The Predator: 5 things from the original movie we want to see in the new instalment
On 12th June, 1987, the first 'Predator' movie was released and the monster movie genre was never the same again. At first glance, the film seems like just another 80's action flick filled with gore, guns and testosterone. But there is a reason why the movie has gone on to become a cult classic.
Movie monsters have been around almost since the invention of celluloid. Count Orlok from the movie 'Nosferatu' was already striking fear in the hearts of audiences in 1922. For the next few decades, a golden age of movie monsters brought such classics like Christopher Lee's 'Dracula', 'The Creature from the Black Lagoon' and 'The Evil Dead'. When 'The Predator' came out, it already had the legacies of impressive and terrifying monsters to live up to. But the alien hunter still managed to carve out a place in our subconscious through a movie that explored the limits of human ability, even though it was eventually defeated by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s buff military operative character, Dutch.
The movie spawned two sequels with the first one, 'Predator 2', bringing the titular monster to an urban setting and adding certain controversial racist overtones. Overall, the second 'Predator' movie did not live up to expectations and failed to deliver as powerful a punch as the first. The series was revived in 2010 with Nimród Antal's 'Predators' after a series of crossover movies with another movie monster franchise, Ridley Scott's 'Alien'. Now with another instalment, a sequel to the 2010 movie, gearing up for release later this year, we decided to look at some of the things that made the original movie such a classic and that we'd like to see replicated in the new one:
1) The jungle
One of the things that made the first Predator such a killer movie was its wild, untamed setting. In the dense central American forest, the alien hunter takes on a whole new level of symbolism and mystery. Not to mention it allows for some extremely intense scenes.
The second movie took the Predator out of the jungle and into an urban setting and the result was… unsatisfactory to put it mildly. Part of what made the original predator so much more scary than any of its sequels was the atmosphere of the movie; the air of mystery and raw nature at its wildest.
In literature, the jungle has always been a symbol of emotional conflict, of a place on the edges of the known world. In this setting, the Predator takes on another layer of meaning. All living things are born with an instinctive fear of predators. In the jungle, the monster becomes the personification of that fear: the ultimate predator.
Judging from the plot synopsis, the new movie is going to be spending at least half of its time in a suburban setting with a troubled child played by Jacob Tremblay from 'Wonder' at the heart of the story. But it can be hoped that there is enough wild jungle action to give it that 1987 touch.
2) The team
Dutch’s team was a group of elite soldiers (and Shane Black) who represented the peak of human physical prowess. It’s not just that these were big macho men with bulging muscles. These were big macho men with bulging muscles who worked together as a team, goofed around and supported each other. Which is why it was so much more scary to see the Predator go up against a team of skilled soldiers who work seamlessly as a single unit and it still managed to pick them apart one by one. The Predator is one Hollywood movie where the arrival of the US Army is not enough to magically solve all the protagonist’s problems.
In the second movie, the writers had the Predator go up against a cop played by Danny Glover who, admittedly, was nowhere near as impressive as Arnold. The new movie seems set to take things back to that old formula with Boyd Holbrook from ‘Narcos’ leading a team of battle-hardened soldiers.
More than just the machismo though, we genuinely loved the special forces from the first movie. Not only were they a well-oiled fighting machine, they were a group of friends. Each of the characters was endearing in his or her own way and we didn’t want them to die. Whenever one of the members of the team are killed, we notice it and treat it as important. There isn’t a single scene in the movie that doesn’t further our understanding of the characters which is why it is so much more striking when we finally reach the scenes of their deaths.
3) The dialogues
There is a conversation in the 1987 movie that captures the pure terror of the Predator. In it, Billy, played by Sonny Landham, tells Poncho, played by Richard Chavez, that he is scared for his life. When Poncho tells him that Billy hasn’t ever been scared of any man, he replies:
“There’s something waiting for us, and it ain’t no man. We’re all gonna die.”
The original movie was peppered with great dialogue like this; including many that have since made it into pop culture. It wasn’t just lines that added to the drama. The tension in the movie was expertly controlled using humorous one-liners. The sequels have since seen a drop in dialogue quality as the directors have tried to take the movie away from its roots as an 80’s pulp action/horror film. It would be rather nice to see the new movie have some good dialogues and maybe even a reference to that iconic chopper scene.
The way the dialogues were structured helped to bring out the personalities of all the characters from the charismatic Dutch to the wise-cracking Rick. Even as they joke and goof around, we find some insights into the sort of people they are. The movie did a good job of presenting these men as more than just fighting machines.
4) The pace
There is a certain quick, haphazard quality to the first Predator movie that works to create a constant sense of suspense. Death is waiting on every other corner and we’re constantly surprised when a character we expected to make it through gets picked off. Except for Arnie’s Dutch, we’re never really sure if anyone else is going to survive.
More than the goriness of seeing skinned human bodies, what really freaked us out about the Predator was how tightly the scenes of death and destruction were paced out. Just when you begin to relax after a witty one-liner or a bad Shane Black joke, the monster swoops in to make a kill before returning to the shadows and heightening the tension yet again.
Throughout the movie, the suspense is built up with the characters and the audience stumbling onto increasingly graphic scenes of violence and horror, all culminating at the moment when the Predator takes off its mask and finally reveals its monstrous face.
5) The Predator
The titular monster is just that: a monster. It is not a noble warrior or protector of the innocent like the disastrous Alien vs Predator movies seem to imply. It is a creature that hunts human beings for sport and ritual. It doesn’t care about the lives it takes. It is more concerned in the trophies it can take home. Even when the Predator shows some sort of honor, it is still a violent and twisted form of honor.
We don’t really know much about the Predator at the end of the 1987 movie. We just know that this is a monstrous alien creature that hunts for sport and has access to futuristic weapons and tools. In fact, even the monster’s face is kept hidden until the very end.
Predators, the 2010 movie which precedes the new instalment, was true to the monster’s hunter aspect but it attempts to explore the society of the Predators. We don’t really need to know more about the monster, not because we wouldn’t like to but because not knowing makes it even more mysterious and scary.
The Predator isn’t really about the monster itself. The movie has more to do with the human characters who become the creature’s prey. It expertly depicts the survival of the fittest by pitting the fittest of humanity against an alien predatory species. When the monster takes off its mask, it doesn’t really matter what is waiting underneath. The audience already expects to be horrified by what it will find there.
This is similar to how villains are treated in slasher films. The killer’s identity and their motives are intentionally kept hidden and slowly revealed over the course of the movie. Of course, while killers in slasher films are usually motivated by revenge or insanity, for the Predator killing is just a natural instinct, as normal as breathing.
At the end of the movie, when Dutch asks it what it is, the Predator’s only response is to mock the question and laugh as it self-destructs. This symbolizes how little we know about the monster. And at the end of the day, the monsters we don’t know are more fearsome than the ones we do.