Directed by: John McTiernan
Premise: This 1987 film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the leader of a Special Forces group on a mission in South America. After destroying a terrorist camp, the group is stalked by a mysterious alien that is hunting them for sport.
What Works: Unlike a lot of Schwarzenegger’s early pictures, Predator holds up very well and still looks good seventeen years later. One of the film’s strongest points is in the creature itself; this is one of the only villains in a Schwarzenegger film that actual seems to intimidate Arnold and is a plausible threat to him. The Predator is an exaggerated reflection of mankind; it has superior technology, but it uses that technology destructively rather than constructively. The weapons the creature uses combine the technological and the primitive; they are edged weapons with technological conveniences. Its body armor contains sophisticated machinery but it is also decorated with skulls and bones. The creature hunts the men and eliminates them quite effortlessly and without pity, much in the same way that the platoon kills the entire terrorist camp early in the film. The film’s structure reflects a decent into savagery akin to Lord of the Flies as Schwarzenegger gradually sheds his civilized elements in order to survive.
What Doesn’t: Although the characters are given some depth, they are based off of the template for a Western and some the characters, like Billy, the Indian guide, do not evolve much from that stereotype.
DVD extras: The DVD reissue of Predator contains a second disc full of features on the making of picture. The most interesting extras include a look at the early Predator design and the story about making the picture. McTiernan provides a commentary track on the feature and provides insight into the technical process of making the picture. Those interested in film studies will want to take a look at the text commentary that gives some insight to the larger issues and meanings of the film.
Bottom Line: Like Jaws, Predator is a deceptively simple film that has many layers of meaning. It stands as one of both Schwarzenegger and McTiernan’s best films and this reissue is a worthy package for fans.
Episode: #15 (August 22, 2004)