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From Under A Rock: Predator

June 17, 2017 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: Predator  

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I’m continuing my theme of summer picks as the temperature is starting to heat up and the sun is blazing. On the back of The Way Way Back, which was strictly a “for me” pick, I decided to pick one for Aaron since he’s been wanting to check this one off for awhile.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron chose Rebel Without a Cause. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock to show him Predator.

Predator
Released: June 12th, 1987
Directed by: John McTiernan
Written by: Jim Thomas & John Thomas
Starring:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer
Carl Weathers as Colonel George Dillon
Kevin Peter Hall as The Predator
Shane Black as Rick Hawkins

Michael Ornelas: I mentioned above that this pick was pretty much just because Aaron wanted me to, but it’s an interesting movie for me to revisit because of my love of the Alien franchise, and with more than one crossover, Predator gets drawn into that universe.

Aaron Hubbard: I immediately drew parallels to those films; the single alien killer hunter is very reminiscent of Alien, while the group of soldiers and the obvious Vietnam inspiration reminded me of the sequel.
Crew
Camaraderie
Michael: The strongest aspect of this film is the way it portrays the military bond in the heat of battle. We immediately understand the importance of the military to Dutch when he sees Dillon for the first time in a long time. You could take the words entirely out of that scene, and it would still work with the body language and facial expressions. I was a big fan of watching this unit work (and argue) like brothers throughout the time in the jungle. That, in and of itself, makes Predator a pretty decent war movie, of all things.

Aaron: That might be the most accurate way to describe the film, actually. The Vietnam War inspiration is obvious in an almost tiresome way; a bunch of Americans go into a jungle and get destroyed by a force that knows the territory and is just more ruthless than they can handle. But a film doesn’t have to be subtle or inventive to be a good time. The film has a wide array of memorable quotes, respectable character development, and some really great action beats.

Michael: Oh yes, the quotes. So many good ones, and pretty much all from Dutch. Arnold was so fun in his prime because he could believably kick so much ass despite being given the goofiest one liners to say. They only raised his stock and propelled his career forward as that’s one of the staple qualities of Schwarzenegger’s work.
Predator
Making a Memorable Monster
Aaron: Michael, you know by now I have a deep love for movie monsters. That’s what really attracted me to this movie; the Predator is such a cool design. The suit is intimidating, but the face design is next level stuff. It’s easy to see how Fox execs thought this thing could share the screen with xenomorphs and not look out of place. In fact, as it turns out, it was James Cameron who recommended the mandible design.

Michael: The aesthetic and costuming/make-up effects are astounding. It may be one of the straight-up most badass looks of all time, and I’d argue that’s what has made this movie so iconic. I actually think the unmasked Predator looks a little bit derpy, but that helmet is SO cool. Everything about the visual design of the Predator (including its technology) stood out in a way that felt very fresh for its time, and it still holds up. That’s crazy to me, given how dated most “futuristic” or “alien” designs tend to look from that era when viewed today.

Aaron: I also love the general slow reveal of the creature. By now we know what it looks like through cultural osmosis, but imagine not knowing. The invisibility and the suit both hide the monster and create a desire for us to see it, and the wait is worth it. It almost wasn’t, as the original design was laughably bad. Once the studio saw how good the rest of the movie was, they shilled out cash for a new design. I would say it was worth the investment.
Predator
Machismo + Action
Michael: This movie is just balls-to-the-wall “manly”, for better or for worse. It’s gunfire, war, muscles, more gunfire, and explosions. And a woman who doesn’t talk much. I don’t subscribe to these notions of masculinity, but this movie is absolutely a product of its time. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, but I’m glad we’ve gotten away from this presentation of action films. I say action film regrettably because given the innate horror in the premise and main antagonist (the Predator), this movie could have been a hell of a lot scarier. Most of the horror beats were excuses to get back to “action” and while I get the inclination, it robbed itself of some tension. These aren’t necessarily points I’m docking from the movie, just personal taste as to how I thought it could have been more than it was.

Aaron: I would have to agree on this point. I was really impressed with the presentation of the Predator, especially with how they did the heat vision scenes without modern CGI. Actually, the film does a good job of getting you in the Predator’s head and I found myself starting to root for it a bit. There’s something cathartic in watching all those macho guys get cut down by something smarter than them. Overall, I much prefer Die Hard, which plays into director John McTiernan’s strengths as an action director and gives us the ultimate schlubby everyman action hero. That was significant progress, in my opinion.

Michael: I don’t know if I ever rooted for the Predator, necessarily, as I’m inclined to want to watch my kind win…but I get what you’re saying. There were a few of the military characters I was okay with getting offed, though. I’m glad Dutch made it through, though. Arnold is a blast in this.

Ratings:
Aaron: Predator could basically be named Testosterone: The Movie, which has its pros and cons. It’s a ton of fun and is a solid movie built around showcasing Arnold’s unique screen presence and one of the coolest monsters. I liked it, but I can’t see myself revisiting it frequently in the future.

B+

Michael: When stacked up against other classic action movies, Predator comes in on the lower end of the spectrum (of classics, meaning it’s not bad by any means). This is a movie that I felt was just…a lot of the same. It picked the characters off, creating dramatic and emotional beats, but at the end of the day, it was pursuit in the jungle. The effects were awesome, both for its time, and now, 30 years later, but the complete package just isn’t as good as I feel it could be.

B

Aaron: So I’m guessing you wish the xenomorph won in AVP?

Michael: No. Ripley should have won. Ripley should always win.

Do you like Predator 2 better?

Next week:

Aaron: Next week, we take a look at the first entry in one of my favorite trilogies of all time. From a genre that rarely does trilogies.
Sunrise
Michael: I’m super down for this. I know nothing, but you’ve really hyped it up for me, so I expect good things!

Aaron: The sad thing is that we are probably starting with the least good movie in the series. But you have to.

What is Richard Linklater’s best work?

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Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Equilibrium, City of God, The Graduate, Face/Off, Snowpiercer, The Exorcist, Hellboy, Village of the Damned, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Idiocracy, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Fly (1986), Under the Skin, Die Hard, Dredd, Star Wars Holiday Special, A Christmas Story, Snakes on a Plane, The Big Lebowski, Bulworth, Raging Bull, Thank You for Smoking, John Wick, Mulholland Drive, The Karate Kid, Lucky Number Slevin, The Searchers, Black Dynamite, Labyrinth, Rick & Morty, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Abyss, Seven Samurai, Bio-Dome, Memento, L.A. Confidential, Tangled, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Wonder Woman, The Way Way Back, Rebel Without a Cause, Predator

Aaron Has Another Column!
This week, I paid tribute to Adam West with a look at 1966’s Batman movie.

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7.9
The final score: review Good
The 411
Predator is definitely a fun time at the movies, but feels more like a relic than some of its contemporaries. It's a manly man movie, but also a pretty effective one, with charismatic performances and solid character development. What cements it as a pop culture classic though is the timelessly awesome Predator design. Definitely see it if you haven't.
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