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If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It – Predator
By Bert Ehrmann
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Fort Wayne Reader
I'm not sure what the deal is with years that end in seven, but it seems as if a lot of interesting sci-fi movies/TV series debut in years ending in this lucky number. This year the movie Starship Troopers (1997) celebrated its tenth anniversary, later this fall Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) will celebrate its 20th and last month Star Wars (1977) turned 30. But there's another important movie most people overlook that also turns 20 this year – Predator (1987).
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and Jesse (don't call me "The Body") Ventura, Predator puts a sci-fi twist on the very real brush fire wars of the 1980s in Central and South America. In Predator, a team of American military Special Forces soldiers is sent into a Central American jungle in order to rescue a group of politicians shot down over hostile territory. Lead by "Dutch" (Schwarzenegger), this team quickly find themselves in trouble when they stumble across dead, skin-stripped soldiers strung up in the trees like wild game. Though Dutch's team might have massive amounts of military firepower (along with liberal amounts of steroids and testosterone) at hand, they are no match for a invisible alien visiting the Earth and prowling the jungles hunting down the soldiers within.
Predator can be seen as a sort of "sibling" movie with Aliens (1986) in that each movie shares essentially the same theme and plot of soldiers relying on their technical prowess who are beaten by a foe using decidedly more primitive skills. However alike, each film approaches the subject matter quite differently. Whereas Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is only able to defeat the mass of creatures in Aliens via nuclear explosion and blasting the Queen alien into outer space, in Predator Dutch is able to beat the alien hunter by sheer muscle and brainpower, ditching his military hardware and instead utilizing his greater cunning and skill.
A line of very good comic books followed the Predator movie starting in the late 1980s that are still sporadically published. For a while, I became so enamored with the Predator comic book series that I bought several hand-drawn pages from series artist Chris Warner that still grace my apartment walls to this very day.
A theatrical sequel, Predator 2, followed in 1990. Adapting much of the story from the first line of comic books but moving the local from New York City to Los Angeles, Danny Glover plays a detective caught in the middle of an undeclared street war between various factions of L.A. gangs fighting for turf in a hellish (then future) late 1990s California. Attracted by this violence and record Summer heat, a Predator arrives in L.A. looking to take home a few trophies of its own.
Though Predator 2 is an enjoyable film (to my 15 year old eyes it was "awesome") it is none-the-less a flawed one. Still, in one of the all-time great final scenes of any sci-fi film, in Predator 2 it is revealed that the alien hunters have been hunting and taking trophies of the creatures from Aliens.
Which, unfortunately, would be partially responsible for the next theatrical spin-off – Aliens vs. Predator (AVP) (2004). Again, partially based on a much better comic book of the same name (1989), AVP takes place present day deep under the ice of the Antarctic where the Predators maintain an ancient temple for hunting the creatures of Aliens. If AVP is notable for one reason it's of breaking all the "rules" set by the previous films. In the movie Alien (1979) it seems as if it takes many hours/days for an alien creature to gestate inside a human host, in AVP it only takes a matter of minutes. In Predator it's established that the Predator hunters can ONLY operate in extremely hot climates like a Central American jungle or Los Angeles suffering through the depths of a Summer heat wave but in AVP all the action takes place in the deep cold of the Antarctic ice.
Apparently, AVP did well enough to warrant a sequel due out later this winter – I can only guess what "rules" this movie will break. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.