Sound: B Extras: A- Film: B
Fox has reissued both Predator films because of the
release of Alien vs. Predator, all of which we will be looking at on
this site. Featuring a well-chosen and
convincing cast, along with one of the best creature designs ever to grace
film, the original 1987 Predator is still a delight to watch, and yields
repeated viewings far better than either of its sequels. Although it's just a basic 80's action flick
with an alien thrown in, it has aged very gracefully... something that Arnold's
The Running Man - also released in 1987 - hasn't done quite so
well. Even though there is a cult
status attached to that film, on the whole it just seems too silly and overdrawn. Despite it having the larger production
budget of the two films, it never totally sucks you into the action. This is proof that effects (which will
always end up outdated within a few short years anyway) should never take
precedence over believable acting and atmosphere. Those who hold power in Hollywood should have taken note of this
a while back, rather than subjecting us to tons of digitally enhanced garbage
through recent years - long after the novelty of seeing effects laden movies
has worn off with the public.
Returning to Predator, the basic premise is to send
Arnold Schwarzenegger into the jungle with a small group of soldiers, then have
them killed off by some unseen creature.
As everyone is picked off one by one, build up to a Rambo-inspired
climax, and throw a nice explosion. I'm
sure it could've easily gone wrong - lots of sci-fi movies out of this decade
often missed the mark somehow. Perhaps
if they'd used the original design for the character, it may have been all that
was needed for it to seem cheesy enough not to be taken seriously - both by the
audience and the actors. It's
interesting to note that an unknown Jean-Claude Van Damme apparently was to
play the part of the Predator before the redesigned costume came into
play. It's also nice that they didn't
get pretentious with this movie by clouding things up with big story elements,
and not totally focusing on Schwarzenegger the whole time. Granted, he's the one selling the tickets,
but in this picture you get an even feel for all of the characters, rather than
giving Dutch an unnecessary backstory and centering on him. Granted, no one here is deeply complex or
even beyond typical movie stereotyping – but they're interesting enough to add to
It's nice that an edition like this is finally out on DVD.
I owned the previously available basic edition in full-screen, as that's the
only one I ever actually came across, but this without a doubt blows that one
away. This 2-disc set has a lot of
special features that have been put together well - I don't think that fans of
the movie will find themselves disappointed.
Also included are a couple deleted scenes - but these are short, and you
can see why they ended up cut from the film.
The commentary with John McTiernan is pretty nice, but not entirely
compelling. Though it is far better
than either of the boring commentaries that you'll find on the special edition Predator
2 disc that I will explain in that review.
They've also done a nice job on the packaging - as you get a cardboard
foldout case with some memorable quotes from the film printed on it. A cool touch that's better than the
conventional plastic case with a cardboard slipcover found on Predator 2
and Alien vs. Predator.
The sound presentation is excellent - as 5.1 DTS is
available, along with the more common 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix. The DTS is a great improvement over the
Dolby from the old version, a bit better than the DTS from the late 200 DVD and
the Dolby here is a bit better than all the previous Dolby efforts. The film was released theatrically in old
analog optical Dolby A-type system tradedown sound for 35mm and the much better
Dolby 4.1 magnetic stereo for its 70mm blow-up engagements. This DTS finally brings the impact and range
of that home. Picture quality is also
good, despite some noticeable graininess here and there - but this is
unavoidable, and is lost on you most of the time anyway. It would have been nice if I'd kept my older
edition of the film around long enough to do a thorough comparison, but I can
say that things do look better in widescreen.
This is anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 here, as all previous editions
but the original 1998 DVD has been, and you get a complete package that's worth
upgrading to from any other copy you may own.
If you decide not to bother with this release, you won't lose any sleep
- I'm sure an even better one will turn up in a matter of a few years. But it's nice to see some effort put into
the Predator franchise on DVD, even if Fox doesn't seem to know or care what
made this one work, or what nasty turns the series is taking in the theaters.
- David Milchick