The Test of Time: Predator (1987)

We all have movies we love. Movies we respect without question out of tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been called classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? So…the point of this here column is discover whether or not a film stands against the test of time. I’m not gonna question if it’s still a good flick, but if the thing holds up for a modern audience.

Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, and Bill Duke

Well, that’s some of the best news I’ve heard lately: the great writer/director Shane Black, who we all know made a triumphant return to big action with Iron Man 3, is now heading a Predator reboot, or remake, or semi-sequel, or whatever the hell he’s calling it. No matter. Because fans have no reason to doubt the man who only has a few misses to his name (sorry Last Action Hero). If anybody understands high-octane action, it’s him. If there was ever franchise deserving a new life, it’s the world of Predator.

It’s funny when you think about it. Now well over 20 years old, only the original film is considered a classic. Oh sure, Predator 2 has some solid moments as do the hated Alien v Predator films. While not a classic, I give Robert Rodriguez massive credit for his attempted 2010 reboot. Folks bitch about Adrien Brody, but I thought he brought it with a solid, unexpected performance. People might have expected an Arnold-type character, but that wasn’t the point. With that said, the movie still lacked…something. It’s missing the perfection that Schwarzenegger and company brought back in 1987.

Under the examination: Predator

Now that's a bad ass scene.

THE STORY: An elite force of commandos are assigned to go deep into a made up country in Central America to save hostages. Once there and after they shoot a whole lot of people, they realize they’re not alone in the jungle. Something is out there slowly stalking and killing them. They’re being hunted by a seven foot alien with a cloaking device and a lot of badass toys. What sucks is that they can’t call in reinforcements because it’s one of those types of missions. They’re on their own, tired, and mostly scared. Since this is an Arnold movie, we all know he’s the last man standing in one of the most epic monster versus man showdowns ever put on celluloid.

At least the camera isn't above him and he's not roaring up at it. 

WHAT STILL HOLDS UP: Well, damn it…where to begin. There’s so much good shit here that I can’t cover it all but let’s give it a shot. First off, yes, this movie holds up and it holds up damn well. Something magical just worked that few productions can pull off. It’s like a hit record. They don't come easy.

Let’s start with the assembled cast (including Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Badass Sonny Landham, Jesse Ventura, Richard Chaves, Elpidia Carrillo, Shane Black, and Kevin Peter Hall). It’s not only that they’re all tough dudes, it’s more that we buy not only their comradery, but they’re ability to do real man shit. When they’re attacking, they look the part without question. When they speak to each other, we never question their bond. Think of all the action movies you’ve seen. How often do you actually buy what’s on the screen in something that’s not a war recreation?

Even more, I love the tone. Sure, Arnold goofs around with classic lines (“Stick around,” “Get to the chopper”) but he never goes too far. They rest of the cast is deadly serious. When they do screw around, it plays natural, not forced (think Jesse all pissed but no one else is a “sexual tyrannosaurus” or Shane Black delivering awful jokes). The jungle also seems so freaking isolating, much like The Thing, these guys completely solo. 

Chewing and shaving. Man's game. 

The element that probably works best comes from the wait to see the monster. He’s lumbering around out in the jungle, with his Romulan cloaking devise engaged, but that’s what monsters do. They remain in the shadows until the third act. Think Alien. Think Halloween. Think The Wolf Man. They all make us wait to see the beast. Predator isn’t any different. Thankfully, we ended up with Stan Winston’s final creation, and not that shitty looking outfit that whinny Jean Claude Van Damme had to wear (google it). 

Then there’s the iconic score by Alan Silvestri (who’s still doing good things with The Avengers). It creates a frantic, alien heartbeat that never lets off the adrenalin rush. As much credit as McTiernan gets for Predator (he deserves a lot), I think brothers Jim and John Thomas also deserve a shout out. I’ve never read their shooting script (if someone has fill us in on the differences below), but this is a hell of a film to launch careers. 

Tough dudes, though Dillon needs a bigger gun.

WHAT BLOWS NOW: Nothing. Honestly, the only things that I can pick apart are nick pick bs. Like the old general at the start who sends Dutch and company on the mission (he’s not very good and too tan). Or Ventura’s big ass gun, which sure looks cool, but the thing isn’t exactly practical (can you imagine marching around a jungle with that thing?). Or Arnold’s decision to lift up a truck and shove it into combat during a hostage situation. Or how many razor’s did Mac carry around? No one shaves without shaving cream. Please (and my god, the razor burn!).

Actually, the true fault comes from the initial plot to get them in the jungle. I’ve seen this movie a pathetic amount of times, and I have never understood who they were rescuing and why. Obviously, it doesn’t matter because we’re all just waiting for that ugly mother f*cker..

THE VERDICT: Predator is and most likely will always be my number one action movie. Sure, this is prime Arnold kicking a lot of ass, but it’s more than him. It’s the collection of commandos, the monster, the music, the darkness of the whole thing. I’m just glad no one sported anything too 1980s to help avoid any major dated issues. Instead, we get an action movie classic that will always fight the rust of the Test of Time. Let’s hope Shane Black finally creates a new film that can hold solid too.



Looks like a fun bunch. Especially that man with the mullet. 



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