After talking about a lot of films of differing quality, it's nice to talk about a truly great film once again. While I don't love Predator quite as much as I love Alien, there's no doubt that for what it is, Predator is truly great.
It's easy to see why someone once thought of combining the two franchises, as the basic set up is the same - alien killing machine species preys on humans, picking them off one by one until only one person is left in a final showdown. But that's really where the similarities end. Predator takes place in the dense jungle of Central America and our prey here are elite soldiers. It automatically makes the Predator seem more dangerous and imposing, that he is able to so easily take out these well trained killing machines.
But what really makes it work is that these guys aren't just kill happy grunts (like, for instance, most of the marines in Aliens) but men who actually care about each other. The friendship between Blain and Mac (played by Jesse Ventura and Bill Duke) may be one of the closest friendships I've ever seen portrayed in any creature feature/slasher film. You could easily think that a film where military men are the fodder could end up portraying them very badly, but this works well as a tribute to our men in uniform, both in the bonds they form with each other and the sacrifices they are willing to make to save others.
After watching the Rocky films and going back to watch Predator again, I had to laugh a bit. What is it about Carl Weathers that he has to start off acting like a bad guy and then turn into more of a hero? I guess that's what you call typecasting. Regardless, he's fun to watch, and the way he and Schwarzenegger play off each other is also well done. It's easy to want to disregard the "rescue the hostages" subplot that starts the film when it's all just a ruse, but I think it helps to keep the film going and establish our character's personalities. Though I can't help but think it would have worked better if we hadn't seen that opening shot of the spacecraft coming to earth.
Once again, the slow reveal of the creature really helps build the suspense. We get POV shots of its heat vision, images of it fully cloaked, and then slowly see its menacing claws and weapons. When we do get the full shot, it is of course wearing its helmet, which makes that moment when he takes it off and reveals his face all the more meaningful. I also think its pretty funny that the movie spends a lot of time avoiding the F-bomb just so Arnold can drop it at that moment.
But for all the camaraderie and strength of its characters, this movie really shines when it gets down to just Arnold and the Predator. Dialogue is non-existent as we watch them both prepare for their final battle, but your eyes remained glued to the screen. Their final fight sequence is just fantastic and you really feel like either one of them could be the victor.
Before doing this marathon, I'd never seen more than a scene or two of the sequel. Having heard a lot of bad things, I set my expectations low. You'll see how I felt about Predator 2 tomorrow.