Mega budgets potentially near the $400 million mark, high quality computer-generated effects that solely generate unbelievable situations, and casting not for the role they actor may fit but for how popular they may be on Twitter have become acceptable standard as Hollywood continues to produce less than quality productions over the past fifteen years. Pre-sold franchises have taken over the theaters as company executives cower when pushed to produce anything that might possibly “fail.” With The Predator (2018) set to be released in just a few months I decided to look back at where it all began―the 1987 Oscar nominated classic Predator.
While brainstorming with his brother John, Co-writer Jim Thomas avoided a disastrous story by keeping it simple, “One hunter who is going to going to hunt the most dangerous specie which had to be man and the most dangerous man is a combat soldier.” The script was re-written nearly seven times before deciding to shoot the original version. Supporting actor Shane Black (Hawkins) recalls, “It’s one of those simple ideas that once someone has the idea everyone else says oh, why didn’t we think of that.” Director John McTiernan said something I agree with whole heartedly, “I wanted to do an old fashioned popcorn movie and that’s what this is.” The critics noticed this concept as well. In his June 12th 1987 review, Roger Ebert says, “This is the kind of idea that is produced at the end of a 10-second brainstorming session, but if it’s done well, who cares?” Time would prove him right as this formula would produce a genuine, realistic action film that would stand the test of time.
Arnold Schwarzenegger always wanted to make a film that involved a team of guys working together a la The Wild Bunch and The Magnificent Seven as opposed to a lone protagonist. He believed it was more realistic. Excellent acting choices helped supply a gritty realness to the project. Casting the likes of Jesse Ventura, a former Navy Seal, and recently deceased Sonny Landham, who needed a bodyguard on set with him at all times, not to protect him, but to protect others from Landham, shows what it takes to get the job done right. Killing off the entire supporting cast embraces realism as well when facing a technologically advanced, chameleon-like alien with superior weapons and armor.
Predator was nominated for a Best Visual Effects Academy Award; effects that seem laughable by the standard set today. In comparison, 2016 nominees were films like Rogue One, Doctor Strange, and The Jungle Book. The camouflage scenes were shot using a stunt man covered from head to toe in what can be described as a red suit, basically green screen technology. The total budget cost roughly $15 million; Rogue One cost $200 million.
Simplicity makes the film memorable but the creation of the iconic Predator character designed by Stan Winston makes the film marketable for future endeavors. Promisingly, the 2018 version’s difference compared to the rest of the spin-offs will be that Shane Black (author of Lethal Weapon) co-wrote the script and will direct the film. From the quote written about earlier in this article, I believe he “gets it” and can provide a quality product like we once had 30 years ago.
Craig Joseph Pisani is an avid moviegoer and aspiring screenwriter with Bachelor’s degrees in both Cinema and English.