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Predators (2010) -vs- Predator (1987)

Predators -vs- Predator

Mark Sanchez, Featured WriterThe Smackdown

A couple of months away and the Smackdown arena feels largely unchanged: More romantic vampire / werewolf romps, something else with Jonah Hill, another “Iron Man.”  And what’s this? A remake – more or less – of another Hollywood staple: the Human -vs- Alien Smackdown.

That territory produced gold with “Predator” in 1987. It featured one really dandy visual effect that counterbalanced a ludicrous storyline and unconvincing acting to create an enduring movie character. The follow-ups, “Predator 2” and a pair of “Alien -vs- Predator” flicks, could not kill the franchise although they tried.

Audiences love their vengeful alien — but can it withstand another movie portrayal? The newest version — “Predators” — carves out a variation on a familiar theme. This movie is neither remake nor sequel — call it a requel that borrows many elements from the original, and nearly nothing from the subsequent movies or comics.

So, here’s the outline of our ‘Smack: Does “Predators” finally bury the franchise, or do what the sequels could not, namely: improve the original material? Weapons on full stun.

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The Challenger

Any way you slice it, the humans are in for it. In “Predators” they literally fall out of the sky under conditions that tell them they’re not in Kansas anymore. Or on Earth. They are eight: misfits, terrorists, soldiers of fortune and one oddball, a doctor. Led by Royce (Adrien Brody) they want to go home. Before long they realize they’re being hunted by unseen forces. What they can see is not encouraging: tusked creatures are herding them the way hunting dogs flush out the quail at a bird hunt. One by one, the Predators kill most the humans. Not surprising: The hunters can mask their visibility and see the infra-red heat images thrown off by the hunted.

They encounter a man who survived an earlier hunt. He provides survival skills to this shrinking  group of human prey. What follows is a fight against long odds, superior firepower and betrayal. You can guess who wins. Nimrod Antal directed a script by Alex Litvak and Michael Finch.

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The Defending Champion

“Predator” sets the table, but a little differently. Dutch Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a military vet called to the border of Guatemala to retrieve a kidnapped government official. His crew wipes out the rebels, but feels the (mostly) unseen hand of a space creature honing its hunting skills on them. The alien cloaks its visibility (just as well: it has a face like a lobster with dreadlocks) and can see the infra-red images of its prey in the dark. The humans have Arnold. He and the creature have a life and death jungle Smackdown with thermonuclear results. John McTiernan directed his first major feature from a screenplay by Jim Thomas and John Thomas.

The Scorecard

“Predator” found a worldwide audience ($98 million box office) despite being a little deliberate on the action. Oh sure, we see the creature’s grisly handiwork and infra-red point of view shots..but no extended image of the alien for about 42 minutes. The storyline and dialogue do not improve watching it 23 years later. It’s a popular film colony story that “Predator” was originally written as a goof, the sort of movie Sly Stallone would make after Rocky outboxed every opponent on earth. As it is, “Predator” got Arnold Schwarzenegger and a footnote in American politics. Besides Arnold, the film features another future governor (Jesse Ventura/ Minnesota) as well as a would-be governor (Sonny Landham/Kentucky). Ventura has the best line in the movie: “I ain’t got time to bleed.” The rest of the acting hovers below that level. The movie benefits from a fine score by Alan Silvestri. The Predator (with  Kevin Peter Hall in a bulky body suit) is genuinely scary and has the most interesting action.

By contrast, “Predators” spreads the interest around. As a group, the cast outperforms their counterparts in the earlier movie. Adrien Brody (bulked up for the role) as the team leader easily shows depth and dramatic complexity that is beyond Arnold. The same is true of every member of this kidnapped and ill-fated cast. Alice Braga, Topher Grace and Laurence Fishburne especially stand out. The all have something interesting to do. Especially since it involves steering clear of the creatures and different predators inhabiting this outer space game preserve.

The pace and filmmaking separate the films. “Predators” reflects the verve of producer Robert Rodriguez, whose early, long-abandoned version of the story inspired this screenplay. Rodriguez knows how to stage action sequences (“Desperado,” “From Dusk till Dusk,” “Sin City”) and his influence on director Antal shows here. The action is briskly staged and plays well against John Debney’s musical score.

What this film lacks is the moral high ground. Alice Braga’s character is the only one with undisputed goodwill, although Royce (Brody) comes around. Nearly all are willing to kill fellow team members if that saves their skin. That notion does not win out, but the movie takes awhile getting there. Even escapist entertainment needs a moral compass.

Does all this lead us to a clear winner? You bet.

The Decision

I won’t throw away my copy of “Predator” because it remains a fine film that uses that “cloaking” effect to maximum effect. The action slowly builds toward an entertaining if unbelievable conclusion.

Which is only one of its debits. “Predator” has a truly remarkable cast — but the acting level is not high. Audiences will always put that aside to love this movie.

The problem for “Predator” is that it is a step slow. “Predators” is better staged, better acted and effectively reworks the basic elements in a familiar story. This version remakes the franchise, and if you like this sort of film, our winner, “Predators” is structured to serve up better sequels than the ones that followed the original.

About Mark Sanchez 81 Articles
Oregon based media and communications consultant Mark Sanchez is on the fifth or sixth step of his recovery program from his career as a television news reporter. And that’s the way it is. Mark has been an Oregonian since the Reagan administration and shows no signs of leaving. He lives in Portland — a city that is famous for its transit system, its rain, its independent film community and, lately, for the TV series Portlandia, which Mark notes is about half-true, but to protect confidential sources he won’t say which half.

7 Comments on Predators (2010) -vs- Predator (1987)

  1. ok may be predator kinda

  2. i say predators like it because there is more than on predator and there is a prison dude on it it sucks the way the prison dude dies.

  3. I watched both of them and predator (the original one) in my opinion is far better. why is Morpheus trying to smoke them out of the ship when he has alien equipment? He could have easily killed them. There were quite a few let downs but bottom line the original was better. People like to think that they are critics and over analyse a film. If anyone out there agrees with me send me a reply.

    • i like the first two films,but campaird to the last two movies,i found predators to be fucking boring as shit.the pace of the movie was to slow,the characters are unlikble,tharys no one i realy care for,to much tolking and not anothe action.the only good action scenes where the super predator vs the classic predator and the asian guy who fights a predator by himself,but thats just about it.the movie felt like a warterd down version of the first film.over all,this movie just fails.predator 1 & 2 are my faverite,but the first movie will always be the best.

  4. i have to agree with you on your comment,predator does build the suspense very well.john mctiernan slowly gets the action going,you as the viewer feel as though you are on this mission with these commandos.predator takes one story which is a search to find hostages taken by a band of rebals,to being hunted by an unseen force to be rekoned with.predator was something new at the time when it came out.the other predator films are not new they’re just a retread of whats already been done.predator is still number 1 with schwarzenegger being the ultimate action star no mattter how much adrian brody buffs up.

  5. I have watched the older one and liked it very much. Arnold has performed a good job. He is looking great in the movie and movie was also very nice. I hope that the new will be as good as the older one.

  6. Wow, Mark, you focussed almost entirely on the acting in both these films…. which is something I’m not sure the film-makers were trying to worry about! I would disagree with you that Predator is “as step slow”, I felt it was perfectly edited to build suspense. The action, akin to Cameron’s use of action and dramatic tension after a slow buildup in Aliens, comes hot and heavy during the final act of Predator, which is a great payoff for the gradual killing of the mercenary crew sent into the jungle.
    I haven’t seen Predators yet, but I will be doing so soon. I hope it lives up to the big plaudits you’ve given it!!

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