My main review shall be out tonight, people, but due to the delay, I thought I would give you a bonus review of a classic 80s hit on top of my later review. Enjoy.
Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke
Plot: A group of marines are sent into Central America to rescue a Presidential candidate from guerrilla forces, unaware they are being tracked…
John McTiernan could have accidentally become one of my favourite directors. There is arguably never any moment during his films, where we are amazed by his directing trademarks. I cannot recognise any trademark signatures, as we would expect with Shane Black or Tarantino. There isn’t even a directing style or acting technique that sets him apart from other household names. Yet his name is often attached to some of my favourite action movies, therefore suggesting that he must be doing something right.
Predator is one of those awesome action movies that has cemented itself into my childhood. It has appealed to both the Sci-Fi fans and the action fans. My main problem with Sci-Fi is that it often comes with painful amounts of exposition as universes and alien races must be explained in order to begin the story. Predator cannot be bothered with any of that story-telling crap. It gives us one of the most loved alien species in cinema universe (arguably the most – although I prefer the Ridley Scott kind of alien!), without ever delving into what or why. Seeing as the Predator’s culture has been explored to death in sequels, it is easy to forget the enigmatic entrance of this fan-loved monster. We have no idea what it really is; only that is dangerous and technologically advanced. McTiernan merely implies this and then begins killing things with it.
The rest of the exposition, namely character building, is done so smoothly, it is barely recognisable. We are introduced to Arnie and Weathers, instantly getting the impression that they are cool and strong. The rest of the characters are developed in a single opening montage, as they head into battle in a helicopter, Long Tall Sally blaring out of the radio. All it takes is less than two minutes and we already feel attached to these characters, which is impressive seeing as, other than Arnie, there aren’t really any A-List stars in this cast. Sure, it was a time before we demanded more complex characters, but I think this is the fastest I have ever grown empathetic with a whole ensemble of movie characters. The film moves swiftly on, setting up the story. Technically the first battle is the exposition of this movie. How awesome is that!
I also enjoy how Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t really take away from this film. Although he is the main star, it never quite feels like an Arnie vehicle. Mainly this is due to the Predator being the true star of the movie. I think that credit is also due in McTiernan’s direction, as it takes some skill to cast Arnie in your movie and still make it something more than a stupid action flick. Even the Terminator movies, despite having a complex and intriguing plot, have never really escaped the shadow of Schwarzenegger. Predator succeeds at doing this.
The pace of the film is also perfect. This is the kind of film that B Movies have been trying to copy for a while now, but they have never managed to capture the tone. Take The Wrong Turn for example, which features characters running from a monster through a jungle. The action cut between the moments where the monster caught up with them, whereas McTiernan allows us to catch our breath in between action sequences and lets his characters grow a bit. It is a nice touch that lets the audience know how in control of this movie the director really is. I also like how the Predator is slowly revealed throughout the film, another feature lost on some of the sequels of the franchise.
The highlight of the film is definitely the final showdown between Arnie and the Predator, which doesn’t come across as ridiculous at it sounds. It is something that has become one of the expected features in each movie. The fight is the climax that the movie has been promising to deliver for a while now and deserves applause for actually fulfilling its expectations, something that most movies of this genre seem to never manage to achieve. An all-round success of a movie.
Final verdict: Opens up an interesting story without ever getting slowed down by narrative. The real sign of how good this movie is not this review, but the cult following that surrounds it.