Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Predator



1987 ***

The Predator franchise has always honked me off and I'm gonna tell you why.

Even though the first Aliens Vs. Predator movie didn't happen until 2004, the idea surfaced in comic books as early as 1989, only two years after Predator came out. So the Alien Vs. Predator idea has been floating around for a long time, making it seem acceptable and fairly cool. But it is neither of those things.

The Predators as villains are science fiction chaff, leftovers, B-sides -- they're the unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bag. Compared to the Aliens, they're a pathetic batch of third-banana Charlies, stone-cold losers in both concept and design. Just look at the score card:


The creature from Alien is pure horror in all of its aspects. It gets inside you, eats its way out of you, or stalks you and kills you where you stand. The creature is The Other, the creature is Death.

It was designed mad Swiss artist H.R. Giger, who gave us a giant ghoul hand that grips your face, a phallic segmented snake that rips out of your chest, and a walking biomechanical nightmare with no eyes and metallic teeth that will find you.


The Predators, on the other hand, are a warrior race that thrill to hunt, so they head to high-temperature combat zones on Earth to seek out the greatest challenges, armed only with their superior strength and agility, invisibility cloaks, infrared vision, humongous switchblade bracelets, shoulder-mounted laser guns that automatically follow their gaze -- wait, what?

In other words, the Predators are the gun-loving rednecks of the galaxy, who like to spend their summers getting drunk in the woods and feeling like Big Boy Aliens for killing creatures that have overwhelming physical and technological disadvantages. For a human to have the Predator experience, he'd have to go to a planet full of skinny, weak midgets who are all painted bright yellow and armed only with sharp sticks that they can't use too good because they're also blind.

And while Predator designer Stan Winston is a genius, he was pulled in well beyond the last minute and was literally designing the creature on the plane on his way to the first meeting. The result is above: the head is a silly combo of pinball-flipper mandibles and space dreadlocks, and the rest is a fishnet bodysuit with leather accents over forgettably mottled alien flesh, sort of like a 'roided out Steve Irwin from another planet.

The Predators are just a bunch of assholes. I've always deeply resented the casual way in which they were considered equals of the Giger Alien and its descendants, and were it not for that grand cultural error I doubt the Predator flicks would be on my list. It feels like if someone paired Wallace and Gromit with Scrappy Doo.

Now here's an odd fact: last week was the very first time I've viewed this movie from start to finish. I've found it in progress a few times in my life and watched to the end, but I'd never seen the beginning. If I had, it wouldn't have changed my mind at all. The beginning is where most of the uncomfortable Reagan-era macho comes in, like when Jesse Ventura offers chewing tobacco to everyone and says "Faggots!" when they decline. The only scene of note that I'd missed was the "badasses take out the enemey stronghold" scene, a clumsy array of machine guns and explosions with such a lackluster effort at narrative it felt like Michael Bay's whole playbook.

For all my bitching, I have to admit it does evolve into a worthwhile action flick by the end, and hence I grudgingly hand it three stars. But if a Predator comes to your night club, do what I do and make him wait behind the velvet ropes until he gets frustrated and goes home. He won't make trouble because he knows deep down he's crap, and he knows he ain't fooling us.

10 comments:

JPX said...

“The Predators as villains are science fiction chaff, leftovers, B-sides -- they're the unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bag.” You’re on fire, Octo, so many great quotes in your review! Admittedly I’ve never really liked the Predator films. I’m not even sure how many there are and I’m too lazy to look it up. I know I saw the first 2 at least once and one of the Alien Vs. Predator flicks but they really did nothing for me. I remember being annoyed by the original Predator because the Predators were invisible half the time, which is such a lame way to save money on a movie budget. I do remember that there was some good action by time the film wrapped up but not enough for me to ever watch it again.
“For a human to have the Predator experience, he'd have to go to a planet full of skinny, weak midgets who are all painted bright yellow and armed only with sharp sticks that they can't use too good because they're also blind.” Ha, what a terrific and hilarious observation! I never really thought about it before but you’re right, humans would be such easy prey; where’s the fun in that? They should hunt one another for more of a challenge. Also, like the Klingons on Star Trek, how does such a hostile, primitive species get it together to build spaceships, weapons, etc? Are there scientist Predators? Can they have reasonable discourse?

Catfreeek said...

"like a 'roided out Steve Irwin from another planet." ~ Hahaha I almost blew coffee out my nose.

DCD said...

Favorite review to date! I laughed throughout this whole thing. The midget with sticks who are blind was hilarious!

Johnny Sweatpants said...

I agree with the gang, almost every sentence in that review is quotable. "Gun loving rednecks of the galaxy" = priceless!

I actually like the look of the Predators, "space dreadlocks" and all. I haven't seen this one in well over a decade but I like all of Swarzennegger's 80's flicks. Also I seem to recall Jesse Ventura utilizing some awesome super gun that mows down trees.

Landshark said...

So totally agree with all of this. I've never seen past the first one, and never understood how this lame Rambo-esque franchise somehow got anointed worthy of being paired with Alien. More a money grab by the folks with the rights to Alien, I guess.

Anyway, fantastic review. Though the Alien one is classic high level film criticism that shames us all. This is more just really funny and clever and true. (If we're ranking Octo reviews now...)

Crystal Math said...

I agree with everyone (and you) that you've got a lot of sharp observations here but I have to question the extent of your experience with Earth Rednecks before you extrapolate toward Space Rednecks.

I hate that "redneck" "culture" promotes ignorance but if the Predator species have mastered inter-galactic travel how ignorant can they be? MY issue is that you never see a female Predator and can't come to any sort of conclusion about how they pro-create; I would argue that the Predator franchise is more of a gender issue than a class issue. You could also make a case for racism based on the "space dreads" decor.

[On a side note this makes me want to expedite the delivery of Zombie Rednecks to my mailbox.]

The primary thing I disagree with is that I love, LOVE, LOVE the Predator series. The bad-assery of Jesse Ventura & Schwarzennstuff are priceless and just as quotable as your review. Moreover, the space parallel that is drawn that not only are other species out there, but they are just as obsessed with collecting the flesh and bodies of dead things as we are.

AC said...

predator is one of my favorite straight-ahead action flicks. for me, it works perfectly as is.

Octopunk said...

Hmm. You're making some assumptions about what I'm actually applying here; I'm not saying they're ignorant, I'm saying they like hunting things that can't fight back for sport, and I've known enough Earth rednecks who get excited about shooting things in the woods to know that stereotype has some truth.

And how do you know you've never seen a female? They could all be females.

I am glad to see some fans of the series sounding off. This movie didn't really affect me one way or the other at first, it was only after the Aliens got slummed in with it that I got annoyed.

Trevor said...

Does this mean you aren't gonna review Predator 2, when Danny Glover chases them in LA amongst early '90s club goers? (yeah, that really was the sequel).

50PageMcGee said...

i'm trying to envision scenarios in which octo has met "enough" earth rednecks.

i'm picturing it as him taking a flight to birmingham, alabama for...business, i guess. he goes into a bar to take in the local...color, i guess -- or should i be using a different word there. he's talking to a guy named gus. gus is wearing a CAT hat and a plaid shirt and keeps throwing his arm around octo's neck and saying, "awww, buddy!" then another guy in a plaid shirt and a CAT hat steps up to the bar and lifts both hands with three fingers up each and bellows, "gimme three jackn'cokes!" and gus is like, "did i introduce you to my friend earvin?"

and octo, through gritted teeth is like, "yeah. we've met."