El Bicho's Hive

A Collection of Reviews Covering the Worlds of Art and Entertainment alongside other Snobbish Ramblings.

Monday, August 30, 2004



PREDATOR (1987)

Directed by John McTiernan
Written by Jim Thomas & John Thomas

I was certain I had seen Predator before. Not sure when, but years ago. I mean, I’d seen plenty of Arnold’s stuff during the ‘80s: Conan, Commando, Running Man, etc. I knew the plot was about Arnold and company being in a jungle on the run from an invisible, alien killer. I even knew what the Predator looked like unmasked, so why didn’t I recognize anything while I watched the film?

Before continuing my review of the new 2-DVD set of Predator, I must take a moment and stroll through the groves of academe because what the apple was to Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation, my recent viewing of Predator has become for me: leading to a discovery of the mind that unites the works of Carl Jung, Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman.

Our minds are evolving to handle both an overwhelming amount of information, most of it trivial, such as anything related to Paris Hilton that doesn’t involve porn, and the accelerated speed at which the information bombards us. In order to cope with this inundation, I believe the mind has created the A.E.T. (Appearing on Entertainment Tonight) filter that passes some useless information to the unconscious for processing. This new activity has made the unconscious mind more receptive while keeping the conscious mind clear for important information like political ads.

Now to answer the question I posed earlier, since 1987, many people have experienced Predator and other related elements, such as comic books and video games. So much so that a saturation point in the collective unconscious has been reached, causing memories to back up, not always returning to their point of origin. With our unconscious minds being more receptive as stated earlier we are able to learn about and even talk about trivial matters we know nothing about. This is known as “cupco,” collective unconscious pop culture osmosis. How else to explain my mother knowing who Usher is?

To those of you considering nominating me for a Nobel Prize in physiology, I will continue my dissertation at a later date. To the rest of my readers, let me finish my DVD review while you are still conscious.

I was surprised by how good Predator is. It keeps the viewer guessing by changing styles throughout. The film starts as a military action film like Chuck Norris movies of the mid to late ‘80’s. In the jungles of Central America, Arnold and his men are given a mission that is more than likely going to require a lot of gunfire and explosives. However, just as they are about to complete their mission, they find themselves in a horror film; something is killing the men one by one, reminiscent of a slasher film. Finally, the film becomes science fiction, as Arnold must go it alone against the killer, who is revealed to be an alien hunter.

The entire movie crew does a fantastic job. I am most impressed with the script. It’s very ambitious for a summer action flick. Not only the mixing of genres, but to watch as the story starts off big and loud and gets smaller and more intimate. There’s almost no dialogue during the final battles between Arnold and the Predator. I’m glad they stuck with it and didn’t worry about losing the audience. The visual effects for the Predator’s heat vision as well as his camouflage are masterful. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, but lost to Innerspace, a comedy version of Fantastic Voyage, that did nothing for me, except give me the impetus to shout drunken insults at its stars Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan at the conclusion of David Bowie’s Glass Spider tour in Anaheim. Director McTiernan does a great job juggling all the elements and creating one unified, coherent movie. You would not know this was his first feature.

In regards to the DVD, the commentary tracks are interesting and provide good information on the making of the film. Everyone seems honest in their remembrances as they describe the highs and lows. More than one person mentions the troubles they had, especially those involved with the creation of the first Predator, which looked like a creature with a rubber turkey head. On the bonus material disc, you can see evidence of this in the Predator Special Effects section. They shot a guy in a big red foam suit running around that they would use to insert the creature effects at a later date. This wasn’t working so they enlisted the talents of legend Stan Winston who created a Predator everyone was happy with. There’s audio commentary by director McTiernan. He had very interesting stories to tell about working on the film, such as how disappointed he was with the basic set-ups during the second unit scenes. He wanted something more visual and the second unit director just lets the action unfold before the camera. There’s also a text commentary that appears on screen as subtitles with input from a wide selection of the crew.

We hear that the production was shut down for a while, which turned out to be a good thing according to those involved, but I wasn’t completely sure the reason. Yes, there were problems with the monster, but I got the sense there was more to I than that.

There are some very good, candid interviews in a documentary whose title comes from the Arnold quote, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” It is put together from footage shot during the production as well as interviews conducted 15 years later with the cast, except for Arnold and Jesse, who are the two you’d most like to see. Similar footage is combined in the menu selection called Inside Predator where they discuss specific topics of the making of the film like production design, make-up and a segment dedicated to Painless, Jesse’s Gatling gun.

My only negative is that there wasn’t much to the deleted scenes and outtakes. This group of guys had to have some pretty funny behind-the-scenes stuff. It must have been so raunchy that it couldn’t be released to the public for fears of affecting future political ambitions.

I would definitely recommend this set for fans of the film. If you haven’t seen it yet, rent it first if you have any doubts, but you will find that you want it in your trophy case, er, I mean DVD shelf. I know you might be scared to commit due to how often DVDs get re-released and repackaged as bigger and better versions. I am having a conniption right now over yet another version of Dr. Strangelove coming out. But fear not; the only way 20th Century Fox can top the material in this edition is to get current interviews with Arnold and Jesse, and I that won’t happen until at least one of them finishes his terms as President.