P is for… Predator
Ah, Predator. You’re a film that blends action and science fiction seamlessly, and you take a fairly straight-forward story and make it interesting with your intensely-trained-and-yet-crazy crew of soldiers, beautiful scenery, and excellent special effects.
In Predator, directed by John McTiernan, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Major Dutch, leader of said crew of soldiers. His group is selected to go on a retrieval mission for the cabinet minister and his aide. Once they finally land in the jungle, they discover the helicopter carrying their targets crashed, and eventually find some of its passengers skinned. They also determine that the cabinet minister was taken hostage, and track the guerilla group to a camp they then destroy.
Also at the camp Dutch realizes that they aren’t after the cabinet minister at all, and that his old comrade Dillon (Carl Weathers), who now works for the CIA, was lying. Dutch and his men are actually doing Dillon’s mission for him, and Dutch’s men are “expendable” should something go wrong.
They manage to secure a hostage to bring back with them (Anna, played by Elpidia Carrillo). It’s when they start heading to their rescue chopper that it becomes apparent that something is hunting them. Whatever it is seems to be invisible, and enjoys picking them off one by one, and violently. Twice they set traps, and twice it manages to escape. It’s when it’s apparent the hunter is humanoid that the hunter allows himself to be seen, likely a psychological ploy.
Finally the group gets narrowed down to Dutch, Anna, and Poncho (Richard Chavez). Poncho gets shot by the Predator, Anna flees to the rescue chopper, and Dutch prepares for a final stand. Through luck he realizes that the Predator can’t see him when he’s slathered in mud, and while covered up he devises yet another booby-trap. Though he isn’t able to quite outwit the Predator, Dutch is still able to catch it in his trap. The Predator self-destructs, and Dutch is able to make it to the chopper.
Though on the sci-fi end of potential “P” action films, Predator still hits most of the criteria. Away we go!
A is for… Accents
Dutch, though some sort of US military man, has Arnold’s Austrian accent.
Anna has some sort of Spanish accent (one of the characters comments that she isn’t Central American, unless he was talking about the guerrillas or other hostages).
Various members of Dutch’s crew have slight accents or strange speech patterns, including Blain (Jesse Ventura).
B is for… Bad Guys
Though Dillon is the human villain for lying to Dutch and getting them all involved and ultimately getting them killed, the obvious villain is the eponymous Predator. Dillon points out that whoever it was that killed his man Hopper from the helicopter killed several Green Berets, so it would have to be a strong, smart person. The Predator also doesn’t seem to leave tracks, but Dutch later points out that it seems to be using the trees.
The Predator’s vision is based on heat signatures, and Dutch surmises that maybe it can see his team’s trip wires, but maybe not the vines they’re using. When it gets shot it finds a safe place and pulls out a med kit with surgical tools, the first indication that whoever is hunting Dutch’s men—even if the viewer goes in knowing the villain is an alien—is sentient and intelligent.
In addition to a med kit, the Predator is equipped with several guns that seem to be energy weapons like the phasers in Star Trek, and also has stealth camouflage that renders it nearly invisible. It manages to get right on top of people before killing them.
It’s also creepily capable of mimicry, which may be another tool used to attract prey. When it does manage to kill, it skins its victims and collects their skulls as trophies. Dutch realizes it won’t attack anyone if he isn’t armed, yet none of his men ever lower their weapons, and eventually he gives one to Anna. Dutch also surmises that it’s hunting them all for sport.
During the climactic fight scene with Dutch, the Predator drops it weapons and fights Dutch mano-a-mano, possibly another testament to wanting a fair fight and more sportsmanship. It’s kinda hard, though, to think of the human equivalent of a man or woman fist fighting a deer or a bear.
C is for… Chases
Hawkins (Shane Black) chases after Anna after she escapes, and the rest of the team chases after them.
Technically the film is a slow chase as the Predator hunts Dutch and his men through the jungle to the helicopter.
D is for… Damsels
The only female at all in the film is Anna, the hostage. She’s plucky and tries to escape several times, and pretends she doesn’t know English. She speaks barely-accented English and tells the soldiers about how sometimes people in her village find men slaughtered, without their skin, and it happens during the hottest years. She ultimately escapes to the rescue helicopter.
E is for… Explosions
Once the crew attacks the guerrilla camp, there are countless explosions as they demolish it while the guerrillas fight back.
At the climactic fight scene between Dutch and the Predator, an exploding arrow sets off the entire trap.
Dutch uses another explosion to escape.
The Predator ultimately blows himself up with a very powerful self-destruct mode on its wristband/arm guard.
F is for… Flashbacks
No flashbacks in Predator. The whole film seems to take place over the course of only a day or two.
G is for… Guns
Full list here at the IMFDB.
Dutch and his soldiers each have huge machine guns that they lug around with them in the jungle. I know they are on a rescue mission in enemy territory and the guns aren’t as heavy to them as they would be to me, but it seems a little overkill.
The crew (usually Mac or Blain) is also carrying around a minigun named “Old Painless.”
The guerrillas have handguns.
The shootout as they take out the guerrilla camp is quite impressive; both sides have a lot of firepower in the jungle.
The Predator has an energy weapon like a Star Trek phaser that leaves no powder burns or shrapnel, and the wound is cauterized.
As Mac loses his composure after Blain is killed, he unloads the minigun into the jungle, as the other guys fire their weapons. Trees and nature destroyed: immeasurable. Predators injured: zero.
Amusingly, after all the macho overkill firepower throughout the film, Dutch’s final weapon is a bow that he rigged together himself from branches and vines.
H is for… Helicopters
The first real shot in the movie, after the Predator is launched to Earth, is of a military helicopter as it lands on a beach.
Two choppers carry Dutch and his men to the extraction site in guerrilla territory. It is very red inside, and the scene is used for character building as the viewer is slowly introduced to Dutch’s men.
The crew investigates the helicopter that had carried the cabinet minister and his aide, but it gets recognized as a surveillance bird, not one used for transport.
The guerrillas have a helicopter, but Dutch blows it up. In hindsight, maybe that wasn’t the best plan, if they could have figured out how to fly it back.
The rescue helicopter is the goal Dutch and his men strive to reach as they get picked off by the Predator. And, of course, this helicopter is the subject of the film’s most famous line: GET TO THE CHOPPER! (or, “CHOPPA”)
I is for… Improvisation
To start the attack on the guerrilla camp, rather than fire a gun or grenade into it, Dutch lifts up an idling pickup truck and lets it roll into the camp.
The crew sets two elaborate booby traps for the Predator, using vines as trip wires.
When Dutch realizes the mud camouflages him from the Predator, he slathers his whole body with it.
For the final fight, Dutch uses a machete to fashion a stake trap and a huge log trap—more of a tree trunk, really. It brings to mind a brief memory of John Matrix.
Dutch manages to fashion a bow out of branches, with vines as the string. He also builds an exploding arrow.
Dutch uses his machete as a spear blade.
J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects
Considering the entire movie takes place in a couple of helicopters and the jungle, it’s amazing there’s an entry for this category at all, but a guerrilla manages to fall through the thatched roof on one of the camp’s huts.
K is for… Kill Count
Dutch and his men kill all of the guerrillas, or at least wound them severely and leave them for dead. But of course the guerrillas aren’t in league with the film’s main antagonist, so I’m not sure if they count.
L is for… Limitations
Dutch and his men face an unknown adversary, they have limited resources (not that this is at all evident by how much ammo they waste, but they aren’t in a videogame), and though it takes a while for the Predator to demonstrate it to them, they are outmatched and outgunned by the Predator’s tech.
M is for… Motivation
Dutch and his men believe they are on a mission to rescue the cabinet minister and his aide, but once evidence of Green Berets is found in what turns out to be a surveillance helicopter, they realize they are just pawns trying to complete Dillon’s mission. Dillon manipulated them so the guerrilla camp would be destroyed, and perhaps his CIA agents could be found. After that, Dutch and his men only want to get to the chopper, with Anna in tow.
Once all of his men are killed, Dutch makes it his mission to kill the Predator.
The Predator’s motivation isn’t explicitly stated, but Dutch surmises it’s hunting them for the thrill of the hunt. The Predator doesn’t speak, so the viewer doesn’t get anything other than that.
N is for… Negotiation
Considering the Predator doesn’t speak or bother to try to communicate with Dutch and his men, it’s not surprising there isn’t any negotiation with it.
O is for… One Liners
Dutch, to Dillon: What is this fucking tie business?
Dutch, as the mission gets more complicated: This is getting better by the minute.
Blain: This will make you a goddamn sexual tyrannosaurus, just like me.
Dillon: Never knew how much I missed this, Dutch.
Dutch: You never were that smart.
Mac, to Dillon: You give up our position one more time, I’ll bleed you real quick, and leave you here.
Dutch, after impaling a guerrilla: Stick around.
Dutch, while entering a hut: Knock knock.
Blain: Son of a bitch is dug in like an Alabama tick.
Poncho: You’re bleeding.
Blain: I ain’t got time to bleed.
Dutch: My men are not expendable. And I don’t do this kind of work.
Blain: You lose it here, you’re in a world of hurt.
Mac: Nothing on this Earth could have lived. Not at that range.
Billy: There’s something out there waiting for us, and it ain’t no man.
Dutch: If it bleeds, we can kill it.
Anna, describing the creature her village elders discussed: The demon who makes trophies of man.
Dillon: So what are you going to try next, cheese?
Dutch: You’re one ugly mother fucker.
Dutch: What the hell are you?
(Likely there’d be more one liners—it is Arnold, after all—but most of the last half hour of the movie has no dialogue at all; there seem to be more subtitles for sound effects than spoken words)
P is for… Profession
Unlike other action films where the hero happens to be a military man or law enforcement professional in the wrong place at the wrong time, Dutch is actually on a professional mission. He’s a Major, and has been “accused” of being “the best.” His men are better than the “regular Army.” They are described as “a rescue team, not assassins.”
After that we don’t have too many details, but it’s clear Dutch and his men are good at their jobs and are well-equipped to fight guerrillas, but not alien predators.
Q is for… Quagmire
It’s Arnold and he’s alone on the cover of the DVD, so the viewer can’t be too worried about Dutch’s fate, but as he plots against and battles the Predator at the end of the film, Dutch is alone, chased, in the dark, and at one point is trapped in the Predator’s actual grip as it tries to kill him. There is definitely some level of “how is he gonna get out of this one?”
R is for… Reality, or Suspension of Disbelief
While the overall plot could happen—an alien life form will no doubt outgun us without a problem—it’s a little hard to believe a seasoned soldier will waste all of his ammunition on a fleeing adversary, and that the other soldiers around him will also waste their ammunition without having a clear line of sight. Vines are also pretty thick to be using as trip wires, even against the jungle backdrop.
Dutch explicitly states he believes the Predator only fires at a person who is armed, yet does not encourage his men to drop their weapons, and eventually gives Anna a gun after trying to keep her away from them earlier.
S is for… Sidekicks
Similar to a horror movie, Predator features a group of people wherein each member gets killed off one by one until there’re only a hero and a couple of injured people remaining. Dutch’s crew consists of:
Blain, who is big, wears a cowboy hat, chews tobacco, and is clearly there for muscle. He gets shot from behind with a projectile that explodes through his chest.
Billy, who is evidently the tracker because he reads the scenes and can tell how many people were around the helicopter, who they were, and the directions from which they came and went. Yet, the Predator eludes his senses in that he can’t see evidence of it, yet somehow knows there is something watching them from the trees. He for some reason sacrifices himself to the Predator by cutting his chest and waiting for it, after stripping half naked and tossing his weapon away.
Mac seems to be the big gun expert, but he slowly goes crazy, and finally gets shot in the head by the Predator.
Hawkins makes a few off-color jokes, wears big glasses, seems to be put in charge of the hostage Anna, and ultimately gets skinned.
Poncho is injured by one of the booby-traps and eventually gets shot by the Predator.
And Anna, of course, the one with the information, and the one who is able to get to safety.
Dillon gets his arm blasted off, and then he seems to get strangled. The movie is pretty violent, yet there are weird censoring choices made regarding the deaths.
T is for… Technology
I really like the way ‘80s action movies don’t find a need to rely on technology like computer discs and communication networks and encrypted crap. Dutch and his men have only their military gear.
It does, however, set up a nice contrast with the Predator, who has superior technology that he uses to outgun them. Which, of course, makes the viewer wonder about how if the Predator has superior weapons, then how is it fun to shoot the primitive prey? Shouldn’t it be using, like, muskets or something?
U is for… Unexpected Romance
Thankfully there is no romance at all in the film, because the only woman at all is a hostage and the men have other things—like a Predator—on their minds. (Which, I admit, might not stop romance from happening in a lot of movies made today. How much time gets wasted on drippy tone-ruining romance when the bad guy is right there?)
V is for… Vehicles as Weapons
Even in the jungle Arnold finds a vehicle to use as a weapon, the pickup truck that Dutch sends rolling into the guerrilla camp.
W is for… Winning
Certainly it is not much of a victory for Dutch, considering his men are all dead, but he of course does emerge victorious from the jungle.
After setting up his elaborate final booby-trap, all built with seemingly nothing but a machete, Dutch is able to fight the Predator a little, and eventually they get stripped down to a fistfight. Dutch lures the Predator through his trap, but the Predator doesn’t take the bait so Dutch has to think a bit backwards. He is able to reach the stick holding the tree trunk in place, which crashes down on the Predator. It is injured and bleeding, and Dutch almost takes its defenselessness to heart. But then the Predator sets some kind of self-destruct mechanism, which even in an alien language Dutch recognizes. As the Predator laughs its creepy mimicked laugh, it explodes in a huge cloud as Dutch flees.
Dutch stands victorious, and awaits the chopper, where once he’s finally aboard it, he seems to allow himself to grieve.
X-Rays, or Maybe You Should See A Doctor
Dutch has that general bruised-and-tenderized look of most action film heroes even before he gets beaten nearly to the death by the Predator. What can he even tell the doctors, “An alien beat me up”? Hopefully he doesn’t get, like, dysentery or hepatitis from crawling around in that mud. Considering everything that happens to him, Dutch is completely intact as he sits in the chopper.
Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem
Not technically a “problem,” perhaps, but clearly Dutch’s past relationship with Dillon is what gets Dillon to send Dutch and his men on the mission. Dutch even know the mission was suspicious but went along anyway.
Z is for… Zone, in the
Even after his crew is killed, the chopper nowhere nearby, and while fighting a literally alien enemy in the dark, Dutch makes it look easy as he builds his bow and his traps. He is a man on a mission to kill the thing hunting him, and somehow comes up with a decent plan that ultimately works.
Predator spends a lot of time building up the plot—the rescue mission of the cabinet minister—that clearly has no purpose other than to get Dutch and his men into the jungle where the Predator happens to be. Maybe there was no other way to get these soldiers fully geared up and into those woods, but either way the original extraction mission is a MacGuffin that drags on a little too long before the Predator starts doing its thing.
For a film released in 1987, the special effects—explosions and gunfire, lasers, lightning, Predator heat vision, and the cloaking outfit of the Predator—truly hold up. I can imagine they were astonishing in 1987, which is why the film was nominated for an Academy Award for best visual effects.
It’s unclear at times if Dutch has a five-o’clock-shadow or is wearing war paint.
Possibly because Dutch’s adversary doesn’t speak, but even before it’s just the two of them in the film, Arnold does a lot of eyeball acting. He does it often in his films, but it’s really obvious here, as he rolls his eyes, shifts them slowly to the side, widens them in surprise, et cetera. Just part of his style.
Blain is wearing an MTV Music Television t-shirt, which is fascinating considering MTV was still in its infancy then, so where does this soldier get a t-shirt, and also because of the recent dropping of “music television” from the MTV logo because they don’t actually have music videos anymore.
Arnold’s haircut is similar to that of his haircut during Commando, only not quite so long and so almost mulletish, but it must clearly have just been his style in the ‘80s.
That is a beautiful jungle in which the film takes place, and I’m curious as to where it was filmed, how much is real jungle, and if it’s real how much of the jungle did they actually use versus just switching up the camera angles. Wikipedia tells me the film was completed on location in Mexico, and also that it was a very physically demanding job for everyone.
Throughout the film Dutch and his men are shown applying war paint and wearing it, and at the end Dutch uses the mud as his war paint.
Most of the final battle between Dutch and the Predator has a strange look of “this was filmed during the day but made to look as if it takes place at night,” similar to the way old movies have that funky blue filter when the scene is supposed to be at night. But I’m not sure if that’s the case, or it really was dark and the lights necessary to illuminate the scene at all make it look as if the camera was manipulating the light levels and exposure.
Anyway, Predator. A little more sci-fi than this site was supposed to go, but it’s Arnold at his action heroing peak simply fighting an alien rather than a human. The film’s got action, adventure, and is pretty scary at times, especially if a person starts watching it without knowing who/what the bad guy is.