Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
Wow. Predator turns 27 in June. To celebrate Big Ross will be taking a look back at Schwarzenegger’s best action film (and all that followed) with a series of articles published every week in the month of May.
I was reading about one of my favorite action movies, Predator on Wikipedia, and I’m flabbergasted that it was generally panned by critics upon its release back in the summer of ‘87 (I also can’t believe I was eight when it came out; FUCK I’m old). At least the late, great Roger Ebert recognized some of the greatness of the film, giving it three out of four stars, and it makes a fairly respectable showing on several “best action movies of all time” lists. Me? I’d give it five stars and put it in the top 10 at least. It just doesn’t get much better than Predator, and that’s what I’ll be examining, and hopefully justifying, in this series of articles. I’ll be posting one a week every Monday.
“Tissue-Thin Plot”? No Such Thing, Good Buddy
One common criticism of Predator is the lack of plot, which has been alternatively described as “thin”, “rather pointless”, “tissue-thin”, empty, feeble, and dull. Film critics, methinks thou doth protest too much! But let’s talk about plot for a minute. There is a distinction to be made between a plot that is thin and one that is simple. The former has a negative connotation that implies something is weak or somehow insufficient. The latter can denote something is uncomplicated, lucid, or elegant. IMHO, movies these days, especially action and scifi movies, suffer from bloated, convoluted, logically inconsistent, and just plain confusing plots that fail to hold up to any intellectual scrutiny whatsoever. See The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, Star Trek Into Darkness, Interstellar, and many many more for prime examples of this. Screenwriters seem to mistake bloated, convoluted plots for smart ones. It’s a mistake very often made to the detriment of a film’s enjoyment, and it’s an unfortunate trend that shows little sign of fading. A simple plot that makes sense and is logically sound is, again IMHO, far more enjoyable and satisfying (see the recent, oh so excellent, and simply plotted John Wick, as an example). That, my friends, is what we get with Predator.
Dutch (Schwarzenegger) and his team of elite commandos are brought to a military base in an unnamed Central American country by the general in charge. A local government “cabinet minister” was traveling on the wrong side of the border when his helicopter was shot down by rebels. Dutch and his team are tasked with covertly rescuing the cabinet minister. Dillon (Carl Weathers) is an old friend and brother-in-arms of Dutch’s who has not only requested their help, but plans to accompany them on the mission. After finding the downed chopper and while tracking the rebels, Dutch’s team encounters a group of dead bodies, men who have been skinned and hung from a tree. Dutch learns one of them was a man named General Hopper, “a Green Beret out of Fort Bragg” whose presence and grisly murder are both mysteries. After reaching the rebel camp and defeating the rebels therein, but not before the hostages are killed, Dutch deduces that the “cabinet minister” was actually a CIA agent, and he finds a large cache of weapons and several (now deceased) Soviet nationals, indications that “something very big was about to happen.” Upon confronting Dillon, Dutch learns that he and his team were deemed “expendable assets” and indeed duped and used as a hit squad to eliminate the rebels – with extreme prejudice. Mission accomplished, and yet this first third of the film really only sets up the major plotline of the movie: being hunted by the Predator.
As Dutch and his team race to a safe extraction point, the Predator – a bipedal alien with advanced weaponry and technology that hunts only the most dangerous of prey for sport – begins killing them one at a time. The tension grows as their numbers dwindle, their fear increasing as they become more and more convinced that whatever is hunting them is not human. The final act of the movie sees Dutch the lone survivor of his team, resolved to fight and defeat the monster that has killed his friends, or die trying.
This plot is so good because it’s simple. In the first act we’re introduced to our team of commandos. We see their badassery on full display as they assault a guerilla camp, thus proving them to be worthy of the Predator’s attention. In the second act the hunt begins, and it’s kill or be killed. In the final act, it’s Dutch vs. the Predator, mano e mano. Though really, why am I wasting my time and yours with a description that you have to read? The original theatrical trailer tells you everything you need to know (and maybe a little too much, uh, spoiler warning guys?)
Come back next Monday for a look at the special effects that brought the Predator to life, and the ones that almost didn’t!