Features
Retrospective: "Predator" and "Predator 2"


Date Posted: 11 September 2018


The new Predator in Shane Black's upcoming sequel, "The Predator".

Here we go all over again: yet another Fox attempt to revive the iconic "Predator" franchise for both existing fans and a new generation of moviegoers.

The studio has already made the movie not once, but three times in the past including the two ill-fated "Alien vs. Predator" as well as the underwhelming "Predators", but when the new "Predator" sequel was announced back in 2014, it looked as if the franchise is in good hands.

Although most of us wish that original director John McTiernan would be the man for the job, we have Shane Black instead. He is, of course, one of the actors who starred in the first "Predator" and is also known as one of the most high-profile screenwriters back in the late 80s to mid-90s with credits like "Lethal Weapon", "The Last Boy Scout" and "Last Action Hero".


Black even carved a successful career as a director, beginning with "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" in 2005 before he hit the jackpot big time via 2013's "Iron Man 3".

As we all await the arrival of "The Predator" this September 13th, it's time to look back at the first two "Predator" movies that were released in the late 80s and early 90s.

"Predator" (1987)

Schwarzenegger leads "Predator" as Major Dutch Schaefer.

Believe it or not, it has been more than 30 years since the first "Predator" made its debut back in June 1987. Or to be exact, it opened on June 12 at the No. 1 spot and beat the previous three-weekend numero uno winners. That winner in question was "Beverly Hills Cop II".

Although it only held the top spot for one weekend, the movie had enough legs to last long and made a decent killing at the North American box office with USD59.7 million against a USD15 million budget. It was considered as a box-office hit back then, but if you come to think of it, how is it that such an iconic Hollywood blockbuster like "Predator" couldn't even hit the 100 million mark? It's true that the movie didn't make it to the Top 10 highest-grossing movies of 1987 to join the ranks of "Three Men And A Baby", "Fatal Attraction" and "Beverly Hills Cops II", but still, "Predator" proves to be a success that people still talk about even until today.


A scene from "Predator".

It's hard to believe that "Predator" was actually an effort consisting of first-time screenwriters Jim and John Thomas as well as John McTiernan, who was considered a relative unknown back then. His last directorial credit prior to "Predator'? That would be "Nomads", a little-seen 1986 horror thriller featuring then-young and pre-Bond Pierce Brosnan. Then, there's Arnold Schwarzenegger. He may have plenty of hits with the likes of "Conan The Barbarian" and "The Terminator" prior to this movie but keep in mind, he wasn't exactly the "the huge A-list action superstar" at the time that most of us have grown accustomed to.


Schwarzenegger faces the alien hunter in "Predator".

Ironically enough, everything about "Predator" ended up working pretty well. In case you have forgotten what is it all about (seriously?), here's a short recap: Major Dutch Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is assigned to lead his team into a dense Central American jungle on a supposed rescue mission, but it turns out they are facing more than just mortal enemies when they subsequently encounter an alien hunter, who hunts humans for sport. The story itself is pretty straightforward and that's the beauty of it. The movie doesn't attempt to complicate things with a convoluted plot or expository-filled scenarios. It's all about survival, plain and simple. The pacing is fast and engaging enough from minute one, coupled with crisp and witty dialogues. The ensemble cast is just as memorable, even right down to a small role played by Shane Black as the nerdy Rick Hawkins. At the heart of the movie, of course, is Schwarzenegger himself. He clearly displays an engaging screen presence whose unforgettable one-liners like "Stick around", "If it bleeds, we can kill it" and "Get to the choppa!" are more than enough to make him a standout among all the strong ensemble cast.

Although "Predator" was John McTiernan's first major studio movie, he did a great job executing every action and suspense with verve and visual clarity. Alan Silvestri's foreboding score is another major factor that helped elevate the movie altogether, combining different instruments from brass to percussions in a unique, yet inventive manner.


The Predator creature in "Predator".

Finally, the creation of Predator itself: a tall, alien creature with scaly silver skin, dreadlocks and a mask that hides a hideous face, famously quoted by Schwarzenegger's Dutch as "one ugly mother******". Here's a little trivia regarding the man behind the creature suit: The antagonist role was originally played by Jean-Claude Van Damme (yes, that Muscles from Brussels) but he ultimately quit after two days. The reason? The suit was apparently too hot to bear and he was also displeased with the idea of playing a role that required him to wear it the whole time. He was eventually replaced by a 7' 2" tall basketball player, Kevin Peter Hall.

"Predator 2" (1990)

Danny Glover replaced Schwarzenegger as the new lead in "Predator 2".

This Schwarzenegger-less "Predator 2" was sadly both a critical and financial flop, even making less than the first movie. It was a pity that Schwarzenegger refused to reprise his role in "Predator 2", opting to turn down the offer due to a salary dispute.

But he wasn't the only one who didn't appear in the sequel. John McTiernan, who made the original "Predator", declined to return as well and opted to make "The Hunt For Red October" instead.

The sequel actually sports a bigger budget and a fascinating change of premise by returning screenwriters Jim and John Thomas from the first movie's dense jungle to the crime-infested Los Angeles city. The urban setting is also a logical choice for the Predator to use Los Angeles city as a hunting playground. This time, the latest victims include the Colombian and Jamaican drug cartels as well as the LAPD team led by Danny Glover's Lt. Harrigan. Yes, Danny Glover from "Lethal Weapon" fame replaced the macho Schwarzenegger as the new leading role.


Bill Paxton and Maria Conchita Alonso in "Predator 2".

It may sound like a step-down from the first movie, but this might come as an unpopular opinion - Glover actually pulled it off well enough as a grizzled veteran cop. The rest of the cast delivers an equally strong support, from Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Gary Busey and even Bill Paxton.

Stephen Hopkins, whose previous credit includes "A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child", actually did a decent job replacing John McTiernan as the sequel's new director. Like the former, he has great eyes for visual flair. The sequel is even considerably more violent than the first one, which perfectly reflects the brutal and senseless nature coming from the drug cartels and the Predator creature itself. The pacing is tight and the action is just as thrillingly staged.


A scene from "Predator 2".

Frankly, it's a shame that "Predator 2" was so underrated and even seen as a sequel that (nobody) wanted to talk about. While it was obvious that the sequel pales in comparison with the more superior original, it still functions well on its own.

Another reason that caused "Predator 2" to receive such a lukewarm response back in 1990? The odd choice of releasing the sequel on a crowded holiday season where US moviegoers were more interested in family-friendly entertainment. It was also a huge mistake back then for attempting to counter-program against the likes of "Home Alone" and "Three Men And A Little Lady".

Fortunately, "Predator 2" gained a strong cult following over the years after the underwhelming theatrical release in 1990.

Writer: Casey Chong



Related Movies
The Predator (13 Sep 2018)
ALIEN VS. PREDATOR (26 Aug 2004)
ALIENS VS PREDATOR 2 (25 Dec 2007)




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