Movies / TV
DVD (Re-)Review: Predator - Special Edition
Posted by Jay Spree on Aug 23, 2002, 16:44
PREDATOR: SPECIAL EDITION
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Distributer: 20th Century Fox Home Ent. (Region 2 only)
Here we go with my first (reposted) review to include screenshots. I'm shaking up my review style a little bit - a very little bit - by adding a section on the disc itself ("THE DISC" - original, eh?). This will basically give a quick overview on the video, the sound, the menus, and all the other stuff that doesn't quite fit into a review of the movie itself or the extras.
I addition, I'm going to rewrite and tidy up anything I'm not too happy with as we go along (*cough* RoboCop review *splutter*), so I guess this is less a writer's cut and more one of George Lucas' retroactive special editions.
That said, let's see how this all works out.
It’s the late eighties. Mindless action films reign supreme, and sci-fi has thoroughly established itself as cool and profitable. So what’s a Hollywood executive to do?
Commission a script combining the sci-fi and action genres, and attach the name of the hottest action star on the planet, Arnold Schwarzennegger. Oh, those were the days.
My new desktop wallpaper
And so Predator was born, creating one of the most memorable movie monsters of all time. The film solidified Arnie as an action superstar and launched the career of director John McTiernan, who created perhaps the greatest action movie of all time, Die Hard (and would work with Arnold again on the somewhat less-successful Last Action Hero). It also gave us a young Carl Weathers, who would become a star in his own right as Apollo Creed, and a similarly young Jesse Ventura (who went on to... I forget). Oh yes, and there was also a fat guy who grew up to be Joel Silver.
Pretty important film, then. And pretty good, too…
Ahh, when action movies were action movies. None of this George Lucas bluescreen nonsense just a bunch of steroid freaks with REALLY big guns, about a million rounds of ammo and enough squibs to blow up a small country. Throw in a badass monster and you’ve got money, baby.
Governor Ventura: A better way of life
The flick is probably best described as Aliens in the jungle. A team of kickass mercenaries led by Mr. Universe go into a jungle on a rescue mission. In what little though surprisingly entertaining plot there is, we learn that they have become involved in something far more sinister; a big game hunter from another world hell bent on hunting them down to add to his trophy cabinet.
Well, okay, the whole CIA conspiracy part of the plot is complete garbage and clumsy as hell, but hey.
Like Aliens, each of the soldiers shows an amazing amount of personality in the limited amount of screen time they actually see, thanks largely to their trademark weapons and one liners who wouldn’t mark for a wrestler carrying a helicopter minigun or a guy who tells dirty jokes? The beauty of having such strong characters is what I call the "anti-red shirt theory"; in Star Trek, there’s the cliché that the extra with no dialogue wearing the red shirt is the one who inevitably gets picked off, rather than the main characters with all the personality. In Predator (and Aliens), the fact that each one of the characters seems integral to the story means there’s always that feeling that “no way can THIS guy die, he’s too important”. Yet that’s exactly what happens they all die one after the other. And in great fashion.
The special effects have held up incredibly well for a film that’s fifteen years old, and the action is just as adrenaline-pumping as it was when it was first released. The alien still looks terrific, and watching this film just makes you yearn for another action-packed sequel. And then you watch Predator 2. Oh well.
Movie Rating: ****
One of the best action films ever made, and perhaps Arnie’s greatest sheer bullet-fest.
If you bought the original barebones Predator DVD, seriously, throw that piece of crap away it’s time to upgrade.
This is the full theatrical cut (which, apparently, has previously been toned down for home release), and has been given the full anamorphic widescreen treatment and, for the most part, it's teriffic. However, there does some to be a fair amount of grain in certain parts of the film, while others are pristine and very crisp. It never bothered me until I actually came to take grabs from the film, so unless you're really anal about that sort of thing, you probably won't notice it either.
Arnold Schwarzennegger: FIVE TIME WCW Champion
Sound-wise, the film is an absolute treat, with both 5.1 and DTS tracks. Lots of explosions and gunfire, a pounding film score and a thick Austrian accent make for an excellent workout for your speakers, and the disc performs admirably. I can't believe how tinny and wussy that minigun used to sound on my old TV.
Presentation-wise, the set is very, very slick. The discs come in the now-obligatory digipack and slipcase, which folds out and looks very swank indeed, with Arnold's face on one disc and the Predator's on the other. As far as the front-end goes, things are similarly impressive. A little video clip introduces each disc and leads into the menus which are - a little disappointingly - non-animated. They're nonetheless very navigable and cool in a static kind of way, with stills from the film intermixed with menu titles in the Predator's language. Neat.
Hell, fire and brimstone, by gawd!
The extras on the discs are as hardcore as the movie itself:
- Audio Commentary by director John McTiernan
- Text Commentary by film journalist/historian Eric Lichtenfeld
- DVD-ROM Aliens VS Predator 2 demo
- "If it bleeds, we can kill it" documentary (27 mins)
- "Inside the Predator" 7 featurettes (approx 23 mins)
- "Predator Special Effects" special effects test footage
- Deleted scene and Outtakes
- Predator text profile
- Photo gallery
- Easter Eggs
The McTiernan commentary has the occasional pause, but is perfectly enjoyable and packed with information. His voice is kinda hypnotic, but he’s got some great stories and insight he is critical of a number of aspects of the film, mentioning that the only reason they shot at the final location was because one of the producers was taking backhanders from that country's officials, and to make matters worse, the production crew didn’t bother to find out that they would be filming in the season where none of the trees had leaves, so they pretty much had to dress their own jungle even though they were shooting in one. He is also critical of some of the action sequences shot by the second unit, commenting that they were too A-Team-like. He manages to take a shot at Predator 2, and lets slip that animals were harmed in the making of this movie (the scorpion) and that they perhaps weren’t as eco-friendly to the rainforest as they should have been. The only thing that lets it down is that McTiernan seems totally oblivious about Ventura’s extensive Hollywood career ("This might be his only movie"). Still a great commentary though.
The text commentary is cool enough, but I’m not really into them that much and I haven't sat through the whole thing. It includes interviews with the special and visual effects people, the cinematographer, screenwriters and so on, so if you like text commentaries, you’ll probably enjoy it. It’s probably worth noting that both the audio and text commentaries are accessible as ordinary alternate language/subtitle tracks, so you can change them on the fly (something which more companies should do). You can even have them both running at once, if you're a multitasking kinda guy.
In what has to be the best DVD-ROM feature yet, Fox haven’t bothered putting on some trivia crap or a weblink to site that never gets updated they’ve included a demo of the PC game Aliens VS Predator 2. It’s only a one-player demo, although you can play as all three characters, and the demo completely installs to your hard drive, so you don’t have to keep the DVD in your PC to play it. A word of warning though, AVP2 is a pretty graphics-heavy game, so unless you’ve got a fairly decent PC, it’ll take twenty minutes to load and run like crap. But anyway, a really cool extra, and something that’d be cool to see on, say, the new Matrix DVDs.
Do the hus-tle!
The "If it bleeds, we can kill it" documentary is extremely well put together, and is a superb extra. It includes interviews with just about the whole cast and crew, and all-new interviews with McTiernan, Shane Black (Hawkins), Bill Duke (Mac), Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed -- I mean, Dillon), Stan Winston and John Davis (producer). There is a bunch of very cool stuff here for instance, it’s interesting to note that Shane Black is actually not an actor, but a writer (he wrote Lethal Weapon). They wanted him to redraft the film, but he wasn’t interested, so they cast him as an actor in the hope of him doing a re-write while he was stuck in the jungle. Both Richard Chaves (Poncho) and Jesse comment on how the film brought back memories of their time in the service (Viet Nam and the SEALs respectively), there are some cool stories about Sonny Landham being required to have a bodyguard by the insurance company (to protect other people from HIM), and a REALLY funny story about a bet between Arnold and Jesse over who had the bigger biceps. Seriously, it’s worth getting the disc just for this story. Perhaps the highlight of the doc are stories, sketches and footage of the abandoned Predator costume, which looked like a very large, very crap beetle. Always interesting to see these abandoned shots and conceptuals. The documentary ends with each of the interviewees doing their impression of Arnie’s immortal "You’re one ugly muthafucker" line. Interestingly, no mention is made of Jean-Claude Van Damme's involvement with the film, which means Van Damme was either a) in rehab or b) demanded a huge fee to appear on the disc. I'll let you decide which it was.
The original Predator, in all its craptitude. Free Belgian action hero inside!
The "Inside the Predator" featurettes are additional chapters of the documentary chopped for whatever reason, each lasting between three and five minutes. "Classified Action" is a featurette on the stunts and choreography (and the stunt co-ordinator looks scarily like a Freebird-era Michael Hayes), "The Unseen Arnold" is an ass-kissing exercise for the crew (and features an Arnie line that is good enough for one of his movies: "VHERE IZ MY SCHTOGIE?"), "Old Painless" looks at Jesse’s minigun, "Camouflage" looks at the make-up designs and effects, "Welcome to The Jungle" lets us in on the difficulties if filming in the middle of a jungle, and "Character Design" looks at each of the characters in the movie.
There are a number of Easter Eggs on the discs that are pretty easy to find, and are pretty good too. The first is about Jesse, and sees The Body shooting on Hulk Hogan ("I won’t end up like Hulk Hogan... he’s a great wrestling personality, but that’s all he’ll ever be"). Another egg sees Stan Winston confessing to a practical joke he played on Arnold and his wife (think big fucking jungle bullfrogs), and the last one is just pure gold I won’t spoil it here, but some of those scenes where the guys are tiptoeing round grimacing with quiet intensity? Let’s just say that it was more than just ruthless aggression and intensity that was making them grimace and clench their sphincters…
The South American jungle or Bad Street USA?
The deleted scene "Fleeing the Predator" runs about 1:40 and is moderately interesting as Arnie is running at the end of the movie, there are several occasions where the Predator has him in his sights, and could easily have killed him. However, he instead toys with him, blowing shit up around him and temporarily blinding Arnie by shooting a tree right in front of his face. The outtakes are pretty interesting too. Actually, "Chameleon" is a short deleted scene, with Anna picking up a chameleon from some leaves, which I thought was a nice little homage to the Predator’s abilities. "Building Trap" is an assembly of all the footage shot of Arnold building the spike trap at the end of the movie. It runs a couple of minutes, and has just about every angle of Arnie carving and sharpening wood not that entertaining. "Sliding Down Hill" is an assembly of all the shots of Arnold sliding down the hill on a tea tray (before dropping off the waterfall), and is fun just to see how far Arnold can make his eyes pop out of his head.
"My God major, it's running down my leg."
The Predator Text Profile is a kayfabed look at all of the Predator’s weapons and gadgets (a la the Star Wars tech manuals and such) and isn’t that much fun. Lastly, the photo gallery is huge it must be at least a hundred pictures long and there are some awesome on and off-stage photos of the cast and crew, including some really kickass stills of Jesse firing old painless, and one of him getting off the helicopter wearing his boa. So fruity, yet so badass.
Extras Rating: *****
Overall this is just an awesome set of extras. The great commentary is just the start there are so many stories to listen to, nuggets of information to digest, and even a few Easter Eggs to find. This is a man-sized Special Edition well worthy of purchase.
Finally a classic film gets the treatment it deserves. Everything in this set has been done right, and is simply a must-have for action movie fans. However, the set is Region 2 ONLY at the moment. Like RoboCop: SE, it has been rumoured to get a US release for the longest time, but I reviewed Robo way back in February and there’s still no news on an R1 release for that, so if you’re interested in this set you may as well import it now as always, I’d recommend checking out Play.com.
Awesome film, awesome DVD. GONNA HAVE ME SOME FUN TONIGHT~!