Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition (Blu-ray)
Directed by John McTiernan
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 106 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 4.0 English, 5.1 Spanish; DTS 5.1 French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: June 29, 2010
Review Date: June 24, 2010
The irresistible force meets the immovable object in John McTiernan’s taut Predator. The kind of riotous action movie that helped propel star Arnold Schwarzenegger to the top of the box-office rankings, Predator actually is rather cleverly conceived and put together. There are stylish touches that often surprise, and this well cast and imaginatively filmed sci-fi/horror hybrid holds up beautifully today even after all the intervening years which have seen a raft of inferior sequels and other action films which stole moments from it and James Cameron’s Aliens to craft action spectacles that aren’t nearly as effective.
Tapped by General Phillips (R.G. Armstrong) to take his crack mercenary team into the jungles of South America to rescue a captured diplomat, Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his platoon arrive only to find the mission is about something else entirely. Feeling betrayed by his longtime friend and rival Dillon (Carl Weathers), Dutch is anxious to get out of the area as soon as possible. Little does he know, however, that his squad is being stalked by an alien presence (Kevin Peter Hall) who can camouflage itself among the jungle vegetation and has brute strength and sophisticated weapons that can make mincemeat of human beings. It’s a race to the death for the team to attempt to get back to the helicopter rendezvous point before the alien kills them all.
With the film switching gears midfilm from a military rescue scenario to a stalk and slash horror film, writers Jim Thomas and John Thomas keep things nice and simple for the audience. Director McTiernan does his part by keeping the film moving with expert pacing of the big action scenes and, once the monster begins picking the team off one by one, by varying his methods of showing the eviscerations (or not; we sometimes hear the sounds of death rather than seeing it in the flesh) in really stylish and creative ways that keep the gore from becoming oppressive and the men’s attitudes about impending death from being too complacent. True, in rather stereotypical macho style, some of the men foolhardily rush to their deaths instead of using their minds to prolong their lives, but this isn’t the first or last action film to show that. The film’s last quarter hour confrontation between the two mammoth combatants once again shows McTiernan doing imaginative things with his point of view shots, sometimes going into the alien’s head and other times showing us Arnold’s preparations for the battle. It’s little wonder that this film’s success led the director into a string of action hits which put him at the top of the directorial heap in Hollywood for a time.
Arnold Schwarzenegger still displays some stiffness and uncertainty carrying the film as he does though he’s physically imposing and certainly gets the job done. Carl Weathers does a sensational job of regaining the audience’s lost respect during the course of his time in the movie. Sonny Landham makes a most appealing tracker Billy while Bill Duke and Jesse Ventura do their expected badass routines with predictable results, both very effective. Richard Chaves and Shane Black complete the squad with respectable performances. Kevin Peter Hall has catlike grace as the alien (and we get to see the actual actor as the chopper pilot, too).
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is presented here in 1080p using the AVC codec. From the moment one’s eyes spy the Twentieth Century Fox logo in all its soft, buttery ooze, it’s obvious the film has been heavily scrubbed with massive amounts of DNR (there isn’t a speck of grain in sight), and while edge enhancement hasn’t been heavily applied, there’s enough there for it to be unmistakable on several occasions. The shots that have always been soft now take on an added mushiness that’s ugly and almost unwatchable, and naturally countenances appear waxy and unnatural after all of the digital processing. Color is nicely saturated, and black levels are good. It also appears that the picture has been brightened a bit from the darkness levels of the original Blu-ray release, but that isn’t much compensation for a picture that doesn’t look at all like film. The film has been divided into 25 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix won’t be mistaken for more alive-sounding modern action film sound mixes, but the audio engineers have done a superb job of giving the film’s firepowered action sequences real heft and body, and there isn’t much disappointing about the use of the soundfield here. Alan Silvestri’s driving score gets nice spread through the various channels, and the LFE channel obviously gets its expected workout. Dialogue is nicely recorded and placed into the center channel, and there are a few directionalized dialogue effects though there could have been quite a few more.
A sneak peak at the upcoming Predators shows behind the scenes filming of the movie and some description by director Robert Rodriguez. The 1080p vignette runs for 1 ¾ minutes.
Director John McTiernan contributes a relatively mundane audio commentary as he languidly describes his memories of making the movie. Fans of the film will want to hear what he’s got to say, but it’s a pretty long slog as the director struggles to remember the movie after being away from it for so long.
Film historian Eric Lichtensfeld contributes a text commentary offering up trivia about the movie and interviewing various filmmakers about aspects of the film. These comments appear in white subtitles that are easy to read and may be turned on and off on the fly during the movie.
“Evolution of the Species: Hunters of Extreme Perfection” is actually a long, low bow to the makers of Predator by the makers of the upcoming film Predators. Director Robert Rodriguez along with Nimrod Antal and others describe their impressions of the original movie. Rodriguez also describes the sequel he wrote years ago in this 11 ¼-minute featurette in 1080p.
“If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It” is a making-of documentary featuring interviews with the leading actors, the director, producer, writers, director of photography, production designer, stunt coordinator, and special effects supervisor, all discussing their work on the project. Presented in 480i, this runs 28 ¾ minutes.
“Inside the Predator” is an omnibus title for a series of seven short featurettes on various aspects of the production: “Classified Action (5 ¼ minutes) gives details on the stunt work, “The Unseen Arnold” (4 ¾ minutes) is a homage to the star of the movie, “Old Painless” (3 ½) details the gatling gun used by Jesse Ventura in the movie, “The Life Inside” (4 ½ minutes) is a loving tribute to the late Kevin Peter Hall who played the alien, “Camouflage” (5 minutes) introduces the film’s makeup artist talking about the various facial camouflage designs for the leading actors, “Welcome to the Jungle” (2 ¾ minutes) deals with various location stories told by the cinematographer and production designer, and “Character Design” (3 minutes) has the actors talking about the characters they play. All are in 480i.
There are two special effects featuette sections: three ½-minute vignettes on the “Red Suit Special Effects” and two ½-minute shots of the alien’s jungle camouflage tests. They’re in 480i.
Four short take featurettes on the film are offered: “John McTiernan on Learning Film” (3 minutes) finds the director talking about his film school experiences, “Jesse’s Ultimate Goal” (2 ¼ minutes) has the former wrestler talking about his strategy for an acting career, “Stan Winston’s Practical Joke” (3 minutes) has the creature builder relating an embarrassing moment for him ten years after the film premiered, and “Don’t Drink the Water” (1 ¾ minutes) retells a familiar story about the effect the water had on the systems of several of the actors. They’re in 480i.
The trailer for Predator runs for 2 ¼ minutes while the trailer for Predator 2 lasts for 1 ½ minutes. Both are in 480i.
A selection of photos is arranged in a gallery which can be stepped through by the viewer. There are both stills from the movie and behind-the-scenes shots of the actors and crew.
A Predator Profile can be stepped through by the viewer. It offers photos and text descriptions of the creature and his weapons arsenal.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Predator seems to have gained in stature over the years as a much above average sci-fi/horror/action film. The movie still plays tensely and tautly even if this new Blu-ray edition is definitely a step back in terms of video quality from the original Blu-ray edition. Fans of the movie might want to get the set for the extras that are new to this release, but unless one has a smaller screen HDTV, I can’t imagine many people liking the looks of this remastered edition of the movie.