for a long time i thought my dad and i were the only ones who thought of predator as a great film, not just a fun movie. this and die hard are likely the most watched films in my life. i’ve seen this a couple dozen times and die hard about 40 times. when i was younger i had both of them on tape and i’d watch them all the time. based upon the dvd text commentary and the special edition treatment the film has gotten, however, it appears that we were not alone in our love of this film. as an action film it’s great fun, the story is basic and slim, but somehow always unfolding in a manner to keep the viewer engaged.
from an audio/visual standpoint it’s such a fresh and layered film that one can help but be immersed in the action. it’s not just that the film is layered, it’s that it does it in such a new way. at the time this kind of stuff just wasn’t being done. the infrared camera, the jungle sounds, the predator’s sounds and design, mcalpine’s cinematography, all create a dense and artistic audio/visual landscape. all of this, though, stems from john mctiernan’s vision. this was his first real feature film, but he had a very clear idea of what he wanted this film to be, and it was executed very well. mcalpine (who was also the cinematographer in other visual feasts such as moulin rouge and romeo + juliet) films the jungle in such a way that it becomes its own character. mctiernan didn’t move the camera quite as much in this film as he did in die hard, but the camera is still active enough to add further life to the film.
i don’t know if it’s by luck or design, but mctiernan is somehow able to find great scripts. die hard is the supreme example, but predator is also very well-written. it’s got some classic one-liners, and the broader brush strokes of the film are also intelligent and engaging. in the text commentary a good point is made about the story arc of the film…rather than getting more complex towards the end, as most films tend to do, predator strips itself down to a primal confrontation of two warriors. they’re not even fighting for good vs. evil or money or a woman or any of those conventional things. one is the hunter and the other is the hunted and that’s all it is. another broad stroke that i find interesting is the way in which we are slowly introduced to the predator. i can still remember, barely, the feeling i had when first watching the film and trying to understand what the predator was. at first we don’t see it at all, then we see the world through its eyes, then we see its translucent silhouette, then its lower body, then its entire body, and at the very end it takes off its mask.
i also have to comment on the score which really seals the deal on this one. alan silvestri (back to the future trilogy) does a fantastic job on the score. it perfectly matches the size of the film – it’s not overly epic, or, conversely, too small. it’s instantly recognizable, but not recycled…it’s right where it needs to be. what a great film.