Soon the hunt will begin.
Some folks just don't got time to bleed. Some creatures couldn't win a beauty contest if all the competition dropped out. Every now and then you run into a movie that sparks something in you that can cause a lifetime of wonder and interest. Predator may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for me it was one such movie - this little alien on a safari movie has drawn me into countless books, comics, movies, and games for years to come. You could say I'm a bit of a fan - but that won't get in the way much for the movie review itself. Can one liners flex their bulging biceps, or is this trophy nothing but a fake coat of gold?
A presidential government minister has gone missing in the deep jungle presumably because of guerrilla fighters. They need some rescuing, and a crack team of elite search and rescue commandos - the best of the best in fact - are called in to go rescue them. They aren't the happiest about having to tack on a tag-along CIA liaison however, even if it is an old friend of the lead man Dutch. They gear up, board up, and take off for some macho banter and a sweet helicopter-born blaring of "Long Tall Sally." Soon enough, the red lights blaze and signal it's time for the drop - little do they realize that this is the last bit of fun they are going to have for a very long time...
The team finds the wreckage of the downed helicopter, and it's a mess. The vehicle is just gutted, most likely from an explosive weapon, and the pilots dead. They follow the tracks of the guerrillas who hit the chopper, and after following for a ways things start getting strange. A new pair of tracks crops up - army issued boots implying a team sent in, one that Dillon (the CIA liaison) denies knowing about, and spent casings from one sided gunfire as though the team had been ambushed without their attackers leaving any trace are soon to follow. As if that isn't enough to make the team less than satisfied with what's going on, the strung-up remains of the other team sent in that Dutch's team wasn't told about are found and the dogtags imply another old friend of Dutch - and that squad certainly is not a search and rescue squad. Something is going on here, but there is a mission to complete and our hero's will be darned if they don't complete it. When they finally do stumble upon the guerrilla camp, the team shows it's grand levels of machismo and action hero-ness by obliterating the enemy in waves of gunfire and explosions - unfortunately the only survivor outside of the team is a single woman from the guerrilla fighters, and tensions rise between Dutch and Dillon when it's discovered that there is no missing cabinet members, and his team was just used to accomplish a search and destroy goal instead of rescuing anyone.
With the task done, the team starts to head for their extraction point with Dillon taking the woman hostage in tow - in case she knows things about the guerrilla operations - but something has their tracker Billy spooked, and as they tell us "Billy isn't afraid of no man." It isn't long after that the woman tries to escape, and during her re-capture the jungle comes alive and takes on of their own after he pursues the girl during the escape attempt - and as the plot thickens the team find themselves in even more danger. Something is out there and they can't see it, and it's going after them. One by one the team starts falling, and although they aren't sure entirely what's out there hunting them, they know that if it bleeds, they can kill it and set up a trap. When the trap goes south however, things are at their gravest and Dutch finds himself face to face with a real monster who thinks he'd make a nice addition to it's trophy room. Will he survive this out of world encounter?
Effects work here is pretty awesome for it's general time-frame. When I say that, I refer to the fact that when it comes to 80's effects, this is the kind of thing you expect. Squibs and sparks from gunfire, explosions from grenades and things exploding (duh), and costume design that makes you feel like you're following a team of battle-seasoned commandos - even if some of their guns are a bit over the top (looking at you Old Painless). When it comes to our alien visitor, it's a bit of a mixed bag. Thermal vision was pretty rad, and it should be remembered that thermal imaging wasn't as far along back then as it is now - but at the same time the un-masked thermal vision is rather inconsistent with itself. Firstly, everything is just a shade of bright red - not the most pleasant thing to stare at and try to pick out movement and the likes in - and secondly some parts during this scene suddenly have movement made easier to see through use of more yellows/oranges than in other parts of the scene. The cloaking effect is likewise both awesome, and yet a little bit dated at times in it's sort of over-exaggerated visibility levels (which may have been intentional to be easier for the viewer, kind of like "dark rooms" in scary movies). All of that said, the predator suit itself is amazing, and one of the few movie-appearances of the Predator monster where the mouth mandibles works in a proper and sensible way. It's a menacing, tribal looking creature that looks properly intimidating next to the likes of all the buff dudes like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, and Carl Weathers - and was even nominated for some awards because of it's effects back in the day.
Acting here is about as good as most 80's action movies - which is to say that by those looking for that engaging real-life level of acting, it's going to come up short. On the other hand, if you are just looking for those action hero one-liners, that exuberant machismo, and the occasional moment of acting that can feel emotional and deep but you still know isn't going to win any awards - then this movie will just live to serve you. Volume levels are fine in the line delivery, and each character has a little bit of a "feel" about them even if it's a bit cliched (for instance: the Native American guy being the best tracker), and when they play together they feel like the kind of group that you'd want at your back if stuff went down. The lone woman of the movie in comparison probably has the better degree of acting show-off, wherein she does a swell job of looking absolutely terrified when something bad happens, and you genuinely feel as though her character could have actually existed in the given situation and responded in that manner. Acting for the Predator? Well... it's an alien. Considering the animatronics in the head, mostly all the acting is left up to the body language of Kevin Hall, and he does a fine job of doing just that - particularly towards the end when we start seeing it more closely and less invisibly. The scene pictured below (right when the predator notices the spikes) really makes you feel like it just discovered some spikes and went "Hey, was this for me? I'll just go around."
The plot here can actually feel a bit thin if you focus too heavily on it, but the pacing of the movie keeps you from doing so too much if you are just watching it for enjoyment. Helping the pacing and overall feel of the movie along is the soundtrack - and it's a well used one at that. The jungle theme gives the impressions it was meant for a jungle like setting, like something deep in the Congo or the likes, and at the same time adds this tiny bit of atmosphere and upbeat energy to liven up what's on screen. Likewise, the playing of "Long Tall Sally" (excellent song in my opinion, by the way) during the flight in adds to the vibe of pre-game machismo in a more subtle way (as opposed to if one were to put the classical helicopter-scene music of "Ride of the Valkyries" over it), and lends itself to a little character moment later on when one of the team members starts quoting lines from it while under stress. That being said, although the audio does help fill in the movie, it never totally take's over the movie - even if the score is pretty enjoyable. Sound effects are exactly as you would expect (and can be a bit loud in the case of scenes with a lot of gunfire), and the Predators clicking-growl goes on to be a memorable sound, while somehow both sounding like it belongs and doesn't belong in the jungle setting. The high tech wooshes and zaps of the Predator's gear certainly sounds futuristic and alien, and it's reuse of the english language goes from a nice non-understandable blur of sound to understandable if not a little altered version of the normal talking - rather a nice touch.
As a special note, thanks to blu ray re-release with 3D features, I can say that not only do I own multiple copies of this one, but I have input on how it handles it's 3D elements. It's pretty on par with the modern takes on 3D - elements of the scenes feel as though they have a different plane of existence to them, not really "popping out" in the dorky glasses olden days way, but in that subtle added levels of depth perception kind of way. Again, some of this may just be due to me not really being capable of of finding the magic trick to make stuff pop out anymore like it used to, but I can only report on how it seemed to me. If I ever one day get one of those full-immersion headsets capable of 3D viewing, maybe I'll come back and revisit my opinion, but the 3D really as far as I can tell doesn't add a whole lot to the movie. The blu ray itself, on the other hand, leads to the movie looking marvelous over the DvD version when watched on those big screens and projectors.
Is it worth adding to your display case? Fans of action movies should enjoy it, and creature feature fans should be able to enjoy it - particularly towards the end. Large proponents of violence probably won't enjoy it as much (what with a few scenes with "skinned" bodies and blown apart limbs), but those into special effects will probably appreciate some of the other scenes as well (the predator suit itself, the "disarming" scene). It's a fun mix of action and scary - never really being too scary, but never finding itself dragging along either thanks to the action pacing. Ideally, as long as you can deal with the violence, I'd say it's at least worth watching once just to see if you like it or not (it's better than those AvP movies they did for sure), and for it's most part plays out much more like a military action movie than it does a thriller (until that half-way in shift). I personally love it - but that doesn't mean that I'm delusional enough to think everyone else will.
I feel it would be unfair for me to not express the fact that I love the franchise - and not just the movies (some of which I obviously don't like as much as others, which you'd know if you read my AvP reviews) but extending out to the novels, the comics, the games - all of it. It's one of the few things that I can honestly say I can get fan-boy about (the other being Vampire Hunter D), and this here is the thing that started it. Because of this movie, we got all these other things based around this character - a character that's such an awesome idea (A space hunter who goes after the most dangerous prey while having access to all this fancy tech) that it's even led to countless crossovers that one might not initially expect (most of which ending with our predator friends loosing, due to name-powers) such as Predator vs Batman (which Sandy Corolla made an amazing fan video of) and various other superheros or icons (like Dredd, Terminator), even old historical figures weren't safe from running into the creature of the hunt (pirates in 1718 for example). From all these things a sort of mythos arose around the predator - it's code of honor, it's life cycle, what the marks mean, why they have dreads, what kind of gizmos they get - even to why they cross over with the Xenomorph from the Alien series so much. Heck, they even got a species name - Yautja. I went as far myself as to do fanart (back when I had some kind of semblance of drawing talent) and learn how to do re-skins of character models in the AvP PC games, so you could say that the Predator has been a bit of a big thing for me.
That being said, with so many different version of these things out there, it could probably be a little hard for someone to really find something to get them into it - particularly because as far as the video game format goes, the best entries were the now outdated PC Alien vs Predator games (the new one wasn't bad, but mechanically it wasn't as enjoyable in my opinion). As far as books go, Concrete Jungle (which I'll most likely get into more when I get around to that Predator 2 review I need to do) is probably top of the list, although the distinct setting of Cold War (taking place in snowy and frigid Siberia) is noteworthy, and the different viewpoints of the Navajo hero in Big Game make for an interesting spin on how the Predator is viewed (similar to the story that female lead Elpidia Carrillo's character tells in the movie). Comic wise, I couldn't even hope to sort out the best - as there are absolute loads of comics, and I won't lie and tell you that I've read them all. The Alien vs Predator series gives us a mighty "what could have been" in the novel form of AvP: War, which also draws from the Series One comics (and those are darn good ones), and I to this day still curse the fact Anderson didn't just turn the books plot into the movie (or even use the original treatment that was floating around, which was essentially the book changed to a jungle planet instead).
So yeah, there's a lot of stuff out there for anyone big into the Predator. Comics, toys, models, costumes, books, games, movies - and I'll at the very least get to the other movies eventually, as those are things that I both own and can put forth my opinion on easily.}