Most movies, when they reach the 30-year mark, start to show their age — especially science-fiction films. But after all this time, Predator (which has its 30th anniversary on June 12) still manages to enthrall audiences. Why? What makes this sci-fi action/thriller so awesome even to this day?
Let's take a look at why the story — about a special ops team going into the jungles of Guatemala to battle some rebels, only to be stalked by an alien hunter — still holds up perfectly.
The Bait And Switch
When Predator first starts, the whole alien thing is only hinted at. The first 20 minutes are focused on this special ops team dealing with a camp of rebels. Then, out of nowhere, you start seeing things from something's point of view — and that's when the movie becomes an entirely new film with a much more ominous tone, which keeps us pumped to see how this creature takes on these badass soldiers of fortune.
Likable And Memorable Characters
Along with the bait and switch, the first 20 minutes allow us to get to know the soldiers, who are far from just being "Predator fodder." All of these characters feel like a genuine team who've been working together for years; they joke around, they're loyal to one another, and they are genuinely distraught when one of their own is taken out by the Predator. This team dynamic inspired many future films — there are even hints of it in recent hits such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Suicide Squad.
Similar to films like Alien or Jaws, Predator makes a smart move by hiding the monster threat throughout the movie — by giving it a cloaking device and showing events from its perspective. This allows audiences to feel more fear of the creature, building the suspense throughout the film simply, because we have no idea what this thing looks like.
It isn't until the last third of the movie that we finally see the Predator on full display ... and even then, it's hidden behind a mask. Finally, in the last 10 to 15 minutes, the monster reveals its face in all of its wonderful Stan Winston effects glory — and at that point, we are deadly afraid of this one ugly motherf***er.
Arnold Schwarzenegger (Duh!)
Now, we all know Arnie as the one-liner-spewing muscle man of pure kickassery from many other films, but what's really surprising about Predator gives his character, Dutch, so much depth. Schwarzenegger shows anger, fear and sadness ... and, okay, some cheesy one-liners. Still, Arnie and his kickass stubble deliver one of the greatest performances of his career.
A Perfect Amount Of Action
As shown with his other films, such as Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, director John McTiernan knows how to deliver action spectacles — but he never goes overboard, turning a great premise into a bloated mess like a Michael Bay film. McTiernan gives the audiences a chance to breathe and relax between action scenes, so when they do happen, they open with a huge bang and leave quite the impact. Predator's action gets extra points for innovative use of camera angles, atmosphere, and an eerie yet epic musical score from Alan Silvestri.
It's Scary, Thrilling And Funny In Equal Balance
When the movie wants to be scary, it's terrifying. When it wants you to feel pumped, it becomes a thriller masterpiece. When it wants to be funny, the characters provide some good laughs — but the movie never goes too far with the humor. All of these tonal elements complement one another, along with perfect pacing and atmosphere.
I've seen Predator about as many times as I've seen the sun rise — okay, slightly exaggerating — but it's still fun, thrilling, scary, awesome and all that jazz. Does it hold up on it's 30th anniversary? Hell to the yes, and it'll be just as solid in another 30 years, so check it out if you haven't already. Happy hunting!
Do you agree Predator still holds up? Let me know in the comments below!