John McTiernan’s sci-fi classic is often dismissed in favour of Ridley Scott’s brilliant Alien (1979). Both franchises are now closely linked with the Alien Vs Predator films and games. Although I rate Alien highly, it is Predator that gets my vote in this long-running galactic duel.
While Alien builds slowly, Predator takes little time in getting things started. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character, Dutch, is briefed about a mission in a Central American jungle to rescue a cabinet minister before the film quickly switches scenes to show two helicopters swooping over the jungle with Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” playing in the background as we are introduced to the rest of Dutch’s squad of different but brilliant commandos.
Once in the jungle the mission is quickly underway but Dutch and his men are being watched from the treetops. We don’t see the Predator clearly until the latter stages of the film but seeing the jungle through its infrared vision makes for a great build up as it stalks and attempts to pick off Dutch’s men one by one.
Stan Winston’s design of the Predator is distinctive with dreadlocks, a rich array of deadly weapons and that iconic helmet whose design remains the most appealing despite an attempt at variations in Alien Vs Predator. Unlike the Aliens, the Predator harbours a degree of humanity in being bound by a strict code of honour that permits it from attacking anyone that is unharmed. As Dutch states, “He didn’t kill you because you weren’t armed. No sport.”
The film’s finale reduces the frantic pace and delivers a titanic battle between two heavyweights, a fabulous winner takes all contest with a memorable piece of dialogue and a dramatic conclusion. Sadly, the later Predator incarnations have not reached the heights of the original, which remains at the head of its class.
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