Tuesday, October 16, 2012
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.