War Hero: Predator

February 07, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Brant Brown

When I was an undergraduate majoring in Geography, I once entertained the possibility of pursuing an MA, and writing a thesis concerning the use of remote sensing techniques and global warming trends to predict future regions of "heat and conflict" that could potentially lead to localized Predator outbreaks. I then did a keg stand and threw up. The point is, at one time in my life, I thought the Predator was the problem. I rooted hard for Arnold, Carl, Jesse, and Coltrane himself. Man was I wrong.

First we must agree that Predator is one of the seminal action movies of the 1980's. Naturally the acting was iffy. The dialogue between Arnold and Carl Weathers is about as stiff and uncomfortable as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Holocaust Museum. But this movie presented an extremely captivating new villain, one that not only was a technologically superior killing machine, but genuinely looked like a badass. There's no arguing the quality of this movie compared to the rest of its genre, not to mention the future political starpower we were being exposed to. Overall, it presented a good collection of likeable characters. As much as I love it though, one thing has always bothered me: the closing credits. Perhaps I'm just being picky, but they do that thing where they show each actor looking into the camera and smiling as their character name and real name are shown. You know what I mean. They catch a tin of chew, turn to face the camera, and smile. Well, that's all well and good, but everyone in the cast did this except for Arnold. For him, they just showed stock footage. What the hell was Arnold doing that was so important that he couldn't take a minute out of his day to smile into the camera? Was he rehearsing for Saturday Night Live that week? Was he busy fondling a breast and couldn't step away? Bah, and to think this guy runs California. Anyway, what you need to leave here understanding is that the original Predator stands apart from the rest of the franchise as a classic action flick, legitimately a top ten movie for any male between the ages of 20 and 40.

So let's put aside Predator for a moment and move on to Predator 2. You know what, I'm not ready to discuss this yet. Let's skip ahead.

When Alien vs. Predator came to the theaters in 2004, I was less than excited. However, I received a free ticket to the film with my recent purchase of the Predator special edition DVD. After a couple weeks, I mustered up the courage to make the solitary journey to the theater to take in this assuredly lackluster film. I pulled my hat down low when I handed the lady my ticket, as if I was going in to see Showgirls or something. Anyway, I'm glad I went. If you're a general fan of the Predator, then you should definitely have seen this film by now. On the other hand, if you're an Alien fan, well, I'm sure they'll make another shitty Alien movie for you in a few years. Sigourney Weaver in a nursing home with aliens popping out of her colostomy bag or something like that. How could it not be fantastic?

Anyway, don't get me wrong about Alien vs. Predator. I'm not really saying it's a good movie. In fact, I'll say it's a terrible movie. It obviously has no quality acting by any stretch of the imagination. It's a glorified slasher flick with a ridiculous plot. But what it serves to do is tie up some loose ends for the franchise. Albeit tied loosely, but tied nonetheless. It gives the audience the back-story of how Predators came to be on Earth, and how they relate to Aliens. I'd give it an "A" for mythology, but an "F" in every other regard. Probably the biggest disappointment is the lack of the traditional Predator theme music. Certainly could have used that to get me a little more pumped up.

Now we move back to Predator 2, which over time has become the redheaded stepchild of sequels. First off, the cast. Danny Glover as the hero. OK, he's a decent role player in his films, a quality sidekick like we all know from the Lethal Weapon movies. But what made any casting director think that Coltrane could carry an action movie on his own? You go from Arnold, Jesse Ventura, Action Jackson, and Sonny Landham (who ran for office in Kentucky in 2003) to Danny Glover? Glover is just tired, out of breath, and old during the whole movie. The only thing that can trump Glover as the hero is........drumroll please...............................Gary Busey! as the main villain. Well, technically some would say that the Predator is the villain, but in my opinion, he's just a victim of circumstance. It's not his fault that they cast Danny Glover and Gary Busey! Rounding out the cop force in this one is Maria Conchita Alonzo as the "tough as nails Hispanic chick", and Bill Paxton in one of his more forgettable roles (but are any of his really memorable?) as the wisecracking young cop. His death in particular was very satisfactory and well deserved. Then you have Special Agent Johnson from Die Hard. Not that Special Agent Johnson from Die Hard, the other Special Agent Johnson from Die Hard (you see, they both had the same name in Die Hard, which provided one line of amusement before they both met a fiery death in a helicopter). And the cherry on this goddamn sundae of a film was Morton Fucking Downey Jr. as the brash investigative reporter. Oddly enough, you never saw him smoking a cigarette during the film. Is he dead now in real life?

Anyway, if you can get over this illustrious cast, you then have to look at the setting and plot. The film was made in 1990, yet is set in the futuristic Los Angeles that is 1997. Bad idea. Never base a futuristic movie only a few years in the future. It's too awkward and immediately discredits the entire film when we inevitably hit that year. But the good thing for them is that they didn't stretch many of the intricacies of the future. About all you see that could be considered "futuristic" are the enhanced police guns, the fact that all police vehicles were now AstroVans, and that someone decided to build a magical "bullet subway" from Los Angeles to Long Beach. Also of note was that while this one was made in 1990, somehow the special effects were actually better in the 1987 original. This helps guarantee the makers of Predator 2 an "F" for effort.

The plot of Predator 2 is naturally a mess. The basic premise is that the cops of LA are fighting terrible drug lords that are taking over the city during a hot summer (remember, heat and conflict bring about localized Predator outbreaks). The cops vs. drug lords plotline allows for the greatest moment of unintentional comedy in the Predator franchise. What is the name of the biggest drug gang you may ask? Why of course, it's The Jamaican Voodoo Posse. Led, of course, by King Willie. King Willie's Jamaican Voodoo Posse. I just gave myself a vasectomy. If you can get past this ridiculous setup, you'll only become further befuddled when it is Gary Busey!'s character who imparts the "heat and conflict" knowledge which has come into play numerous times in my daily life. This is used to explain why the Predator only seems to be killing policemen and Voodoo Posse members. Whatever. If Gary Busey! said it, it must be so.

The end of Predator 2, as some of you may remember, has a showdown between Coltrane and the Predator in the Predator's spaceship. Viewing this movie for the umpteenth time (I hate it and I love it, all at once), am I the only one that can't understand how an alien spacecraft was parked underneath an apartment complex? Wouldn't the landlord become suspicious? It's the middle of fucking LA! He didn't land in the desert in the middle of the night! He parked his ship under a goddamn apartment building! And then inside the spacecraft, you see the various trophies the Predator has collected, including, yes, an Alien skull. People I've talked to have been so amazed that they planted this skull in the film to "spark interest in an Alien vs. Predator film". Well, Christ, it was 14 years in the making, it was about goddamn time they had this pay off! Bah!

To sum up, Predator 2 gets a hearty thumbs down. But if you've never seen it, please subject yourself for comedy's sake. Predator 2 will also help you build compassion for the Predator, as things that he does in 2 and 3 lead you to understand that he is not as ruthless as he is made out to be. He is actually quite compassionate, and I feel genuine admiration for who he is and what he stands for. You'll understand if you view the entire franchise.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your second War Hero: Predator.

RIP Kevin Peter Hall