Predator (1987)

reviewed by
Mark R. Leeper

                       A film review by Mark R. Leeper
                        Copyright 1987 Mark R. Leeper

Capsule review: Arnold Schwarzenegger meets an alien with a cloaking device while on a commando mission in Central America. Action films are pretty common, but the concept of the cloaking device coupled with decent special effects are a boon.

When I was growing up and into comics, one kind of comic I was NOT interested in was war comics. I never read one, though I was occasionally curious about the ones that mixed war stories with a science fictional element. Typically, some group of commandos would find an island they were taking was infested with dinosaurs. If I were to read a war comic, that would be the one I'd want to read. Well, the science fiction war story has made it to the screen with PREDATOR.

To Major Dutch Schaefer (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger), it's just another job. Schaefer makes his living by leading a crack commando unit in the jungle. It isn't the safest way to make a living, but it usually has a predictable level of danger and few really unexpected hazards. Schaefer usually knows pretty much what to expect and what to be prepared for. This time, however, Schaefer has flubbed it badly. Schaefer and his men are not prepared for the hazards they are facing and they are paying the price in lives. It isn't really their fault, of course. It's just that sometimes you face *something you haven't seen before*. This time they are being picked off by an alien creature and because the alien can fade into the jungle like a chameleon, they are not even seeing the something this time.

Twentieth Century Fox, who cleaned up with two science fiction horror films last summer (ALIENS and THE FLY), have as their summer science fiction film this year a sort of RAMBO meets ALIENS. You probably already know who Schwarzenegger is. The title role is played by the 7'2" tall Kevin Peter Hall, the Peter Mayhew of the 80s. Hall is quoted as saying of his alien's fighting style: "An alien warrior wouldn't come from outer space doing old Bruce Lee routines. I wanted something a little different from the standard karate. Medieval combat seemed appropriate." Right! Well, I'm not really sure you can tell the difference.

What does set this film apart from pure throwaway action films is an interesting approach in the chameleon or, more accurately, "cloaking" effect. In the first scenes when you see it, you really are not sure what you have seen or how the effect was created. When you can get a better look at the effect, it is relatively clear how it was achieved, but it is still a good idea. The plot implications of a nearly invisible creature stalking the commandos are well-handled. Without the cloaking concept this would be a fairly low-grade action film. As it stands, PREDATOR is an enjoyable action film, reasonably well-thought-out. I saw only one real inconsistency (I don't think it will give away much to say that sometimes the alien can see human eyes and sometimes it can't). Because the invisibility theme is well-handled, I give PREDATOR a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale.

                                        Mark R. Leeper

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