Face-Off: Predator 2 vs. Predators

Exactly two years from today, on March 2, 2018, that intergalactic trophy hunter the Predator will be returning to the big screen in a film fittingly called THE PREDATOR, directed by Shane Black. To celebrate the fact that we have that sequel to look forward to, I wanted to revisit the other two sequels in the Predator's solo franchise, Stephen Hopkins' PREDATOR 2 (1990) and Nimrod Antal's PREDATORS (2010). Both films have their share of fans, but which one wins the prize when they go head-to-head?
The not-too-distant future, 1997. Los Angeles is in the grip of an extreme heatwave as cops wage war in the streets with heavily armed gang members. The first film established that the Predator is drawn to heat and conflict, and there's plenty of both here. The Predator adapts well, moving among the buildings as easily as it did among the trees in the jungle. This drastic change in location allows the sequel to have a very different style and tone from its predecessor. It's more humorous, like when a little old lady realizes the Predator is in her bathroom, and stranger, especially since these street gangs practice voodoo.
The Predators in this film don't bother hunting their prey on Earth, instead abducting their chosen prey from the planet and transporting them to another planet they use as a game preserve. Aside from a strange sky and some alien artifacts scattered here and there, there's not much to set this place apart from any jungle on Earth - which makes sense, it's supposed to be reminiscent of the jungle setting of the original PREDATOR. Multiple callbacks to the first film occur in this setting, so if you're looking for something fresh within the franchise this jungle world isn't going to do all that much for you.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is a tough act to follow, and to replace him producer Joel Silver brought on a lead from his LETHAL WEAPON franchise, Danny Glover. Glover plays Lieutenant Michael Harrigan, a cop who has to break the rules while dealing with a gang problem that is completely out of hand and a killer not of this world. He has a strong loyalty to his fellow officers and a strong distrust of "the Feds". Harrigan is very much in the tradition of Dirty Harry, and Glover brings a good amount of heart to the role while also getting to play more of a badass action hero than he did in LETHAL WEAPON.
If Adrien Brody isn't the least likely actor to be cast as an action hero, he's at least high in the running. He may not appear to be a badass, but he did a fine job attempting to turn himself into one, packing on muscle and speaking gruffly. The film isn't doing him any favors when it has him reenact Schwarzenegger moments, though. Brody's mercenary Royce is paired with a secondary hero, Alice Braga as skilled IDF sniper Isabelle, who is actually the more likeable character and has knowledge of the Predators. Knowledge she gleaned from reading about the events of the first movie.
The Predator tears its way through a whole lot of people in this film, including coke-snorting gang members, voodoo practicioners cutting out hearts and stealing souls, gun-toting citizens, police officers, and special agents with hi-tech equipment. A great cast was assembled to portray its prey, earning it some good trophies: Gary Busey causes some inconveniences as the head Fed, Maria Conchita Alonso delivers a memorable performance, Ruben Blades isn't around for nearly long enough, and Bill Paxton finds himself up against a completely different kind of alien... and fares about as well as he did against the other aliens.
All of the characters the Predators brought to this game preserve planet are either soldiers or killers; some of them obviously so, some of them not so obvious, especially the one played by Topher Grace. How did he get in here? Walton Goggins is as entertaining as ever playing a death row inmate, Danny Trejo isn't around for nearly long enough, and Laurence Fishburne shows up and acts crazy for a while. Some of the other actors may not have recognizable names, but they make an impression as they deal with this crazy situation and blast their way through the jungle. One of them even challenges a Predator to a sword fight that is shot like a samurai movie.
This Predator has the same skills and weapons as the first one: it can blend in with its surroundings, is armed with a shoulder-mounted lazer cannon and blade gauntlets, if wounded or cornered it can detonate a high-powered explosive on its wrist. It also packed some new toys for this L.A. hunt; a spear, a projectile wire net, and best of all, a throwing disc that can cut a person in half and returns to the Predator when it's done. It even fires a little rocket from its gauntlet at one point; it always has something up its sleeve. As if the Predator wasn't already cool enough in the first movie, its accessories are even better in the second.
These Predators are different, larger, and they don't get along with the classic ones. They even have a standard Predator tied up at their camp. They use some of the same equipment - the cloaking device, the lazer cannon, the spear. They have the blade gauntlets, but their blades are longer. They spice up their hunt with alien "dogs" that have spiky growths all over their body, and send out mechanical "hawks" that transmit video back to them. The elements that play up the hunter aspect are cool, but there are some changes that are just there for the wow factor. For example, a lazer cannon shot doesn't really need to blow a person to pieces.
PREDATOR 2 drops us straight into the action, kicking off with a huge shootout on the streets of L.A. The first Predator tended to pick off its victims one-by-one, but this one has a tendency to wade right into whole groups of armed people. It does so on multiple occasions, pulling off some exciting massacres. There's nothing on the scale of the assault sequence in the first film, but there's a lot of gunfire spread out through the running time... Until it all comes down to what is essentially the Predator and Danny Glover having a knife fight on a space ship. When your movie has a scene that can be described that way, you're doing things right.
PREDATORS literally drops its characters into the action. After being abducted and knocked out, they regain consciousness while being dropped into the game preserve from a great height. It takes a while for the movie to build up, though. The filmmakers hold off 40 minutes before revealing the Predators, as if we didn't know what movie we're watching. From that point on, it's an exciting chase with some fun bursts of action and altercations, but there are really only two sequences that stand out to me: the samurai fight and the ending, and the latter only because it has Brody doing a Schwarzenegger impression.
PREDATORS scored in a couple categories, but PREDATOR 2 rather handily takes the victory. While I enjoy both of the films, and have some issues with PREDATOR 2, at the end of the day I find the 1990 sequel to be more entertaining than the 2010 one. There is some nostalgia at play (I had a PREDATOR 2 poster on the wall in my childhood bedroom that detailed the Predator's weapons), but objectively I do believe that 2 is the better constructed film.

Do you agree with the outcome of this Face-Off, or do you think PREDATORS should have gotten the win? Sound off in the comments section below. If there are any movies you would like to see step into the Face-Off ring, send me those suggestions at [email protected].



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