Saturday, October 14, 2017

Stubs - Predator

Predator (1987) Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Richard Chaves, Jesse Ventura. Directed by: John McTiernan. Screenplay by Jim Thomas and John Thomas. Produced by Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver, John Davis. Run Time: 107 minutes. USA. Color. Action, Adventure, Horror, Science Fiction

Quickly name a film from the 1980s that would feature two future governors. Hopefully, you know that answer from reading the credits, but Predator has this distinction. After making his name as pro-fitness and pro-after school care, Arnold Schwarzenegger managed to maneuver himself into becoming the Governor of California as part of the recall of Gray Davis in 2003. But former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura would beat him into the governor’s mansion, this one in Minnesota in 1998.

That bar bet settled, it’s a shame that the film wasn’t better than Predator.

The movie starts off with the science fiction angle. A spacecraft flying near Earth releases a bright object which enters the atmosphere.

Major Alan "Dutch" Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) arrives ahead of his team.

Cut to the Val Verde jungle. Major Alan "Dutch" Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his team — mercenary Mac Elliot (Bill Duke), tracker Billy Sole (Sonny Landham), gunner Blaine Cooper (Jesse Ventura), explosives expert Jorge "Poncho" Ramírez (Richard Chaves), and radio operator Rick Hawkins (Shane Black), are hired by a former commando and friend of Dutch’s, Colonel George Dillon (Carl Weathers) to rescue an official being held hostage by insurgents after the helicopter he was in crashes. Also present is Dutch’s old commander, General Phillips (R. G. Armstrong), who has instigated the meeting but does little else.

Dutch is initially happy to see a former colleague, Colonel George Dillon (Carl Weathers).

Who this official being held and who he works for is as nebulous as the insurgents. But Dutch takes the job before finding out that Dillon will accompany them.

The commandos are choppered behind enemy lines.

The team is choppered in and left behind enemy lines. They soon discover the wreckage of a chopper as well as three skinned corpses. No one can figure out why the rebels would do something like that. From one of the dog tags left behind, Dutch identifies them as members of a U.S. Army Special Forces unit he knew personally. So now the mission takes on a personal dimension.

What's left of a U.S. Army Special Forces unit.

When they reach the insurgent camp, even though they’re outnumbered, Dutch’s team is too much for the rebels and they kill everyone, save one, including a Soviet intelligence officer who has been searching through captured CIA documents. Dillon, when confronted by Dutch, admits that the three bodies they found had been sent in weeks earlier in a failed rescue attempt. The mission, Dillon confirms, was not so much to rescue an official as to get back the stolen intelligence.

Dutch's men destroy the insurgent camp.

The lone survivor of the guerilla is a woman named Anna (Elpidia Carrillo) whom Dillon insists on bringing back to base to interrogate. Dutch tells him that she is Dillon’s responsibility as the team proceeds to the extraction point.

Dutch's team is followed by the Predator using thermal imaging.

While Dutch’s team is ignorant of the fact they’re being tracked using thermal imaging, the audience is not.

Rick Hawkins (Shane Black) catches Anna, but in doing so becomes the first victim of the Predator.

Seeing her opportunity, Anna escapes and is chased down by Hawkins, but soon afterward, they are ambushed by the Creature. Anna is spared, but Hawkins is taken away.

Anna (Elpidia Carrillo) is spared by the Creature.

Dutch organizes a search party for him, during which Blaine is killed by a blast from the Creature’s plasma weapon.

Blaine (Jesse Ventura) is killed by a blast from the Creature's plasma weapon.

Enraged by the death of his friend, Mac initiates a firefight, laying down a massive amount of ammunition, still managing only to wound the Creature.

Dutch, Mac Elliot (Bill Duke), and tracker Billy Sole (Sonny
Landham) lay down a barrage of bullets at the Predator. 

The Creature bleeds a luminescent green fluid.

The Predator bleeds green luminescent fluid.

When the unit regroups, Anna, who can suddenly speak English, tells them that this is really nothing new to the jungle. She tells them that their stalker is a myth to locals, called "el demonio que hace trofeos de los hombres", or the demon who makes trophies of men.

Everyone is on eggshells knowing that the Creature is out there. During his watch, Mac mistakes a wild pig for the Creature and kills it. In the confusion, Blaine’s body is stolen by the Creature. Dutch figures out that their pursuer is using the trees to get around.

The next morning, the effort to bring the Creature out in the open fails, leaving Poncho injured. Mac, followed by Dillon, set out to engage the Creature, but they are both outwitted and pay the price. Later it catches up to the others, killing Billy and Poncho, but only wounding Dutch.

Dillon is no match for the Creature in one-on-one combat.

Dutch realizes that the Creature does not target unarmed prey, reasoning that there is no sport in that for it. He sends Anna, unarmed, to the extradition point with the now famous “Get to the Chopper!” line.

The Creature, still invisible to Dutch, chases him into the river, causing its cloaking device to malfunction, allowing Dutch to finally see it. Dutch crawls out of the river into a bank of mud and is surprised when the Creature, only feet away, doesn’t see or sense him. Dutch realizes that the mud is somehow masking him from the Creature’s sensors.

Dutch realizes that the mud interferes with the Predator's sensors.

The Creature skins his kill and removes the spinal columns from their bodies. While he’s doing that, Dutch lays down a series of traps and weapons, once again trying to draw the Creature out, this time using a war cry. While Dutch manages to disable the Creature’s cloaking device and inflict minor injuries, he is still cornered.

For some reason, the Creature, which is bigger and stronger than Dutch, decides to fight him mano y mano and removes his garb, including his weapons, to fight him. Dutch is still no match for the Creature’s strength but still manages to lure it into a trap, where he crushes it under a heavy counterweight.

The Predator chooses to fight Dutch in hand-to-hand combat.

As the Creature lays dying, Dutch can’t seem to bring himself to kill it. Instead, he asks “What the hell are you?” The Creature, which can mimic human voices, replies in a garble and while Dutch watches, activates a self-destruct weapon and laughs. Running away, Dutch manages to jump out of the way just in time as the bomb explodes.

The next morning, Dutch is rescued by his commander and finds Anna already on the copter. And the world is rid of the Predator until Predator 2 (1990) and then it’s LAPD officer Lieutenant Michael "Mike" R. Harrigan’s (Danny Glover) problem.

The film plays, somewhat unsuccessfully, with the idea of misdirection. As a rescue mission in the jungle turns into the Most Dangerous Game. This is something Psycho (1960) did so well, turning a story about embezzlement into a horror story; though the title of the film was a dead giveaway that there was going to be more to the story. Here, the surprise is destroyed in the beginning when we see that something has landed on Earth from out of this world. The attack of the Predator is to be expected, rather than come as a surprise of genius story-telling.

The pre-Governator Arnold is a likable movie star, though the word actor seems a little inappropriate. He is always playing the same sort of character during the 1980s, strong and deadly and usually with some sort of catchphrase. While “Get to the Chopper!” might not be as strong as say “I’ll be Back”, it is what passes here in Predator.

The group as a whole is less winning that its leader. Jesse Ventura is big and strong, but like Arnold, that is his role in films. Dutch’s men have enough testosterone between them for hundreds of teenage boys. The jokes are sexual, juvenile and lame. Hate to say it, they’re not a likable bunch, which works against audience sympathy as they are killed one by one. Perhaps if we cared a little more about them, then their deaths would have had more impact. Instead, their deaths are sort of a relief as they stand between Dutch and the ultimate showdown. The motivation for the Creature to decide to battle in hand-to-hand combat doesn’t seem right either. Few mindless hunters take it to that step with their prey and that’s all we are to this Creature, sport.

Some of the actors, Bill Duke in particular, seem to have trained at the Nicolas Cage school of scenery chewing. Subtlety is not one of the strong suits of these actors and while that is not required in most action films, it is always appreciated when it does happen. Elpidia Carrillo is only okay. There really is not much for her to do but run in this film.

The Predator (Kevin Peter Hall) is nightmare fuel.

The Creature, the Predator (played by Kevin Peter Hall), has an interesting design, though you have to wonder what evolutionary crisis his planet went through to end up with a mouth like he has. (Pretty and handsome must not be terms on his home planet.) While I get the comparison between the Predator and the stereotypical hunter, who sees anything below him on the animal scale as fodder for a trophy room, I don’t know of any hunters that have self-destruction kits strapped to themselves.

The fisticuffs seem a bit forced, one of those moments in a movie that doesn’t seem to be organic as much as if he doesn’t there is no way to kill him sorts of things. When you can see that come about, you know the film has flaws. In this case, big ones.

Made on a budget of about $18 million, the film would go on to gross about $100 million, so quality is not a criterion for success. As mentioned above, it was successful enough to spawn a sequel. But 20th Century Fox didn’t stop there. No, they combined two space monsters with Alien vs. Predator (2004); Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) before making Predators (2010). Not knowing when to stop, there is going to be The Predator planned for 2018 with a budget at about $50 million more than the original made.

The question, is, of course, whether or not I would recommend this film. If you’re a fan of Arnold’s and you haven’t seen Predator, then you should. It is somewhat typical for Schwarzenegger's sort of films from this period when he was mostly muscle with an accent. If you’re looking for a great film, then you should continue your hunt.

Be sure to check out other Horror films in our Horror Films Review Hub.

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