During the 1980’s I saw every Arnold Schwarzenegger movie as they came out, each one more overflowing with raw testosterone than the previous and offering heavily-accented, monosyllabic histrionics to be enjoyed by all comers, and nestled amid this rarefied niche in cinema is the action/sci-fi opus PREDATOR, which is considered by many to be one of the greatest action movies ever made. I even remember enjoying it very much when it was first released, but back in those days my perceptions were literally clouded by a perpetual haze of serious doobage so I gave many a lacking flick a pass if it amused me during my thoroughly baked state of existence. Well, while laid up sick yesterday I watched PREDATOR again for the first time in twenty-one years and I have to say that I really don’t get what the big deal is.
The story, such as it is, deals with a bunch of commandoes lead by an ambulatory slab of beef named Dutch (played, of course by Ah-nuld) who are sent into some hellhole of a South American jungle to deal with some typical G.I. Joe shit but end up as the quarry of an invisible and heavily armed extraterrestrial hunter who collects human skulls as trophies. By the end of the film Ah-nuld is the only commando not skinned and de-skulled, and it’s a throw-down between him and his alien adversary. That setup would have been great if it didn’t take so goddamned long for the soldiers — a group virtually indistinguishable from a bunch of ‘70’s-era G.I. Joe dolls found in any suburban backyard battleground/sandbox — to catch the title monster’s attention and be drawn into ultra-violent set pieces, and much of what passes for character development between the soldiers, bits meant to communicate their combat-bonding, is weak even by the standards of eighties army-man movies. And don’t get me started on the scene where the soldiers blaze away with their weapons of full auto for what seems like five solid minutes while screaming “AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGH!!!” and hitting nothing but innocent foliage.
The one thing that PREDATOR really has going for it is its laughable and unintentional (?) homoerotic content. This flick sets out to be the manliest flick that it can be, and it succeeds in ways that would have put it right at the top of Tom of Finland’s list of the greatest films ever crafted. The heroes are mostly a bunch of uber-ripped and musclebound supermen who look just like one of Tom’s famous leatherboy drawings, only sadly minus the fully visible, ginormous and veiny three-foot cocks that are as thick around as a can of Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee, and there even seems to be an attempt to cause the audience to take sides in a “who’s more manly” debate involving Ah-nuld and former Apollo Creed Carl Weathers. I swear to God, when Ah-nuld and Apollo greet each other at the beginning of the film they lock hands in the “soul shake” and immediately launch into a bicep clench-off that was only the first of several moments between them where I wonder how soon it would be until they finally admitted they were in love with each other and moved to the West Village.
Honestly, a homosexual love/adventure story between those two would have been a hundred times more interesting and entertaining that the actual movie, and the not-blatantly-stated-but-plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face love between Bill Duke and Jesse “the Body” Ventura’s characters would have offered another he-man interracial pairing with which to contrast the Ah-nuld/Apollo thing. No bullshit, watch PREDATOR again and try to tell me that Duke and Ventura aren’t more than just friends and comrades. (Any “Friends of Dorothy” out there who read this blog could do far worse than to spend an evening with PREDATOR, a box of tissues, and some Astroglide.)
The only other soldier to make any kind of impression is my man Sonny Landham, best known to most film fans as the Indian from 48 HOURS (1982). Here he plays Billy, the fighting unit’s Injun tracker, and both his look and demeanor remind me a hell of a lot of famed comic book hero Wolverine.
Sadly Landham has little do other than portray a modernized version of the stoic and stereotypical native tracker found in eleventy-jillion Westerns, and even his mano a mano against the alien hunter is a total letdown because even though he strips off his shirt, draws some of his own blood, and howls out a challenge, we do not see even two seconds of the battle. Instead we get Ah-nuld duking it out with his invisible enemy, and while that was fun in a Conan-reminiscent way, it was too little too late and concludes with a stunningly idiotic finale in which Ah-nuld, having mortally injured the alien, more or less outruns a nuclear blast caused by a self-destruct sequence built into the critter’s armor. When a rescue chopper arrives to pick him up, Dutch is standing there, looking not too much worse for wear, the mud covering his ‘roided-out physique apparently providing protection against inferno-like heat and hard radiation.
Never before has scientific realism been so starkly conveyed on the big screen.
As for the Predator itself, we are told that he shows up every few years whenever that particular patch of South American reaches a certain heat level and then begins his recreational hunting in earnest. That’s fine by me for a scary monster, but I’d find him a lot more frightening if he didn’t rely entirely on high-tech alien gizmos to get the job done; he’s got a cloaking device, a super-destructive laser whatchamawhoozit, knives, and who knows what else, so he’s the extraterrestrial equivalent of one of those assholes who “hunts” animals who are trapped in an enclosure with chance of escape from death by automatic weapons fire. I find that neither impressive nor scary, and for me the film only truly comes to life when the alien’s invisibility field is on the fritz and he must take on Conan, er, Ah-nuld on a somewhat more even playing field, but as previously stated it’s far too little coming far too late into the proceedings.
So what I want to know is how the fuck did PREDATOR garner such a lofty place in the cult of action figure cinema? It takes forever to get to what it promises, it’s pretty much lacking in suspense and it has dated horribly, so what was the big deal? If any of you out there can offer an explanation, please feel free to write in.