Today I watched John McTiernan’s Predator (1987)
Soldiers have a very important role in the traditional monster movie, their the guys who seem capable but die all the same to make the creature more intimidating. Then the scientists or other thinking type will puzzle out some manner of defeating the monster, but that’s hardly fair to soldiers, who are in their own way problem solvers. Predator re-focuses the monster movie on those soldiers, and in doing so fuses it with the mighty American action movie. To achieve this the plot is very simple, a group of commandos led by Arnold Schwarzenegger are sent into the jungle on a mysterious operation to rescue some important person. The whole operation goes sideways when it turns out to be some CIA cover-up, but more importantly there is an alien hunter using these grounds for sport.
For being a blend of traditional monster movies with an over the top action films, McTiernan actually milks a lot of subject matter out of it. In a sort of always a bigger fish type sense, there is significant parody here, as the action archetypes are hunted and made fools of by a superior being. It’s a very loving parody though as even still the movie is a very well constructed action film in it’s own right. But it’s certainly a showcase of how absurd action movies had become entering the late 90’s and how untouchable heroes were that they needed to be pitted against.
McTiernan was very good at surfacing and parodying these issues in a number of his films, such as Die Hard and The Last Action Hero. His are films that strike me as being between times, a transition between the 80’s and 90’s styles of action film making. I think this helps to explain his failures in the late 90’s and the fall into obscurity he subsequently suffered. And yet, those handful of classic he produced are extremely important and influential in the history of action cinema. 5/5