The classic Arnold Schwarzenegger alien attacker movie gets a 30th anniversary rerelease.
It isn’t immediately obvious why Predator is getting a cinema rerelease. It is celebrating its thirtieth birthday this year but so are The Untouchables, Good Morning Vietnam and Raising Arizona, all of which are better films and none of which are being rescreened. It could be that the film is trying to ride on the back of the recently resurgent Alien series, which is actually what it has always done, and there is a new Predator movie currently in production but taken on its own merits it is initially hard to see why this Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle has come back.
The movie is still quite fun and it does have nostalgic appeal but looked at in a historical context it may also be important for reasons beyond those that are first evident. With the corny one liners and the over the credits shots of the cast posing to camera like they’re in a Naked Gun movie it is hard to take any of it seriously yet it remains a good example of 80s action cinema. More than this though, Predator shows an industry slowly beginning to address its patriarchal past, on screen at least, as the casual sexism of early 80s films like Weird Science, Animal House and Splash is gently challenged. It is significant that the first of the elite army squad to meet a grizzly death in Predator is the guy who has been cracking jokes that are offensive to women and the one man that survives is the only one to treat the opposite sex with respect.
The plot, if you don’t know it, sees Schwarzenegger’s band of heroes helicoptered into the Central American jungle to rescue a couple of kidnapped diplomats only to find themselves as the prey to an otherworldly psychopath. Whereas their attacker uses stealth and patience the approach of Schwarzenegger’s team is to liberally fire their heavy artillery at everything and throw grenades around, none of which gets them very far. It is only when Arnie starts to use his ingenuity that he gets anywhere against this formidable enemy.
All in all, despite its surface appearance as another dumb Hollywood shoot-em-up, Predator may actually represent a significant sea change in late 20th century cinema. It is here that the guns, the puns and the chauvinism were tentatively laid down for the first time, paving the way for the very different types of more contemplative and less gung ho action movies like Point Break, Patriot Games and The Fugitive that started off the next decade. This more than anything else is a reason to give it another viewing.
By Mark Waters
In Cinemas 9th November 2017.