twenty-three minutes. It drags in an excruciating way, and for a film less than 2 hours, there are better ways to use that time. Another questionable choice is in Anna’s characterization. There are plenty of times where she tries to run off. But as soon as the predator enters the picture, she sticks around. I can understand freezing in shock, but there’s also fight or flight, and she already showed signs of leaning into flight. Maybe she’s simply there to present a feminine perspective, but if so it’s not a good one.
As a fully-fledged film, Predator isn’t terrible. I can see where some of it has been pulled and utilized in future films, and clearly with its franchise of films, comics, video games and more, it’s been successful. But looking at it for the first time 35 years later, it’s not superb. It has flaws in pacing, crude jokes, and a basically useless female character. Despite that, the effects are terrific for the late eighties, and the costume work in particular for the predator is superb. It truly looks good from this decade. – Katie Rentschler
Predator is currently available on Hulu, or physical media.
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