|Written by Bill Warren|
|Tuesday, 26 December 2000|
Any movie with special effects that still look smart and exciting twelve years after its initial release deserves some respect right off the bat. Such is the case with ‘Predator,’ which is otherwise a slightly silly, but absolutely diverting Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle.
Schwarzenegger stars as Dutch, a soldier-for-hire who finds himself and his men duped into doing CIA dirty work in the wilds of Central America. They turn out to have a bigger problem than the local rebels--an extraterrestrial who hunts armed humans for sport.
Under John McTiernan’s gleeful direction, ‘Predator’ exaggerates everything to comic book proportions, from the first hyper-muscular handshake between Schwarzenegger’s Dutch and Carl Weathers’ tough government op Dillon through the grueling climactic battle. The script by Jim Thomas and John Thomas has implausibilities and inconsistencies but the action is plentiful, energetic and often imaginative, playful even in many of the bloodier moments. The first of these comes just about 16 minutes in during Chapter 4, with a red against green shock that sets the gore bar fairly high.
Chapter 5 introduces a cool p.o.v. style for the alien, with pulsating neon colors indicating up front that it is guided by heat. Chapter 8 makes the best use of the widescreen format, with the alien’s written language scrolling along the far left rim of the image. However, it’s in Chapter 9 that the distinctive visuals fully come into their own. The special effects firm R/Greenberg creates a striking optical ripple that distorts the image where the alien is standing but keeping it totally translucent. When we see the alien itself out of its camouflage armor, the creature (designed by Stan Winston) is also satisfyingly dangerous and weird-looking, though the intermediate stage (the armored creature made visible) looks a bit like something with a duck bill and dreadlocks.
There are fine sound effects throughout, but perhaps the highlight comes in Chapter 12, with Alan Silvestri’s score (reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith’s work for ‘Planet of the Apes’) and a pitched firefight fade away first to the whine of a spent machine gun, then to the near-silence of the surrounding jungle. It’s one intelligent grace note among many in a popcorn movie made by folks who know how to keep us wondering what will see next as our adrenaline continues to pump.