A day late, but never a dollar short!
Welcome to the SciFi Squad Movie Club discussion of Predator, that beloved 1980s science fiction action horror blockbuster featuring Arnie the Austrian Oak and a seven foot tall lobster monster with a cloaking device and the various hijinks that occur when they run into each other in the South American jungle. Surely you already knew that, right? As I mentioned on Friday, surely most of our readership has seen Predator. Surely. Right. Right?
Because you should already know the obvious things that make Predator so great, let's talk about the little things. The smaller details, the strange touches, that make Predator so infinitely re-watchable. Let's get going after the jump! What You Already Know
Before we delve into the unknown, let's do a brief recap of everything that's good in Predator. Ready? Here we go!
1. Schwarzenegger has never been better. The guy doesn't have a lot of range to begin with, but Dutch is the kind of role that feels tailored to him, emphasizing what he's good at while sidestepping everything that will make him look too terrible. Never give Arnie a scene that requires emotional honesty. The man is not built to deliver on that front. However, give him a scene where he has to smear himself with mud, light a touch and unleash a Tarzan yell challenge of battle to an alien creature in the middle of the jungle and you've just struck gold, baby.
2. The Predator itself has been diluted so much in the past twenty three years that it's easy to forget what a menacing presence it is in the first film. Far from the chubby, obvious and Happy Meal friendly creatures of the first Alien Vs. Predator, this Predator is the only one to actually feel, well, real. It's strange. You'd think that: Time = Better Technology = Better Predator Suit, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I wish I had a deeper explanation for this, but...eh, oh well.
3. The musical score. Oh my. The musical score. Alan Silvestri's theme may not be hugely famous and you may not hear it being played regularly at movie tribute concerts and your mother and your clueless sister-in-law will never be able to pick it out of a line-up of 1980s movie themes, but it's the rare score that fits its move like a glove and announces straight from the opening credits what kind of movie you're in for. Don't believe me? Listen to it yourself!
Flipping the '80s Action Movie On Its Ear
With the obvious aside, let's a take a moment to appreciate what Predator is doing on more subtle, possibly even satiric level. It rounds up a stable of tough guy actors, people who you just know can kick ALL of the asses and then have time to kick them all again before having a cigar break and kicking them again, and proceeds to murder and mutilate them in a manner that borders on humiliating.
On a dramatic level, it works because we've seen these guys in action. We've seen them march right into a guerilla encampment and introduce about fifty armed men to the Grim Reaper via machine guns and machetes and big 'ol explosions. We know they're the toughest of the tough, the best of the best and will break your hand just by looking at them wrong.
It's no accident that the toughest of these guys, Jesse Ventura's Blaine, goes down like a little sissy. One laser blast right through the chest and he's down. He never even got a round off with Old Painless, his trusty minigun. Then all his buddies can do is fire blindly into the jungle, wasting hundreds of rounds of ammunition, muscles rippling from the force of their fire, desperately hoping to hit something.
This scene in particular stood out to me on my latest viewing. Maybe it was intended to be taken at face value. Maybe director John McTiernan was expecting us to take it completely seriously. I'm not sure. All I know is that watching these tough guys firing and missing and realizing that their usual blow-them-all-to-hell tactics are not going to work this time is pretty darn emasculating.
In retrospect, it feels like a direct commentary on the musclebound, 1980s action star: You think you're so tough? You think you're a real man? Eh, not really.
What's the Deal With Mac?
Everyone remembers Bill Duke's Mac, a loyal soldier who takes it personally when his buddy Blaine is shot down by the Predator. He's a good guy, simply pushed to the edge by something that has no right to exist...
Nah, I don't think so. Mac is a nutcase. He's a nutcase before the film starts and he's a nutcase all the way to the end of the movie when he gets a serious case of the head-split-opens. He's an unstable man with one talent: he kills real good. Let's look at the evidence.
Dutch's crew doesn't have a dress code outside of the field. When we see the team arrive on the helicopter in the first scene, everyone is dressed casually. Shorts, Hawaiian shirts, polos and so on. Mac is in a suit. Mac is wearing a suit on a trip into the jungle. Mac is crazy.
On the chopper ride into the jungle, everyone chats and exchanges bad jokes and establish their personalities in a hugely efficient five minutes of screentime. Mac sits quietly, running his cheap plastic razor up and down his face. Mac is crazy.
Rather than say "Hey, Dillon. You got a scorpion on you. Let's get that sucker off before it can sting you," Mac removes it with a large knife. Without telling Dillon. Effectively making Carl Weathers crap his pants. I wouldn't be surprised if Mac put the scorpion there in the first place. Why? Because Mac is crazy.
We never see Mac engage in a friendly conversation. We never see him show any kind of emotion, really. He's the quiet, creepy (and crazy) type. Then, Blaine dies and he becomes a blubbering mess, weeping over his corpse and reminiscing to the stars above. This scene would make sense if Mac and Blaine actually appeared to be friends. But they don't. I'm not sure if they even share any lines together. Nothing important, at least. Mac is unstable and Mac needs a reason to let go of reality. This is his reason. Mac is crazy.
Mac breaks his razor against his face. Mac sings "Long Tall Sally" while hunting the predator. Mac is crazy.
How many times have a I see a friend and announced "Dillon! You son of a b*tch"? How many times have we been searching a crowded parking lot for our car and I've announced "Get to the chopper!"? Heck, I'm a meek, liberal wuss and even I've found time to tell a room "Bunch of slack-jawed f*ggots around here. This stuff will make you a god damned sexual Tyrannosaurus, just like me."
Yep, the script for Predator is loaded with dialogue that can be applied to any and all situations. Just the other day, I almost lost a fingertip when it found itself wedged between a heavy object and a steel door. The first thing I said when someone ran to my aid? "I ain't got time to bleed."
Searching for my cat, who's decided to hide rather than receive his ear medicine? "If it bleeds, we can kill it."
Oh, and there is never a reason to NOT use "You're one ugly motherf*cker" on anyone you've just met. Breaks the ice really well at parties. If they laugh, you've got a friend and fellow Predator fan for life. If they don't, you should probably apologize profusely.