When I was a kid in the 80’s, Predator was one of those films that you weren’t supposed to watch, but everybody did anyway. Over-the-top action, invincible heroes, cheesy one-liners and big, big explosions made this a film that was a favorite of pre-pubescent boys everywhere. Going into this disc, I found myself wondering if the film would stand up to the harsh tests of time and maturity.
The answer to that question is both “yes”, and “no”. In the “no” column, it is very apparent early on in the film…that there is very little here in the way of plot. Some soldiers are hired to go behind enemy lines to rescue an American politician that has been kidnapped by generic terrorists. Once the team arrives at their location, they discover that they have actually been sent on the mission for different reasons altogether, though those reasons are never really made clear. On their way back to the rendezvous point, they have multiple encounters with an evil and mysterious creature who tries to kill them (and occasionally succeeds). That’s about it. Beyond these basic plot outlines, dialog is basically reserved to screaming profanities and the aforementioned goofy one-liners.
OK, fine, so this is obviously not a great film. So what? It’s fun! I guess a part of every man never outgrows the simple pleasure of seeing a grass hut explode as if it were made entirely of nitro glycerin, or witnessing a pro-wrestler fire a gattlin gun that was originally designed for use on a helicopter. I don’t care who you are… that’s just fun times.
I was pleasantly surprised by two elements of this film in particular. First, the gore factor. American movies are pretty gore-free, by international standards. You don’t see a lot of real brutal gore in many mainstream movies in this country. Predator is the exception, however, as the jungle is painted red with blood in many scenes. Skinned corpses and piles of entrails run rampant in this film, so if you are squeamish, this may not be the disc for you.
Secondly, I was pleased to find that the special effects still hold up exceptionally well. When the Predator is cloaked, his eerie movement is just as scary now as it was years ago. This is an excellent example of a special effect done the old fashioned way, before the prevalence of CGI, that looks better than it would have looked had computers been more heavily involved. Take that, George Lucas.
Sure, this film doesn’t have the visceral impact of Alien, but it’s still a fun Summer popcorn flick. This movie is the very definition of mindless entertainment. Sometimes it’s nice to sit back and zone out for a couple of hours. That’s what movies are all about anyway, right?
I was also pleasantly surprised with the quality of the audio on this disc. Most “older” films suffer from a flat soundtrack which usually makes its way onto the disc as well, even after re-mastering. This disc sounds great, though, thanks to the addition of a powerful DTS track. The upbeat musical score is big and bright, with a wide dB range in which to work. Also, there is lots of activity in the surrounds when such activity is warranted, but they are certainly not used just for the sake of being used.
As far as negatives go, the signal from the sub is just a bit too week for my tastes. The levels are certainly adequate, but it would have been fun to have felt the gunshots a bit more, by pushing the subs into the same hyper-real range that the rest of the film revels in. A more pressing problem is the presence of some distortion in a few of the lines of dialog. Again, this is not a major problem, but it certainly does occur a couple of times in the film. Specifically, it sounds like some of the ADR may not have been recorded under the best conditions, which gives away the fact that the recording environments changed a few times. These few minor problems aside, this is a nice, clean audio presentation.
This widescreen feature has all of the color and subtlety of the original. You know, green trees, green trees and more green trees.
In all seriousness, the picture quality is above average on this release. There are some minor blemishes present here and there, but for the most part, the picture is quite clear. Especially pleasing are the deep black levels, which are crucial to a film such as this one. In fact, nighttime scenes as a whole look great, striking the perfect balance between light and shadow. There is also very little grain present, which allows the viewer to enjoy the fantastic “hidden-predator” visuals in greater detail.
There is a veritable cornucopia of extras included on this two-disc set. Let’s dispense with the clever DVD reviewer quips for now, and get right to the meat of the topic. Special features include trailers for Alien vs. Predator and for the Alien Quadrilogy DVD boxed set. A fairly-thorough photo gallery is also included, as well as three outtakes and one deleted scene, though I’m not sure what differentiates the two.
The Predator Profile segment is a photo and text segment that examiness the creature’s weaponry and armor in detail. There is also an audio commentary by Director John McTiernan, as well as a text commentary by film historian Eric Lichtenfield. I was expecting the text commentary to be the same kind of thing that was included on the fantastic reissue of The Great Escape, but unfortunately, it is not even close. This commentary is a mostly-dry transcript of comments made by various people regarding the film, in subtitle format. I was thoroughly unimpressed.
The Predator Special Effects segment is very interesting, though quite short. This piece showcases the filming methods utilized to create the creature’s camouflage effect, as well as a great screen test of some alternate cloaking methods. The big extra is a half-hour documentary on the making of the film, which includes some amusing anecdotes form the set, as well as some equally amusing interviews with Jessie Ventura, when he was still in the mindset of a wrestler, instead of a Governor. I really enjoyed this mini-documentary, but I wish that it had been a bit more extensive.
Finally, there are some promotional featurettes for the theatrical releases of I, Robot and Alien vs. Predator, and for a limited time, a free movie ticket to go see Alien vs. Predator in theatres. There is always room for more in the way of extras, but it is clear that Fox is trying to give the fans something special with this set. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed
Thanks to this special edition, Predator is now poised to corrupt an entirely new generation of boys and teenagers. Plus, the older fans will have some nice extras to remind them of the days when bloody, mindless films were fun, and musclemen were in movies, instead of in the Governor’s mansion. Hoo-Ahh!
Special Features List
- Movie Cash coupon for one theatrical admission to Alien vs. Predator
- Audio Commentary
- Text Commentary
- Deleted Scene
- Three Outtakes
- “If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It: The Making of Predator” documentary
- Inside the Predator: Seven Featurettes
- Predator “Red Suit” Special Effects
- Predator Camouflage Tests
- Photo Gallery
- Predator Profile
- Trailer for Alien Quadrilogy
- Inside Look – Alien vs. Predator