Predator

Predator. 20th Century Fox 1987.

Before watching the movie:

Survival sci-fi horror starring a ripped commando who shoots stuff. I’m not sure if the Predator franchise eventually blended with the Alien franchise just because they’re both survival sci-fi horror, but I think this is more action and less gore than Alien, at least that’s how it presents itself.

I like the angle of humans encountering a species more capable than themselves that is intentionally an intimate threat to them. Extraterrestrials are often threats in the form of invasions or mindless monsters, but the Predator is, I understand, a sapient being optimized biologically and technologically for hunting.

I suspect that there is less machine gun fire and more running and hiding than suggested by the poster.

After watching the movie:

Dutch Shaefer and his special forces mercenary squad are brought into the Central American jungle on a rescue mission, told that their objective is an official being held by insurgents. However, what they find at the guerilla camp is actually a Soviet spy looking through documents captured from operatives that have already been killed, and retrieving the documents was the real mission. They also find the skinned bodies of the Green Berets who failed before them. As they proceed to their extraction point with captured insurgent Anna in tow, the squad realizes they’re being stalked by something in the jungle. Something that can’t be seen, but seems to have a sense of sport as it kills them one by one.

This has no sci-fi tone to it. It feels like a Vietnam movie that happens to have an alien in it. I always had the impression that the movie was at least set in an alien jungle, but it’s just some very contemporary mercenaries in a very contemporary Cold War operation that an alien hunter happens to crash. I’m all in for sci-fi action, but I wasn’t prepared for typical Cold War maneuvers. It also seems like it should feel more like a slasher movie than it does, but there’s no moral judgment at play in which characters get killed, and most of them are shot from cover.

The score feels somehow epic and classic, yet by the numbers. Alan Silvestri’s musical style remains easily spotted. On Back to the Future, the director told Silvestri to make the music big and epic because the movie wouldn’t be as big and epic as he wanted without a bombastic score. Here, the moments still feel a little overinflated by the music, but there’s more room for the music to expand into.

I brought more of my own inferences here than actual misrepresentations, but I’m still disappointed that I got a more grounded jungle survival/guerilla warfare movie than the space marines picked off on an unfamiliar planet I though I was going to see. Cold war jungle action/suspense is a much different flavor, and I can take a lot of the blame myself for not expecting that.

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