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 takes on the onerous task of looking at the sequels.
Don’t Worry Asshole, You’ll Get Another Chance
Sequels. Let’s talk about sequels. Predator 2 came out in 1990. It changed locales from the literal jungle of Central America to the urban jungle of a gang war ravaged Los Angeles of the near future (it was set in 1997). Instead of Army special forces, we meet a team of cops led by Lt. Mike Harrigan, played by Danny Glover. To paraphrase a tag line from the movie poster, a.Predator has come to town with a few days to kill. Harrigan and his team are caught in the middle not only of a gang war, and the Predator’s hunt, but also of a covert plan by government spooks led by special agent Peter Keyes (Gary Busey) to capture the Predator alive for study.
Predator 2 is a solid action movie that holds up nearly as well as the original, though it suffers a bit from the obviously 90s fashion/wardrobe. The change in scenery keeps the proceedings fresh, and there is some nice world building that makes the Predator universe even more interesting. We also have this movie, and the easter egg of a xenomorph skull in the Predator trophy room to thank (for better or worse) for the Aliens vs. Predator franchise of comic books, video games, and movies.
Sidenote: Back in the 90s this crossover spawned many other “Aliens vs.” and “Predator vs.” limited series with established comic book characters. Perhaps my favorite (and the only one I’ve actually ever read) is the Elseworlds tale Batman vs. Predator. Published in 1991 and written by Dave Gibbons with art by Andy Kubert, it’s a really solid story that perfectly meshes these two franchises. Admittedly, I haven’t read this in years, so I can’t say if it holds up or if my opinion is colored by nostalgia. One thing that is great is this Batman vs. Predator fan film, Batman Dead End, which you can watch for free via YouTube:
While the comics and games are pretty good, the AvP movies are utterly terrible. It seems that every wrong decision that could have been made was made. It’s like the filmmakers approached every decision and asked, “what’s the worst possible thing we could do?” Setting the movies on Earth in contemporary time, making the Predators ancient aliens, completely missing the opportunity to make the humans a viable threat by having colonial marines, the Predalien, UGGHH. How were there TWO of these things made? I would advise you avoid watching them and disavow their existence.
In 2010 Robert Rodriguez produced a sequel/reboot called Predators (I see what you did there and I am only mildly amused). Much to the chagrin of fans due to his rather unimpressive physique, it starred Adrian Brody as the protagonist/hero. This movie was enjoyable on a first viewing, but it has not aged well for me.
Predators is 90% ostensible homage that actually amounts to little more than callbacks and on-the-nose references to the first film; the remaining 10% is nonsense that is supposed to be innovative. The cast of Predator was quite diverse for its time (and would still be today). Dutch, Blaine and Hawkins were white (though Dutch could arguably be European while the latter two are American. Poncho, despite the unfortunate name, was Hispanic. Mac and Dillon were both African American, and Billy was Native American. And Anna, though not a member of the team at the beginning certainly proves a valuable member by the end and is a Latina woman. I would argue that this cast feels pretty natural. By that I mean with the exception of Dutch and Anna, the races of the rest of the characters weren’t pre-determined. At least, it doesn’t feel that way to me. The cast of Predators is equally diverse, but feels much more forced and arbitrary.
The premise goes like this. Eight people are abducted from disparate locales around the world and all quite literally dropped in the middle of a jungle. This jungle, by the way, turns out to be a “game preserve” on an alien planet where the Predators bring prey to hunt. All eight of these people are deadly killers: Royce (Brody) is an Army Special Forces soldier turned mercenary (white guy). Isabelle is an Israeli Defense Force sniper (Jewish woman). Stans is a death row inmate, serial killer, and rapist. (also a white guy). Nikolai is a Russian Spetsnaz commando (white (Russian) guy). Hanzo is a Yakuza enforcer (Japanese guy). Mombasa is a Sierra Leone Revolutionary United Front death squad soldier (African guy). Cuchillo is a Mexican drug cartel enforcer (Hispanic guy). Edwin is a seemingly harmless doctor who turns out to be a psychopathic serial killer (another white guy). Actually, Predators isn’t as diverse as I thought, nor as much as the original.
And while I don’t think this cast is so arbitrary as to be the result of studio notes (“Maybe you could have a more international, multiracial cast to broaden appeal?”) it seems the result of an initially cool though poorly thought out idea. Why these eight people, and only these eight people? Why this combination of such disparate individuals? Why not an entire platoon of Russian commandos? Or an entire cell block of hardened, violent convicts? And exactly how were they chosen? Specifically, how in the name of N’rygoth’s pustulent ballsack was Edwin chosen? I’ll grant you the other seven, but Edwin? IT MAKES NO SENSE. The Predators would have had to monitor the entire planet and its roughly 7 BILLION people and find some evidence that this one guy is not the mild mannered doctor he purports to be, but is in fact a sociopath who murders people, presumably in secret. HOW DO THEY KNOW THIS? I think the reason this upsets me so much goes back to the first article in this series, wherein I lamented the rise of overly convoluted plots in movies today. Predators is no exception.
The filmmakers, rather than simply saying, “Hey guys! We know you love the Predator. We love him too. It’s why we’re making this sequel/reboot. But the original movie is over 20 years old. We want to update the look of the Predator, modernize him a bit. We want to leave our mark on this iconic movie monster, while still keeping true to the spirit and vision of Stan Winston. We hope you like what we’ve done.”, no instead of that, they went ahead and modernized and updated the look of the Predators, but kept the original design too. They created (get ready) SUPER PREDATORS, which are basically larger, stronger versions of the regular “classic” Predators, but still kept the “classic Predator” in the movie. Noland (Laurence Fishburne), a soldier who has managed to survive for multiple hunting “seasons,” is found by the group and gives them a bunch of exposition thusly:
Why are there different breeds of Predators? Why are they in a blood feud? More importantly, how in the world does Noland know they are in a blood feud? It’s so unnecessarily complex. The classic Predator itself is unnecessary. It doesn’t do anything essential to the plot. It could be removed completely and nothing would change. Two more complaints, and then I promise I’m done.
You saw Noland in the clip above. When the group first encounters him, he literally appears out of nowhere when he deactivates a Predator cloaking device and then removes a Predator mask he was wearing. On the one hand, humans salvaging and using Predator tech is insanely cool, but this is ultimately wasted in this movie. Why is Noland using a cloaking device? It will do no good at hiding him from the Predators, as it has been clearly established they primarily see in infrared. The cloaking device only bends visible light waves, so even when cloaked he’d be giving off heat and visible to the Predators. Also, why is he wearing the mask? It seems to primarily offer two functions: 1) providing an optimal atmosphere for the Predator to breathe and 2) serving as a means to filter ambient heat from potential targets. Neither of these uses would be helpful to Noland. There is no point in him wearing it, other than for the “cool” unmasking moment in front of the other humans. ARGLEBARGLE.
At the film’s climax, when it’s pretty much Royce versus that last SUPER PREDATOR (oh yeah, there are three of them), there’s this big reveal where Royce stands in front of the SUPER PREDATOR holding a torch, and he’s covered in mud. Obviously, this is a reference to Dutch using (cold) mud as camouflage to conceal his body heat from the Predator’s heat-based vision at the end of Predator. But here, Royce then throws down the torch, igniting a ring of some flammable material creating a conflagration and so much heat that it overloads the SUPER PREDATOR’S vision, allowing Royce to move and strike at will. Simple question. WHY IS ROYCE COVERED IN MUD?
Honestly, someone please give me an explanation that makes any sense other than the filmmakers saying, “Well, Schwarzenegger was covered in mud at the end of the first movie, so we should have our hero covered in mud too.” Because that’s all I can come up with.
As much I would like more Predator movies, I would not want them to be sequels to Predators, sharing its setting and formula. Actually, this is a great opportunity to pitch my idea for a Predator sequel. Though I’ve rambled on more than enough for this week.
Come back next week when Big Ross unveils his pitch for Predator 3!