Predator (film)

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Predator
Predator Movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn McTiernan
Written by
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyDonald McAlpine
Edited by
Music byAlan Silvestri
Production
companies
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • June 12, 1987 (1987-06-12)
Running time
107 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$15–18 million[2][3]
Box office$98.3 million[2][3]

Predator is a 1987 American science fiction action film directed by John McTiernan and written by brothers Jim and John Thomas.[4] It is the first installment in the Predator franchise. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the leader of an elite paramilitary rescue team on a mission to save hostages in guerrilla-held territory in a Central American rainforest, who encounter the deadly Predator (Kevin Peter Hall), a technologically advanced alien who stalks and hunts them down.

Predator was written in 1984 under the working title of Hunter. Filming ran from March to June 1986 with creature effects devised by Stan Winston; the budget was around $15 million. 20th Century Fox released the film on June 12, 1987 in the United States, where it grossed $98.3 million. Initial reviews were mixed, but the film has since been reappraised as a classic of the action genre.

The success of Predator spawned a media franchise of films, novels, comic books, video games, and toys. It spawned three direct sequels: Predator 2 (1990), Predators (2010) and The Predator (2018), and an upcoming installment in preproduction.[5] A crossover with the Alien franchise produced the Alien vs. Predator films, which include Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007).

Plot[edit]

A spacecraft deploys a shuttlecraft into Earth's atmosphere. On a Central American beach, Major "Dutch" Schaefer, a Vietnam War veteran, and his six-man military rescue team are tasked by US Major General Philips with rescuing a foreign cabinet minister and his aide from insurgents. CIA agent Dillon, a Vietnam War buddy of Dutch's, is assigned to accompany the team over his objections.

En route, the team discovers the wreckage of a helicopter, downed by a heat-seeking missile. Both pilots are executed and the radio equipment stripped out, nearby are three gruesome skinned corpses, identified by Dutch as Jim Hopper, a Green Berets out of Fort Bragg, raising his suspicions. Dutch's team reaches the guerilla camp, just as a 'hostage' is executed by a Russian. The commando team attacks and kills several dozen guerrillas and some Soviet intelligence officers trying to escape in a helicopter. Confronted by Dutch, Dillon admits his surreptitious "cover story" was merely a ruse, and that Dutch is an "expendable asset", but it confirms intelligence about a planned Soviet-backed invasion, and that the skinned Green Berets were sent by the CIA weeks earlier.

Informed by radio, that more rebels are coming, the team proceeds "double time" back to its extraction point with Anna, the only surviving guerrilla. Now followed by an unseen presence, Anna escapes, when tracker Billy is spooked by the alien predator watching them from the tree tops. Hawkins is sent after her. They are both pursued by the creature, who is protected by a cloaking device via far superior technology. It spares Anna, but kills Hawkins and drags his body away, leaving a pile of his innards on the ground. Heavy gunner Blain is killed while searching for Hawkins body. Enraged, his buddy, Mac, initiates a hail of bullets & grenades that wound the creature, revealing luminescent green blood on a large leaf. The unit regroups, as the alien predator performs medical first aid on its leg. The commandos now realize that something in the jungle "wants" them. Dillon believes more guerrillas are responsible, but Billy is adamant that the predator is 'not a man', declaring that they will all die. The team makes camp for the night, setting traps.

That night, the traps are triggered by a wild boar, which Mac kills, mistaking it for the predator. In the confusion, the creature steals Blain's body. Dutch later realizes that their enemy uses the trees to travel, making their ground tripwire mines ineffective. Anna is now freed from her bonds by Dutch and explains how her village has seen these gruesome deaths before, when she was a child. The creature readily escapes from their net trap, leaving Poncho seriously injured. A desperate Mac and guilt-laden Dillon try to pursue it, but the alien kills them both. Billy decides to confront the predator atop a bridge with only his machete, he dies (off screen) and moments after his screams, Poncho is finished-off and Dutch wounded. Realizing the creature does not target the unarmed, Dutch sends Anna to the helicopter alone. While fleeing, Dutch slips down a mud slide, over a cliff, down a waterfall and into a river basin. Here, an exhausted, mud-covered Dutch realizes he is somehow camouflaged when the predator appears from the water. It leaves. While the creature collects skeletal trophies from the dead soldiers, Dutch crafts a lethal trap and stone age weapons, then applies more mud to himself. Now invisible to the alien hunter, he disables its cloaking device with an explosive arrow and spear, but then loses his mud and advantage by falling into some water. Surprisingly, the predator discards its shoulder-laser weapon and mask, engaging Dutch in hand-to-hand combat. Although Dutch is physically inferior, he manages to crush the creature under his trap's counterweight. As the creature lies dying, Dutch asks "What the hell are you?" The creature replies with the same question, then activates a self-destruct device, laughing maniacally in Billy's voice. Realizing what the creature has done, Dutch runs. He manages to cover, survive and is later rescued by Philips, who already has Anna aboard.

Cast[edit]

The main cast of Predator. Left to right: Ventura, Black, Schwarzenegger, Duke, Weathers, Landham, and Chaves.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Following the release of Rocky IV, a joke circulated in Hollywood that since Rocky Balboa had run out of earthly opponents, he would have to fight an alien if a fifth film were to be made. Screenwriters Jim and John Thomas took the inspiration from the joke and wrote a screenplay based on it. The Thomas script for Predator was originally titled Hunter.[6][7] The original concept, centered on a plot of "what it is to be hunted," concerned a band of alien hunters of various species seeking various targets; that concept was eventually streamlined to one extraterrestrial hunting the most dangerous species, humans, and the "most dangerous man," a combat soldier. Additionally, the setting was chosen as Central America for having constant special forces operations during that period.[8] The script was picked up by 20th Century Fox in 1985, and turned over to producer Joel Silver who, based on his experience with Commando, decided to turn the science fiction pulp storyline into a big-budget film. Silver enlisted his former boss Lawrence Gordon as co-producer and John McTiernan was hired as director for his first studio film. New Zealand director Geoff Murphy was also considered to direct.[9]

Casting[edit]

Kevin Peter Hall as the Predator.

Silver and Gordon first approached Arnold Schwarzenegger with the lead role. Arnold Schwarzenegger had previously starred in Commando, on which Silver had served as producer. To play the elite band of soldiers, both Silver and Gordon, with co-producer John Davis, searched for other larger-than-life men of action. Carl Weathers, who had been memorable as boxer Apollo Creed in the Rocky films, was their first choice to play Dillon while professional wrestler and former Navy UDT Jesse Ventura was hired for his formidable physique as Blain, co-starring with Schwarzenegger the same year in The Running Man. Also cast were Sonny Landham, Richard Chaves, and Bill Duke, who co-starred alongside Schwarzenegger in Commando.

Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally cast as the Predator with the intent that the physical action star would use his martial arts skills to make the Predator an agile, ninja-like hunter.[6] But when the 5'9" Van Damme was compared to Schwarzenegger, Weathers, and Ventura — actors over 6 feet tall and known for their bodybuilding regimens — it became apparent a more physically imposing man was needed to make the creature appear threatening. Additionally, it was reported that Van Damme constantly complained about the monster suit being too hot and causing him to pass out. He allegedly had also repeatedly voiced reservations about only appearing on camera in the suit. Additionally, the original design for the Predator was felt to be too cumbersome and difficult to manage in the jungle and, even with a more imposing actor, did not provoke enough fear. Van Damme was removed from the film and replaced by the 7'2" Kevin Peter Hall.[6]

Filming[edit]

Commitments by Schwarzenegger delayed the start of filming by several months. The delay gave Silver enough time to secure a minor rewrite from screenwriter David Peoples. Principal photography eventually began in the jungles of Palenque, Mexico, near Villahermosa, Tabasco, during the last week of March 1986, but most[citation needed] of the film was shot in Mismaloya, Mexico. Much of the material dealing with the unit's deployment in the jungle was completed in a few short weeks and both Silver and Gordon were pleased by the dailies provided by McTiernan. On Friday, April 25, production halted so that Schwarzenegger could get to his wedding on time, flying to Hyannis Port in a Learjet chartered by Silver. Schwarzenegger was married on April 26, 1986, to Maria Shriver, and honeymooned for only three days while the second unit completed additional lensing. The production resumed filming on May 12 and ended in late June 1986.

Both McTiernan and Schwarzenegger lost 25 pounds during the film.[6] Schwarzenegger's weight loss was a professional choice while McTiernan lost the weight because he avoided the food in Mexico due to health concerns.[6] Unlike McTiernan, most of the cast and crew suffered from Montezuma's Revenge since the Mexican hotel in which they were living had problems with its water purification.[10] In an interview, Carl Weathers said the actors would secretly wake up as early as 3:00 a.m. to work out before the day's shooting. Weathers also stated that he would act as if his physique was naturally given to him and would work out only after the other actors were nowhere to be seen.[6]

According to Schwarzenegger, filming was physically demanding. The actor—and former bodybuilder—shipped gym equipment to Mexico and trained intensively every day before shooting began, usually with his co-stars.[11] Screenwriter Jim Thomas was impressed with the training regimen and said: "I think that phrase 'manly men' was coined [during the production of Predator]".[11] Among other tasks, Schwarzenegger had to swim in very cold water and spent three weeks covered in mud for the climactic battle with the alien.[12] In addition, cast and crew endured very cold temperatures in the Mexican jungle that required heat lamps to be on all of the time. Cast and crew filmed on rough terrain that, according to the actor, was never flat, "always on a hill. We stood all day long on a hill, one leg down, one leg up. It was terrible."[12] Schwarzenegger also faced the challenge of working with Kevin Peter Hall, who could not see in the Predator suit. The actor recalled that "when he's supposed to slap me around and stay far from my face, all of a sudden, whap! There is this hand with claws on it!"[12] Hall stated in an interview that his experience on the film "wasn't a movie, it was a survival story for all of us."[13] For example, in the scene where the Predator chases Dutch, the water was foul, stagnant and full of leeches.[13] Hall could not see out of the mask and had to rehearse his scenes with it off and memorize where everything was. The outfit was difficult to wear because it was heavy and affected his balance.[13]

Visual effects[edit]

The original Predator creature was created by Richard Edlund of Boss Film Studios and was a disproportionate, ungainly creature with large yellow eyes and a dog-like head, and nowhere near as agile as necessary for what the filmmakers had intended.[14][15] After a call was put out for a new alien creature costume, creature effects artist Rick Baker put in a bid, but ultimately McTiernan consulted Stan Winston.[7] Winston had previously worked with Schwarzenegger as a visual effects artist on the 1984 film The Terminator. While on a plane ride to Fox studios alongside Aliens director James Cameron, Winston sketched monster ideas. Cameron suggested he had always wanted to see a creature with mandibles, which became part of the Predator's iconic look.[16]

R/Greenberg Associates created the film's optical effects, including the alien's ability to become invisible, its thermal vision point of view, its glowing blood, and the electrical spark effects.[17]

The invisibility effect was achieved by having someone wearing a bright red suit (because it was the farthest opposite of the green of the jungle and the blue of the sky) the size of the Predator. The red was removed with chroma key techniques, leaving an empty area. The take was then repeated without the actors using a 30% wider lens on the camera. When the two takes were combined optically, the jungle from the second take filled in the empty area. Because the second take was filmed with a wider lens, a vague outline of the alien could be seen with the background scenery bending around its shape.[17]

For the thermal vision, infrared film could not be used because it did not register in the range of body temperature wavelengths. The filmmakers used an Inframetrics thermal video scanner because it gave good heat images of objects and people.[17] The glowing blood was achieved by green liquid from glow sticks mixed with personal lubricant for texture.[17] The electrical sparks were rotoscoped animation using white paper pins registered on portable light tables to black-and-white prints of the film frames. The drawings were composited by the optical crew for the finished effects.[17] Additional visual effects, mainly for the opening title sequence of the Predator arriving on Earth, were supplied by Dream Quest Images (later Oscar-winners for their work on The Abyss and Total Recall). The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.[18]

Music[edit]

Soundtrack[edit]

Predator: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedAugust 19, 2003
GenreOrchestral
Film score
Length73:08
LabelVarèse Sarabande

The score was composed by Alan Silvestri, who was coming off the huge success of Back to the Future in 1985. Predator was his first major action movie and the score is full of his familiar genre characteristics: heavy horn blasts, staccato string rhythms, and undulating timpani rolls that highlight the action and suspense. Little Richard's song "Long Tall Sally" is featured in the helicopter en route to the jungle. Mac also recites a few lines from the song as he's chasing the Predator after it escapes from their booby trap. Silvestri returned for the sequel, making him the only composer to have scored more than one film in either the Alien or Predator series.

In 2003, Varèse Sarabande released the soundtrack album as part of its limited release CD Club collection; the album also includes the Elliot Goldenthal arrangement of the 20th Century Fox fanfare used on Alien 3.

In 2007, Brian Tyler adapted and composed some of Silvestri's themes used in the score of the film Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.

In 2010, the same year Predators featured an adaptation of Silvestri's score by John Debney, Intrada Records released the album in a 3000-copy limited edition with remastered sound, many cues combined and renamed, and most notably (as with Intrada's release of Basil Poledouris's score for RoboCop) presenting the original end credits music as recorded (the film versions are mixed differently). This release is notable for having sold out within a day.[19]

In 2018, Henry Jackman adapted and composed Silvestri's themes in the score of the film, The Predator.

Release[edit]

Home media[edit]

Predator was released on DVD on December 26, 2000.[20] The film was later released on Blu-ray on April 15, 2008.[21] Predator was released on Blu-ray 3D on December 17, 2013.[22] Predator was released on Ultra HD Blu-ray on August 7, 2018.[23]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Released on June 12, 1987, Predator was #1 at the US box office in its opening weekend with a gross of $12 million, which was second to only Beverly Hills Cop II for the calendar year 1987.[24] The film grossed $98,267,558, of which $59,735,548 was from the US & Canadian box office. $38,532,010 was made in other countries.[25]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregator Metacritic assigns a weighted average score of 45 out of 100 based on 15 largely contemporary reviews, indicating a "mixed or average" response.[26] Considering a broader range of retrospective opinions, Rotten Tomatoes reports that 81% of 48 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review, with an average rating of 7.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Predator: Part sci-fi, part horror, part action -- all muscle."[27]

Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times described the film as "grisly and dull, with few surprises."[28] Dean Lamanna wrote in Cinefantastique that "the militarized monster movie tires under its own derivative weight."[29] Michael Wilmington of the Los Angeles Times proclaimed it "arguably one of the emptiest, feeblest, most derivative scripts ever made as a major studio movie."[30] Variety wrote that the film was a "slightly above-average actioner that tries to compensate for tissue-thin-plot with ever-more-grisly death sequences and impressive special effects."[31]

Though finding the creature's motivations poorly explained, critic Roger Ebert was more complimentary of the film. He wrote: "Predator moves at a breakneck pace, it has strong and simple characterizations, it has good location photography and terrific special effects, and it supplies what it claims to supply: an effective action movie."[32] The Hollywood Reporter's Duane Byrge felt the Predator's weaponized attacks relied too heavily on special effects, but allowed that the film is a "well-made, old-style assault movie" and a "full-assault" visual experience.[33] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[34]

In a retrospective review, Film4 called the movie a "fast paced, high testosterone, edge-of-the-seat experience", and the titular character a "masterful creation".[35] Chris Hewitt of Empire wrote: "Predator has gradually become a sci-fi and action classic. It's not difficult to see why. John McTiernan's direction is claustrophobic, fluid and assured, staging the action with aplomb but concentrating just as much on tension and atmosphere... A thumping piece of powerhouse cinema."[36] Peter Superman of Reason magazine noted that "over the last 30-odd years, it has come to be regarded a classic of '80s action cinema".[37]

Legacy[edit]

Predator has appeared on a number of "best of" lists. In 2007, C. Robert Cargill of RealNetworks resource, Film.com (now merged into MTV Movies), ranked Predator as the seventh best film of 1987, calling it "one of the great science fiction horror films, often imitated, but never properly duplicated, not even by its own sequel."[38] Entertainment Weekly named it the 22nd greatest action movie of all time in 2007, and the 14th among "The Best Rock-'em, Sock-'em Movies of the Past 25 Years" in 2009, saying "Arnold Schwarzenegger has never been as manly as he was in this alien-hunting testosterone-fest."[39][40] In 2012, IGN proclaimed it the 13th greatest action movie of all time.[41] In 2008, Empire magazine ranked it 366th on their list of "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time".[42]

Predator was ranked 4th in a 2015 Rolling Stone reader poll of the all-time best action films; it was described by reporter Andy Greene as "freakin' awesome".[43]

In a 2018 review for IGN, William Bibbiani called Predator, "The most subversive action movie of the 1980s" and cites examples from the film of satire of the action film genre as a whole. In his review, he writes, "Predator may be a big, macho action movie, but it's also highly critical of the kinds of characters you'd normally find in big, macho action movies, and the superficial, unquestioningly heroic stories they appear in."[44]

In 2013, NECA released action figure collectables of Major Dutch and the Predator.[45] That same year, Predator was converted into 3D for a Blu-ray release.[46] The Predator makes an appearance in Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands, in a bonus mission called "The Hunt".

The line "Get to the choppa" was subsequently associated with Arnold Schwarzenegger,[47] especially when Schwarzenegger said the line again in some of his later appearances, including The New Celebrity Apprentice[48][49] and advertisements for the mobile video game Mobile Strike.[50]

In 2021, Fortnite collaborated with Predator making a playable skin for the character as well as a hidden enemy in the game, giving players the associated abilities such as invisibility and the shoulder cannon.

Sequel and franchise[edit]

The success of Predator led 20th Century Fox to finance three direct sequels over the next thirty-one years, each by different directors, starting with Predator 2 released in 1990. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not reprised his role as Dutch Schaefer in the subsequent sequels; he had been made offers to return, but declined on all of these occasions. The success of Predator resulted in numerous novels, comic books, video games, toys, and other media and merchandise. A number of these began appearing under the Alien vs. Predator title, which brought the Predator creatures together with the creatures of the Alien films, and a film series followed with Alien vs. Predator in 2004 and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem in 2007.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Name on name patch says "Philips" but spelled as "Phillips" in end credits. The script gives name as "H. L. Philips" and other source material gives "Homer" as his first name.

References[edit]

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  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 20, 2020. Retrieved November 21, 2020.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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  45. ^ – 7" Action Figure – Series 9 Asst (Case 14) NECA
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External links[edit]