In the aftermath of Aliens, but before Die Hard came a film that combined the iconic alien killer with the tough as nails action hero to create a cult classic action film. The story of the Predator, it is claimed, began properly on a plane flight to Japan. Artist Stan Winston was working on the design of a creature created by script-writing brothers John and Jim Thomas and to be used in the new John McTiernan film, simply titled Predator.
His travelling companion, James Cameron, was working on Aliens. His follow-up to Ridley Scott’s Alien, had taken the now iconic H.R. Giger-designed Xenomorphs and blended them with all the best parts of a muscle-bound, testosterone-fuelled 1980s action film and nearly created perfection. While looking at the sketches for how the Predator should look, he casually said I always wanted to see something with mandibles. The mandibles were added and the Predator was born.
With a terrifying new creature in place, it was down to director McTiernan and star Arnold Schwarzenegger do the rest of the heavy lifting with regards pacing and central performance. McTiernan, reaching the apex of his career and one year away from Die Hard creates a tense atmosphere throughout. Sure the dialogue is a little cheesy and often nonsensical, but with Arnie in fine form and a supporting cast including Jesse Ventura and Predator has earned it’s place as one of the finest action films of all time.
Major ˜Dutch’ Schaeffer (Schwarzenegger) and his elite group of marines are sent to Guatemala to rescue a Presidential Cabinet Minister and his aide after they’re abducted by guerrilla forces. On entering the jungle, the team encounter a cloaked alien life form that begins to hunt and kill them in a ritualistic manner. Not used to dealing with such an advanced form of technology the team begin to panic andit’s left up to Dutch to try and save the day.
Often regarded as a ˜cult classic’ rather than anything else, Predator‘s tight script keeps the action moving along at a great pace and there’s rarely any time for the audience to worry about the lack of character development. Predator is basically a slasher horror in its layout but with rock-hard, muscle-bound marines being picked off one-by-one rather than drunk, stupid teenagers. Also, if you really wanted to analyse the proceedings, you could see Predator as a subversion of classic action film gender roles, with the incredibly masculine team defeated and killed by the ˜feminine’ Predator. But that might be reading too much into it.
Predator is often mentioned as an afterthought to the obviously superior Aliens, a view reinforced by the Alien vs. Predator sequels that came later on. However, as a stand-alone piece of work it really is under-appreciated and has everything that a classic action film needs. The sequels also fail to live up to expectations, but Predator can’t be held responsible for the progeny of its success. And remember, if it bleeds, we can kill it.