(Since we’re on the topic of Predator, here’s my original DVD review from 2003…)
The SmarK DVD Retro Rant for Predator / Predator 2
With the recent release of the 1990 sequel to one of my all-time favorite guy movies, I figured that I might as well do a double-shot review of them. Sadly, Arnie’s career started a terminal spiral with 1999’s dismal End of Days, but for good old testosterone-injected bad-guy killing action, you can’t beat most of his stuff from the 80s. For instance, Predator. For some reason, they decided to make a sequel in 1990, and now we’ll take a look at why it doesn’t stand up to the original.
Predator is all things to all people. It’s both a manly gruntfest, and a feelgood redeeming message. Honest.
Check it out – Arnold and his team of hard-boiled mercenaries do a black ops mission in the jungle with slightly mysterious CIA guy Carl Weathers in tow. When they get there to liberate the “hostages”, they find the dead bodies of a previous extraction team, skinned and left hanging like meat in a packing plant. After some hostage-rescuing action that’s mainly there to justify the pyro budget, we soon discover that they’re being watched by…something. And now the movie moves in an entirely different direction, as the cool-as-ice heroes are suddenly the prey of something very nasty. It begins picking them off one-by-one, but do they WHINE about it like teenagers in a slasher movie? FUCK NO. They get bigger and better guns and make vows to avenge each other. Eventually it comes down to Arnold v. The Predator, and in grand manly fashion, he’s forced to roll around in the mud to evade its heat-seeking abilities and then beat it to death with large tree trunks. That’s how you deal with aliens, baby. Fuck the Powerbook.
Where’s the feelgood message, you ask? Well, as noted, they don’t go around screaming like girls – when everyone else is dead and it’s apparent that the Predator only kills those who are armed, what does the badass native tracker Billy do? Throws away all his weapons, leaving only a knife, and stands on a log in the forest, basically saying “Fuck you, come and get me like a MAN.” Does he die in pain? Of course, but that’s not the point, the point is how you FACE death. Even though the thing is unstoppable and untraceable, they just keep shooting at it until it falls. Arnold sums it up best – “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” That’s how REAL MEN deal with their problems. By god, when you leave the theater (or your couch) you know you’ve seen manly men bonding and killing stuff. I highly recommend forcing your significant other to watch the next time she wants you to watch White Oleander with her.
Now, onto Predator 2.
First mistake, they move the creature from the jungle to the city. Who wants to see primal hunting movies set in LOS ANGELES? The original movie was about getting all feral and bloody and stuff, not jumping on rooftops. Second mistake, casting Danny Glover as a badass cop who breaks all the rules. Haven’t they SEEN Lethal Weapon? Third mistake, casting Gary Busey as a weird federal agent and then not giving him anything to work with. HE should have been the crazy cop, not Glover. The only glimmer of coolness Busey’s character gets is near the end, when he’s beaten and burned up by the Predator and he still manages to whip out a huge gun and fire off a one-liner.
The plot, meandering as it is, sees the Predator appearing in LA in the future, when gang wars are wrecking the city. It starts slaughtering drug lords, and yet for some reason the police want to CATCH it? Danny Glover plays, as noted, a clichйd cop on the edge who has more property damaged than citations, and when his partner is murdered (possibly one day before retirement, I lose track after a while), THINGS GET PERSONAL. There’s a reason why “McBain” is so funny. So basically he chases the Predator around the city (with cops getting slaughtered like cattle in the meanwhile) leading to a showdown in a slaughterhouse (dig the subtle imagery). Of course, the feds are there with 80 billion dollars worth of sophisticated equipment and enough manpower to invade Iraq twice, but the only one who can spot that the Predator can see the lights is DANNY GLOVER. The elegant solution to stopping the creature? Shooting it. A lot. And then once he’s “dead”, we of course get the False Death, leading to another chase into the spaceship, where you get the only thing that makes this one worth seeing – an Alien skull in the trophy room. Faced with Crazy Cop Glover v. A Zillion Badass Predators, what happens? They LEAVE and Glover lives. Another sequel is teased, but thank god it hasn’t happened yet.
Basically, this was a movie with nothing to say. Predator was about the joy of life and death, where you had a group of slightly crazy military nuts who were doing exactly what they wanted to be doing – hunting down a badass monster in the jungle while telling pussy jokes. They may have yelled in pain while getting grotesquely murdered in brutal fashion, but deep inside you knew that they’d rather have it that way than dying behind a desk somewhere. There’s no joy to the characters in Predator 2 – people are hunted down like rodents and only fight as a reaction to the creature. You always get the feeling that Glover would have rather talked it out of killing people. Any action star with “ask questions first” as a principle is not MY hero. If you’re going to get involved in a shootout with an unkillable alien monster, have some FUN with it. I could have ignored the hackneyed characters and bad dialogue if someone would have SMILED once in a while. As is, it’s just a teen slasher movie with a better cast.
Predator: I’m reviewing the latest, DTS version that is redone in anamorphic widescreen with a nice new transfer. The dust and scratches evident on the original source are all over the place, but I guess there’s only so much they can do without a full restoration. However, the greens and blacks of the jungle are very nice, as is the red of all the blood spilled. No real compression artifacts that I could see. They did their best.
Predator 2: No dust or scratches this time – it’s a fairly clean transfer of a fairly recent movie. It certainly looks way better than the video release. Again, they did they best on a low-level release.
Predator: The DTS mix is a bit disappointing, but still very nice. There wasn’t as much bass to the explosions as I would have liked, but the surrounds for the Predator POV is really cool and when the guns start blazing, you’ll hear it all over the room. You also get the original Dolby surround mix from the previous DVD release.
Predator 2: No DTS, just a Dolby 5.1 mix that does the job, and again less bass than there should have been for some reason. I didn’t actually hear much use of the surrounds, but then the original theatrical run was only stereo anyway.
Predator: A trailer. Yee haw.
Predator 2: A trailer and two featurettes. No apology from any of the studio, or the director, sadly.