Its opening shots establish Predator as a generic mutant, combining elements of outerspace horror and Vietnam-war allegory. The Predator itself, a polymorphous alien created by means of complex special effects, is a borrowing from canonical SF sources, most obviously The Thing.
Certificate 15 102 mins approx
Director John McTiernan
Major Alan ‘Dutch’ Schaeffer Arnold Schwarzenegger
Dillon Carl Weathers
Anna Elpidia Carrillo
Mac Bill Duke
Blain Jesse Ventura
Billy Sonny Landham
Poncho Richard Chaves
General Phillips R.G. Armstrong
Hawkins Shane Black
Predator Kevin Peter Hall
The introduction of a monster into a conventional jungle-warfare scenario serves to externalise the internalised, psychological conflicts of the recent spate of Vietnam movies – to which Predator is very similar in other ways. It presents a grunt’s-eye-view of the attempt to remain an honourable soldier while being deceived by both the enemy and one’s own superiors. The multiplicitous forms of the Predator are echoed in the slippery machinations of CIA-man Dillon (Carl Weathers), while patrol leader Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) yearns for simpler conflicts – “I don’t do this kind of work”, he proclaims, when he discovers his involvement in an undercover operation.
As the film progresses, it evinces a mounting pessimism about the efficacy of American military action. The unpromising omen of six skinned Green Berets hanging from the trees is followed by a convincing demonstration of the uselessness of the squad’s firepower against the alien. It is only by abandoning his sophisticated weaponry, and by styling himself as a primitive guerrilla-warrior, that Dutch manages to overcome the alien. Predator does not just fuse different generic elements, it also plays on Schwarzenegger’s star image, in particular by reversing his role in The Terminator by casting him as the human in conflict with the alien robot.
In this conflict, a literal monster has been substituted for a metaphorical Other. Unfortunately, special effects have also been substituted for suspense. The early appearance of the Predator makes the final gladiatorial conflict predictable, and the monster’s multiple transformations also exhaust interest in its final appearance, which comes as no real surprise.
Predator’s one claim to fame, finally, is in contributing to the process whereby a Schwarzenegger (or a Stallone) can come to embody the common man – a paradoxical process involving the Ubermensch taking mortal form, Mr. Universe becoming Everyman.