Thursday, March 6, 2014

(Not) Love Actually: Predator 2

The Alien and Predator franchises have provided 20th Century Fox with 10 movies over 30 some years and have employed young visionary directors from Ridley Scott to James Cameron to John McTiernan to Robert Rodriguez.  While Alien, Aliens and Predator are all considered classics today, their ensuing sequels haven't been quite as well remembered.  Predator allegedly started as a joke after the success of Sylvester Stallone's Rocky IV had many insiders claiming the only fight Rocky had left was against E.T.  Enter screenwriters Jim and John Thomas who crafted a script around an alien race of hunters who come to earth in search of the most dangerous prey and end up going head to head against a crew of combat soldiers.  After a tough shoot in Mexico which saw production shut down while the creature was redesigned, Predator finally hit theaters in 1987.  The film was a hit with the second highest opening of the year and would become one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature roles as well as arguably being one the manliest movies of all time.

Fox was interested in a sequel and the brothers Thomas pitched half a dozen ideas.  Their notion of bringing the Predator to an urban jungle was the one Fox shined too.  After hammering out details with Nightmare on Elm Street 5's director Stephen Hopkins and producer Joel Silver, the brothers produced an early draft after only 3 weeks.  Arnold's character was originally included but The Oak wasn't too keen on returning as he didn't believe in Hopkins as a director and thought taking the Predator out of the jungle was a mistake.  Like the Commando sequel before it, Arnold passed and went on to star in another sequel, Terminator 2:  Judgment Day.  Having already worked with Silver on Lethal Weapon, Danny Glover was brought in to star as Mike Harrigan, a tough Los Angeles cop who is prone to violence and busting crooks.  Predator boasted one of the greatest dude ensembles of all time with Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura and Sonny Landham in the mix while part 2 would enlist Gary Busey, Robert Davi, Ruben Blades and Bill Paxton to support new hero Glover.

Predator 2 is set years into the future where Los Angeles is plagued by gang violence and heat waves.  After fighting it out with Mexican and Jamaican gangs, Lieutenant Mike Harrigan is told to back off as the Feds, led by Busey's Peter Keyes, are there to take charge.  After Harrigan's best friend and partner is killed, The Glove launches his own investigation and finds himself up against a visiting Predator, the alien hunters drawn to heat and conflict.  Turns out Keyes is actually a paranormal investigator type for the government on the trail of the alien.  Hoping to capture the creature for study, Keyes' team is wiped out in a slaughterhouse melee leaving Harrigan the job of taking out "pussy face" and saving the city from the Predator's nuclear self destruct sore loser fallback.

A couple years ago, the American Cinematheque hosted a Predator and Predator 2 double feature.  It's one of my life's greatest accomplishments that I rounded up 10 friends to go.  Predator of course holds up as half macho/kickass action movie, half scary as heck survival story.  Predator 2 though had many of my friends scratching and shaking their heads.  Meanwhile, a buddy and I laughed our asses off and had a great time.  P2 is pure action/horror schlock that is funny, trashy, gory, violent and semi-exploitative.  Glover is just fine as the lead and he's given some great badass physical antics as well as random laughs such as clapping in Gary Busey's face to punctuate a threat and muttering about "damn birds".  Bill Paxton is the real diamond here with his over the top performance, inappropriate jokes and general Paxton-ness.  This film marks the end of his sci-fi trifecta as he's now been kilt by a Terminator, Alien and Predator.

Upon release, Predator 2 opened up at # 4 for the weekend during Thanksgiving of 1990 on it's way to a ho-hum $30 million take, roughly half of what Predator made in the states.  While Alien films popped up in 1979, 1986, 1993 and 1997; the Predator would not be seen on screen for another 14 years before resurfacing in 2004's Alien Versus Predator. Standalone sequel Predators would hit theaters in 2010 but the makers only recognized 1987's Predator as an influence.  Said flick is ok but kind of slow and really apes the first movie's tone, setting, characters, dialog and music.  The fact that Predator 2 tells it's own story without rehashing the original while introducing new characters and adding to the mythos makes it a success in my book.  Many a sequel/remake/reboot could learn something from Predator 2 as it's fine to honor the original source material but it shouldn't stop you from making your own damn movie and telling a new story.

You're one...ugly...mother...

1 comment:

  1. I agree. Predator 2 is good stuff. Also, Bill "God" Paxton is the Man.