If it bleeds, we can kill it. Yeah, that’s the theory to beat the Predator, the alien hunter who visits our planet for sport and training every few years.
Of course, the reality is that just one of those creatures can rip through a platoon of muscle-bound G.I. Joes faster than a machete taking on a Kleenex. Of course, back in 1987 nobody really knew that. The most menacing aliens people had seen on screen were the Alien xenomorphs and the Ewoks. Besides, the film’s hero was the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’d pretty much established himself as THE action hero of the ‘80s and, in this case, he was going to be backed up by Action Jackson and Jesse “The Body” Ventura too. So what could go wrong when they met E.T.?
Well, these days we know the answer to that: Action Jackson gets disarmed (literally), while “The Body” gets a hole blasted through his chest. Oh, the irony. As for Schwarzenegger, he may make the Predator bleed but it’s mutual, and he’s lucky to get dragged off the field of battle alive at the end of the movie. That’s because the Predator means business. But was it really that good a film, and is the Predator really that damn good?
The movie starts with our heroic team of military steroid cases arriving in South America, where they’re given the job of rescuing a US official who’s been captured and taken hostage. Team Leader “Dutch” doesn’t trust the information he’s given, his team don’t like being saddled with a CIA agent who’s traded camouflage for a tie, and they’re a pretty offensive bunch all around. After blowing up every enemy in sight and failing to rescue the target, it turns out that their mission was bogus anyway. The thing is, none of that matters because they’ve now got a bigger problem:
They’re being hunted by the Predator.
He’s a thermal-scanning invisible killer, he’s armed with a plasma cannon, and he can bench-press a truck. This alien bad boy starts picking them off one by one as he hunts them for sport, working his way up to the top of the list. Before long, Dutch is the last man standing and he’s now unarmed. However, he’s also learned some of the Predator’s weaknesses, and it’s up to him to make a final stand for survival… and it’s a doozy!
I’m not going to give you a load of BS here and say that Predator is an excellent film. From a highbrow critical standpoint, the storyline is weak and pointless. The characters are obnoxious morons who sweat undiluted testosterone, the acting is pretty weak, and the dialogue is cringe-worthy. The Predator’s blind spot is actually a massive plot hole that the Mythbusters proved was a failure in mere seconds, and the film is little more than disposable entertainment.
And damn it if it isn’t also one of the most enjoyable movies ever made. Yes, for the highbrow film buff those may be flaws… but for the popcorn-munching action fan in all of us who just likes to see explosions, big guns and an intergalactic ass-kicking, it’s a must-see experience. There’s a reason why the Predator became an iconic sci-fi character, why the film became ingrained in the pop culture psyche and why people enjoy watching it more than Blade Runner: it’s dumb, simple, action-packed fun.
So now that’s out of the way, the other question was whether the Predator is that much of a badass. The answer? Hell yes! Okay, so he gets beaten, but the joy of this film is that our heroes – like the audience – genuinely have no clue about who or what he is, or why he’s doing what he’s doing. The mystery of him is half the fun. Even in the sequel, the underrated Predator 2, the Predator is still awesome even though we think we already know all about his species. The one featured in that film was younger and had some new tricks up his sleeve – in other words, the Predators adapt… and that’s what makes them even cooler.
Plus, the Predators aren’t really villains and their species are more than just mindless drones like the xenomorphs from the Alien films. They’re of a different culture from humanity, but it works for them and they’re smart. They display an astonishing amount of honour, and they don’t kill for the sake of it. For dumb action movie characters, they’re not just one-dimensional, and in the original film that aspect to the Predator makes him as fascinating as he is terrifying. The original film may be a Schwarzenegger movie, but astonishingly his huge presence is equalled by his adversary.
At the time, Schwarzenegger ruled the action movie kingdom. But a hero is only as impressive as the villains they fight. Having easily dispatched every human being in his way in earlier films (plus some monsters in the Conan films), it made sense that his ultimate adversary would have to come from beyond the stars. Together, after the initial firefights, the two put on a display of cat-and-mouse combat and survival skills worthy of MacGyver and Solid Snake. The action is replaced with tension, and while this may not be a book-smart movie it has enough street smarts and savvy to dial it down.
That’s what makes this movie tick. It checks all the right boxes at all the right moments, sucking viewers in and then winning them over by switching tracks. It’s still as dumb now as it was then, but it’s also as fun now as it was then too. If you lived through the 1980s, Predator was essential viewing… and it still is, even by today’s standards.