Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
Wow. Predator turns 27 in June. To celebrate Big Ross has been taking a look back at Schwarzenegger’s best action film (and all that followed) with a series of articles all month long. This week Big Ross heaps yet more praise on the Predator and its final battle with Dutch.
You Lose it Here, You’re in a World of Hurt
Often a hero is defined and judged by the quality of their villains, which is why Batman is often favored over Superman. One problem that has plagued Schwarzenegger, perhaps more than any other action movie star is a lack of quality villains. Specifically, you’d be hard-pressed to find a villain who’s a physical match for Schwarzenegger. I realize that’s a tall order, but in some movies it’s like they weren’t even trying. In Commando his nemesis was a chubby Freddie Mercury impersonator in a chainmail tank top as Bennett. In Red Heat it was character actor Ed O’Ross as a Russian gangster. In The Running Man it was Richard Dawson as an evil game show host (you could argue the stalkers were a threat, but watch it again, they weren’t). In Total Recall it was Michael Ironside (who is still bad ass but not a real physical threat) or Ronny Cox (Cohaagen) who is even less of a threat. In Kindergarten Cop it was Richard Tyson as Cullen Crisp (really?) In True Lies it was a skinny little terrorist. In Eraser it was James Caan. In Jingle All the Way it was freakin’ Sinbad.
This is a big reason why.Predator Is my favorite Schwarzenegger film. Here, more than in any of his other movies, seems to be not just an equal, but a superior foe. Here for the first and maybe only time, Schwarzenegger seems afraid, and that fear is justified. I also love the fact that Schwarzenegger/Dutch doesn’t beat the Predator. Not really. Yes he wins. The Predator is killed, Dutch’s team is avenged, and Dutch escapes with his life. But it is clear that he can’t beat the Predator in a fight. The Predator is going kill him. Behold:
Fuck. Just a moment, here. Look, I know Schwarzenegger is often lampooned for his wooden acting (maybe that’s where the “Austrian Oak” nickname came from), and rightly so. I’ve done it myself. But look at his face in that scene, look at his eyes. I for one buy that he’s scared, maybe not out of his mind, but scared. Also the mere fact that he’s constantly having to look upward at the Predator is a great little touch that shows the size disadvantage he’s dealing with. Good stuff. So he can’t win in a “fair fight”, but even the trap that Dutch laid for the Predator fails as Dutch intended it.
I actually missed this the first couple times I watched the movie, everything happens so fast. The preparations that Dutch makes prior to the final battle with the Predator include a trap, a sort “last ditch resort” that he can fall back to if all else fails. The way the trap is supposed to work is that the Predator follows Dutch down a shallow ravine and trips the trap by dislodging a stick, causing a counterweight to fall and pull the Predator up via rope vines into spikes Dutch has lashed (and rather poorly and almost comically hidden with leaves) to a tree root/branch straddling the ravine overhead. The Predator immediately perceives the trap and what Dutch wants it to do (“Come on! Do it! Kill me I’m here!”) and promptly flanks the trap to oblige Dutch and add his skull to its trophy collection. Without the last second, quick thinking audible by Dutch, this movie would have had a very different ending. And honestly, it’s dumb luck that the Predator ends up perfectly positioned under the tree trunk counterweight. There’s even a Wile E. Coyote-in-the-shadow-of-the-boulder OH SHIT moment just before it is crushed. And even then, the Predator is not dead. It is mortally injured but still alive when it attempts to “take Dutch with it” when it activates a self-destruct sequence on its wrist computer.
But again, I love this ending. No flippant one-liner. No slow walk away from an explosion. No standing tall and victorious, with grave injuries that are laughed off as mere flesh wounds. No. Here Dutch runs, frantically, for his life, barely escaping the blast radius. He is rescued and picked up by an army chopper, and the last image is of Dutch broken, bloodied, covered in dirt and ash, mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. His eyes stare listlessly into the distance, then glance back and down toward the jungle, and the horrors he barely survived there.
HOLY SHIT. FUCKING BRILLIANT.
Come back next week when Big Ross looks at the sequels that followed Predator, which include not only the good but also the bad & ugly!