2. Predators (2010)
“You want to survive? You dig in deep. You stay hid.”
It took 23 years to make a sequel that came anywhere close to the franchise’s first chapter, and while Predators is by no means high art, it far better understands what makes Predator work, making for a satisfying if not wholly iconic third entry to the series.
Boasting the finest cast of any Predator movie (Adrien Brody, Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, and an early performance from Mahershala Ali), director Nimród Antal and producer Robert Rodriguez pit a group of Earth’s most dangerous men and women against the most vicious hunters in the galaxy. The usual premise comes with a twist, however, as we discover that this oh-so-familiar jungle is a far throw from Earth. Stranded on an alien hunting-reserve and pursued by a particularly nasty bunch of Predators, Brody and company must find a way home. That is, if they can survive until then.
There is an undeniable ambition to Antal’s big budget B-movie, and though it never reaches the levels of fear and gore explicit in the original, there are enough stand-out scenes to make Predators a worthwhile sequel. The opening parachute drop creates enough disorientation to keep the unpredictability high throughout; an early trap with Danny Trejo as the bait is effectively creepy; and we get our first Predator-on-Predator battle of the series. It may not be offbeat enough to achieve cult status, but with all it has going for it, Predators is a sequel that deserves a little more attention.
1. Predator (1987)
“There’s something out there waiting for us, and it ain’t no man. We’re all gonna die.”
When it comes to the Predator franchise, there’s just no beating the original.
Die Hard director John McTiernan takes a simple premise and turns it into one of the greatest action movies of the 80s: a military team find themselves hunted by an unseen creature while on a mission deep within a sweltering jungle.
The mission itself barely matters. It’s the same mercenary scenario that plays out in most action films of the 1980s, with all the homoerotic undertones and bodybuilding excess that was key to the genre at the time. The beauty of Predator, however, is that after 40 minutes of this film, we take a wild swing into a darker, more brutal one – the jungle concealing both a threat and a genre we didn’t know were there.
It’s hard to imagine a better opponent for the Predator than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Dutch is perhaps the epitome of Arnie’s action career: a cigar-chomping, quip-spouting collection of muscles played with just the right amount of the Austrian-born actor’s humour. To look at him, you would be hard-pressed to find a more worthy physical adversary, but of course brute force is not enough. It takes cunning to catch a Predator.
After the slasher-style mayhem of the middle act in which each burly member of Dutch’s crew is sliced up, skinned or blown to hell by their unseen stalker, the final showdown provides the franchise’s most suspenseful moments by far as Dutch, caked in mud and backed by sheer determination, attempts to beat the monster at its own game.
Equal credit must go to Alan Silvestri’s macho score, which practically screams “action movie!” with every gunfire-like note of its main theme, and, of course, there would be no Predator without Stan Winston. In designing the creature in all its dreadlocked and mandibled glory, the special effects maestro made a movie-monster for the ages, an iconic design that ranks up there with H.R. Giger’s work on Alien. It’s only fitting that those two creatures would go on to fight each other in later films. Much like that franchise, the beginning is best.
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Do you agree with our order? Does Predator remain the number one film in the franchise even after three sequels? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to follow The Film Magazine on Facebook and Twitter to never miss another list like this one.
Written by Scott Z Walkinshaw
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