Film Review - Predator (1987)

Source

INTRODUCTION

'Predator' is a film in which a bunch of America's finest soldiers are pitted against an unseen enemy in a Central American jungle; literally an unseen enemy, because the Predator of the title is a monstrous alien being, with a disguise which renders it virtually invisible to human eyes. The disguise isn't the only weapon in the Predator's arsenal however. It also sports high energy firepower capable of burning a half metre wide hole in a man's body, vicious claws designed for hand to hand fighting, and something even more dramatic which it can deploy as a last resort (and does in this film). The Predator is here to hunt people, and the soldiers are its target.

That's basically it. There's little plot, little dialogue, and little character development. Just seven very tough soldiers and one monstrous alien adversary. But perhaps that's all you need for a highly effective sci-fi thriller which grips the viewer almost from frame one to the closing credits.

PLOT SPOILER

There is a major plot spoiler later on this page, which gives away which characters survive to face the Predator in final conflict. This paragraph will be in bold type, and will be headlined.

WHAT'S THE STORY?

A small band of elite U.S commandos led by Major Alan 'Dutch' Schaeffer are dropped into a remote jungle location in an unnamed country somewhere in central America. Their task, ostensibly, is to seak out a camp in the forest where terrorists are holding three important local politicians hostage. They are to go in, do whatever is necessary to rescue the hostages, and get out. It is to be a quick, efficient operation, and there is no one better equipped to carry out the missione

But very soon after setting foot in the jungle, it becomes clear that all is not quite as it seems. The soldiers are already suspicious, and the suspicion changes to intense concern as they find the utterly gruesome remains of a previous mission by green berets, their bodies stripped of all skin and strung up in the trees like carcases of meat in an abattoir. It is clearly no ordinary guerrilla group which has done this. Nonetheless, the commandos press on, and soon find that there is indeed a camp in the jungle populated by a small army, and there are indeed some prisoners being held by these men. The commandos' hand is very soon forced when one of the hostages is executed in front of their eyes. They act, and they act decisively. They go in with guns blazing, and despite being grossly outnumbered, there is no contest. The terrorists are wiped out with a ruthless efficiency. You get the feeling that if there had been twice as many they could have been dispatched with equal ease. It's over. The opposition is dead, and our heroes are all alive. That's it.

Except of course, the terrorists are not the real enemy in this movie. The whole of this scene serves one purpose only - to demonstrate just how tough and invincible these commandos are; mere humans are no contest for them. Which brings us to the main theme. The real enemy which lurks in the jungle (and the one which had destroyed the previous green beret mission) is not a mere human, nor even an army of humans, but something far more dangerous. The Predator of the title has come down to Earth purely for the sport of hunting humans, and as far as the Predator is concerned, the tougher the better. The soldiers make ideal prey, and from the moment of their first encounter with this alien being, the whole of the rest of the film is taken up with the Predator's relentless stalking of its prey, and the soldiers' desperate attempts to stay alive whilst figuring out ways to fight back.

MAIN CAST & CHARACTERS

ACTOR 
CHARACTER 
Arnold Schwarzenegger 
Alan 'Dutch' Schaeffer 
Carl Weathers 
Dillon 
Sonny Landham
Billy 
Bill Duke
Mac
Jesse Ventura
Blain
Richard Chaves
Poncho
Shane Black
Hawkins
Elpidia Carillo
Anna
Kevin Peter Hall
The Predator

FACTS OF THE FILM

DIRECTOR : John McTiernan

WRITERS / SCREENPLAY :

  • Jim Thomas, John Thomas

YEAR OF RELEASE : 1987

RUNNING TIME : 107 minutes.

GENRE : Sci-Fi

GUIDENCE : Some gruesome violence. Swearing.

ACADEMY NOMINATIONS :

  • Best Effects


BEST CHARACTERS / PERFORMANCES

Arnold Schwarzeneggar wouldn't ever have won any awards for acting, even if he'd stayed out of politics and continued with the acting game for the rest of his life. Having said that, some characters are ideally suited to his personality, and 'Dutch' is one such role. All he has to do is look tough, act tough and throw in a few choice wisecracks, and there's nobody better at doing that than Arnie.

All the other characters have their own individual personalities and are distinctive in appearance - important in a film where everyone does exactly the same job and dresses in the same clothes. Sonny Landham is very watchable as a proud no-nonsense commando with Indian tracker roots, while Jesse Ventura clearly enjoys himself as the most macho of the whole macho bunch, as he gets to carry the biggest gun.

The sole survivor of the guerrilla camp raid is Anna, and she is subsequently taken prisoner by the commandos. This girl is played by Elpidia Carillo. She is, to be honest about it, largely superfluous to the storyline, but she doesn't detract from it, and I guess its nice to have someone attractive to set alongside seven battle scarred soldiers and a hideous monster.

TRIVIA

Jean-Claude Van Damme was initially hired to play the alien creature, but Van Damme quit soon after filming commenced as the role was too much of a bit-part. Also, Van Damme isn't really all that tall, and it would have looked a bit odd if the monster had been smaller than the commandos, several of whom were played by seriously big, muscle-bound gentlemen. After Van Damme quit, the monster was completely redesigned and given a new look, and it was eventually played by Kevin Peter Hall, a 7' 2" tall actor (who played the Bigfoot in 'Harry and the Hendersons' that same year of 1987).

Kevin Peter Hall actually gets to appear with his own human face in a very brief cameo role; he is the black helicopter pilot at the end of the film. He went on to play the title role in Predator 2, but sadly died soon after filming as a result of transfusion-related AIDS.

The Predator's mandibles were the brainchild of film director James Cameron.

One of the seven commandos has another life in Hollywood. Shane Black, who plays the bespectacled Hawkins, is actually a screenplay writer first and foremost. He wrote the script of 'Lethal Weapon' and he also contributed to the script of Schwarzenegger's 'Last Action Hero,' and was for a while the highest paid writer in Hollywood. It's believed he was selected to play Hawkins partly so that he could also act in an advisory capacity on script changes.

Hawkins, Billy, Poncho, Dutch, Dillon, Mac and Blain - the 'magnificent seven'
Hawkins, Billy, Poncho, Dutch, Dillon, Mac and Blain - the 'magnificent seven'

FAVOURITE SCENES

Any scene involving the Predator is good, because the idea behind this creature is so clever. Maybe today CGI could make for more realistic effects still, but I think the Predator was unique as a monster which was almost invisible, but not quite, and irredeemably ugly and inhuman, yet somehow capable of conveying intelligence as it considers its tactics and outmaneuvres its human foe.


(Plot Spoiler) Considerable time is devoted at the end of the film to the final conflict. It has come down to just two adversaries - the Predator (of course) and 'Dutch', the last man standing. The battle between these two is well executed; on the face of it, 'Dutch' has no chance when it comes to hand to hand combat, and so it requires some skillful fight choreography to make this a believeably equal contest.

FAVOURITE QUOTES

This is not a film notable for its erudite dialogue; we're dealing with action men and aliens after all, so most of the conversation between the characters is not clever, and is liberally sprinkled with mild swearing. But there is some wit to some of the exchanges and a dry humour which is a welcome relief from the blood, gore and terror. One nice exchange which serves to highlight the mentality of the soldiers in battle comes during the fight with the guerillas, when Poncho happens upon Blain who is intent on putting an end to a few more of the enemy. Poncho notices some blood on Blain's clothing.

Poncho: 'You're bleeding, man. You're hit'.

Blain: 'I ain't got time to bleed'.

Poncho: 'Oh, OK'.

Poncho then hurls a few grenades into a group of rebels on slightly higher ground above them, and awaits the inevitable blast.

'You got time to duck'?

NEGATIVES ?

Predator is a film which knows its real strengths and sticks to them, ignoring all other aspects of film-making. Thus, Predator is strong on action, fear and suspense, horror and special effects, but no one is ever going to expect Shakespearean quality in the script. Sure enough the film is thin on good dialogue and character development (although there's nothing bad in what we see or hear from the actors). For this reason, Predator certainly won't appeal to everyone, and most viewers will probably either love it or dismiss it as trivial.

The battle in the guerrilla camp is fine, but what is it all about? I've never quite been able to work out who these people are, what Anna's role in the camp is, who the hostages are, or how much Dillon (the CIA man in the Commando team) really knows about this operation. That's a bit irritating, but does it really matter? As already mentioned, the terrorists are just an appetiser before the main course; all that really matters is that our seven commandos are stuck in the jungle with a monster.

WHAT'S SO GOOD ABOUT IT?

The main appeal of this film for most people is a rather perverse one; there's something satisfying about seeing a bunch of rough, tough, no nonsense macho guys who know how good they are, come up against an adversary who's even rougher and tougher, meaner and more macho than they are. Suddenly these men who know no equal when it comes to violent efficiency, discover that they are no longer the kings of the jungle.

The other big appeal of this movie is the special effects. A creature that can only be seen as a strange and hazy shape in the trees is a novel way of introducing the Predator. The script cleverly reveals the true form of the Predator slowly over the course of the whole film - first we just see the world through the creature's eyes, then we see its clawed hand and then its hazy shape, and it's only towards the end of the film that we see the Predator in all its glory. This technique keeps the suspense and mystery intact all the way through the movie.

The basic story is full of tension, yet simple and easy to follow, and the action never lets up.

The Predator
The Predator | Source

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

If you insist on clever dialogue and complex characters, intricate plots, and thought provoking themes, then this isn't the film for you. But what qualities Predator delivers, it delivers to perfection. It is without doubt one of the most stylish and powerful sci-fi films ever made which will appeal to fans of horror, fans of sci-fi, and fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

PLEASE PROVIDE YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THIS FILM

5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of this film

More by this Author

  • Film Review - Red Corner (1997)
    8

    Jack Moore is an American in Beijing, and he's in trouble; accused of murder under a brutal judicial system. Even the young female lawyer assigned to his case doesn't seem to believe him - at first.

  • Film Review - Falling Down (1993)
    12

    Falling Down is the study of a man's tortured mental descent from law abiding citizen to crazed killer, as he walks across town. This film documents how the final pieces of his life collapse on a hot day in Los Angeles....

  • 100 Funny and Witty Quotations about Politics
    26

    Some of the words of politicians are among the most erudite of all sayings. But some others are banal nonsense. This is my selection of the most memorable of all political quotes, jokes and analyses


PLEASE LEAVE COMMENTS IF YOU WILL. THANKS, ALUN 10 comments

Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 3 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Thief12; Good point about the change in adversary from conventional human foe to alien. The central theme is actually very simple - a bunch of tough men against one much tougher, more dangerous man/alien, but the jungle setting allows all concentration to be focused on the action - no technology (apart from the weaponry), no love interest, and no side plots to detract from the stalking and the horror.


Thief12 profile image

Thief12 3 years ago from Puerto Rico

Easily one of the best action/sci-fi films out there. I love how it starts as an action/war film and then it switches neatly into sci-fi/horror territory. Love it.


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Thanks for following up Derdriu.

I haven't seen the remake yet - I'll probably just wait till it appears on TV here. I understand it's set in a jungle, which I think is a good thing, because in the original film, once the guerrilla/hostage situation is dealt with, the jungle concentrates all attention on a clear-cut predator v humans battle. There's no superfluous subplots involving secret Government agencies and rival gangs as in Predator 2.

But I also like the original idea of just one predator - virtually indestructable. Once you have several aliens or predators (as in some of the sequels) and you have creatures being killed left right and centre throughout the film, the sense of near-invincibility is lost.

(It's the same reason why I prefer the film, 'Alien' to 'Aliens'.)

No doubt I will watch and enjoy the remake of Predator when I see it, because I love the genre and the Predator creature, but I suspect I'll prefer the original.


Derdriu 5 years ago

Alun: Actually, it is not that I don't care for the film. It is just that I have not quite made up my mind as to whether I prefer it (largely for the same reasons that you do) to the recent remake which is not quite so impactful in terms of the effects but which nevertheless benefits from Adrian Brody's interpretation of Arnie's role. Have you seen the update?

Respectfully,

Derdriu


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Thankyou Derdriu for commenting upon my review of this film! Maybe I'm mistaken but I get the feeling it may not be one of your favourites?? :-)

It's certainly true that it's a film of limited strengths, but the battle between a 'hero' (or group of heroes) and a super powerful villain is one of the most potent storylines in the history of Hollywood (or indeed in classical literature). In this movie I like the characters, I think the villain is one of Hollywood's most imaginative, and the setting in the jungle cuts out any unnecessary side plots or distractions, and keeps the attention focused on the terrifying battle for survival.

As for the best acting performance, I would say Bill Duke as 'Mac' - at least he gives the impression of someone who is really frightened, a bit panicky, and distressed at the death of a comrade. Not sure about the worst - probably Arnie (it usually is), but I think nobody is really wooden or implausible as the characters they are portraying; if you can believe in the film, I think you can believe in most of the characters of the soldiers.

Thanks so much for commenting Derdriu. It's very much appreciated. Alun.


Derdriu 5 years ago

Alun: What a convincing, entertaining, informative discussion of a film which I would not have expected to find among your movie reviews! It is most amusing the way in which you so humorously mention the less erudite features of the film, such as the stereotypical characters and plot. It is interesting the way in which you pinpoint the cutting-edge special effects and gimmicks of the time. It is welcome the way in which you give me reasons with which to defend the continued appeal of "Predator."

Thank you for sharing, voted up, etc.,

Derdriu

P.S. Who do you think gave the best and worst acting performances in the film?


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Thanks Steve. That quote of yours about the 'chopper' is one of the best known for sure (but I think you'll agree that's less down to the quality of the line, and more down to Arnie's unintentionally comical delivery !!!)


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

"Get to the chopper!" Is one we used to quote a lot back in our video renting days... aah memories. :)

Thanks for the recap on a classic sci-fi action film, the first and still by far the best in the franchise.


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Thanks again for your comments and plaudits Cogerson. I'm really enjoying writing these reviews, and learning more about my favourite films as I do so. I like films which are really well made with care and expertise, but I also like simple, easy-to-follow plots, and Predator fits the bill on both counts.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Great hub on one of the greatest action movies ever made....one more piece of trivia about Kevin Peter Hall....the same year he made Predators....he played Harry in Harry and the Hendersons......lots of great information in your hub....it was a pleasure to read....voted up

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Greensleeves Hubs profile image

    Greensleeves Hubs732 Followers
    154 Articles

    In a series of illustrated articles, the author gives personal easy-to-read reviews of some of the most watchable films in Hollywood history



    Click to Rate This Article
    working