The internet is a wonderful and scary place, filled with pundits, critics and commentators who examine the minutiae of everything so we don’t have to. The pop-culture subconscious they generate, can form our opinion for us, sometimes with very little input from ourselves. But are all those ‘bad’ films and TV shows really as bad as the internet would have us believe? Are they not at least worth another quick look, before we cast them aside as irredeemable? We decided to bravely step through the office space/time portal for a last quick look at some of the most maligned…
For those too young to remember, the 80’s were not the best years of humankind. Aside from the terrifying political landscape, and the horrifying fashions that emerged, action movies ruled at the cinema. The genre was so prevalent it even managed to filter through and taint the well of our beloved science fiction. And so, in 1987, we got Predator, a science fiction film which, for most of its first half seems to think it is a war film. It is filled with the usual crude humour which is supposed to pass as bonding between soldiers, and features an almost uncomfortable number of shots which inexplicably contain oiled biceps and little else. Arnold Schwarzenegger brings the full range of both his emotions to bear, showing his ability to not only act like a man who has trapped his hand in a door, but also act like the door itself.
It does however have some redeeming features. It is, after all a sci-fi film in the purest sense. We know it is because it begins with a first shot of a star-field, then a spaceship, then a planet. Because since Star Wars, that’s the law for sci-fi films, isn’t it?
But it isn’t all about spaceships, and despite the fact that it tries very hard to make you forget it’s a sci-fi film you are watching you are continually brought back on track with the movies best feature; the titular Predator.
Featuring an amazing physical performance by Kevin Peter Hall, and awesome creature design by Stan Winston, the Predator is given weight as much by his absence from the film as by his presence, bringing real tension and an air of suspense with the use of stylised infra-red camera shots and the creatures own cloaking technology. The stakes continue to be raised throughout the second half of the film, as our musclebound heroes find all their guns, strength and training amount to nothing against their foe. The film seems to turn itself on its own head, especially after building so much into these soldiers. It makes it clear that it is their very strength, the weapons and the training that makes them prey to the Predator.
Through very little contact with our leading alien, and almost no direct dialogue, we learn a remarkable amount about him, his technology, and his culture. The film shows surprising depth, and even dare I say subtlety in doing so, and always left me rooting as much for the alien antagonist as for our oversized protagonist. It is a surprising and slightly jarring experience to yawn your way through the predictable and obvious first half, suddenly to be caught up in the hunt during the second.
Often overlooked as merely a gory 80’s action film, Predator is actually an example of great sci-fi, which has been so cunningly disguised that you might easily miss it. Very much like the Predator himself.