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Weekend Movie Brawls #5: Battle of “The Predators”

Hello and Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome to Weekend Movie Brawls!

Here, we take an in-depth look at films with similar themes or stories and we pit them against each other in a competition based on their merits. For example, it can be two animated films of the same type, two films which take place during a certain time period, two films with similar plots or an original film versus its remake.

The reason we make this a weekend thing is because when else might you have the time and energy to relax and see something you haven’t seen before?

It’s summer…and have we got a special fight for you today: a four-way slugfest between four of the “Predator” films! Le

In this corner…

1) PREDATOR (1987)

THE PLOT

A team of Army Commandos storm the jungles of Central America to break up the corrupt gangs and guerillas that run things…but they end up attracting the attention of someone — or something — that isn’t of this planet: a large alien being that’s on Earth solely to hunt humans like wild game, no matter who they are, what they do or who they serve. Directed by John McTiernan who is Hall of Fame material solely because of “Die Hard”.

…and, in this corner…

2) PREDATOR 2 (1990)

THE PLOT

A decade after an alien hunter nearly wiped out a team of commandos, another hunter lands on Earth and finds itself in the middle of a target-rich environment: a war between the L.A.P.D. and several gangs who looks to rule the streets of the city. But as the cops and gangs begin losing people in the same, cold, efficient fashion, Lieutenant Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) catches on to the hunter’s antics and begins to hunt him in return. Directed by Stephen Hopkins.

…and in the third corner…

3) PREDATORS (2010)

THE PLOT

A group of strangers with various violent, military and medical backgrounds find themselves stranded on another planet — and being hunted for sport by a race of hostile beings. Directed by Nimrod Antal.

…and, in the final corner…

4) THE PREDATOR (2018)

THE PLOT

A young boy accidentally brings a race of alien hunters to Earth — and, yes, a bunch of Army bros are the only thing that stand in the way of it and the mass destruction it’s capable of causing. Written and directed by the great Shane Black.

SCORING

The scoring in Weekend Movie Brawls is simple. There are five categories: music, casting, writing, production (which includes design, costumes, make-up, etc), and direction. Each of these will be awarded a letter grade, from A to F. As in school, each of these letter grades has a number associated to it. An “A” is worth 4 points, “B” is 3 points, “C” is 2 points, “D” is 1 point and “F” is worth nothing. At the end, the final score will be average total of each of the 5 categories. For instance, if the score at the end of a round is “20”, this will be divided by five, the number of categories, for a final score of “4”.

The final scoring will not be revealed until the end of the contest.

In the event of a tie at the end of a brawl, the winner will be decided via a playoff round at a later date.

And, as always, THERE MIGHT BE SPOILERS, so if you haven’t seen these films, get out of here while you still can.

If you’re still game for this, read on!

MUSIC

PREDATOR (1987)

Alan Silvestri composed the score for this film. It’s a great little action score with militaristic drums and horns, which perfectly match the action we see — but feels like leftovers from his “Back to the Future” score just two years prior when it becomes as bombastic as it does. Silvestri would use this same style with much of what he composed in the next ten years. You can hear it in  “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, “The Abyss”, “Mac & Me” (YES, MAC & ME), and his various television themes such as the theme for “Amazing Stories”. Still, this is the score everyone associates with the film series and what every composer build on.

PREDATOR 2 (1990)

I can’t really say much about the score here except it’s more of the same from Silvestri. That’s fine…but it’s a touch cheap to basically copy a score and plaster it over the sequel.

PREDATORS (2010)

Veteran composer John Debney takes the reigns from Alan Silvestri…and it just feels slightly upgraded, removing the tribal drums Silvestri added into the sequel score and adding some guitar riffs. Still, Debney just takes a lot of what Silvestri did and calls it “new”. Sure, it has some stuff inspired by other composers (Zimmer and Goldsmith come to mind) but it’s pretty forgettable.

THE PREDATOR (2018)

I know the popular opinion is to say that the 2nd “Predator” film has the worst score, what with the addition of the tribal drums…but, it’s not. The drums fit. Even if you don’t factor in the comics, this is a monster that travels in a tribe, according to the second movie. There’s a reason they’re there. But, I digress…Henry Jackman takes over here…and it’s more of the same with some shrieking horror-flick hits added to overall tapestry. Like the film, it doesn’t quite work and the rest of the score (a good three-quarters of it) ends up being a complete rip-off of Silvestri’s original. Easily, the worst of the scores.

CASTING

PREDATOR (1987)

We have Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime and Carl Weathers who never ages. Both make convincing heroes. They look like guys who’d be in this platoon. They sound like it. Schwarzenegger is surprisingly effective. The cast is nicely rounded out by Jesse Ventura (yes, Jesse “The Body” Ventura of WWE and that goofball conspiracy TV show he did a few years back), Bill Duke, Sonny Landham, RIchard Chaves and Shane Black. Black, who would go on to write his first big screenplay, “Lethal Weapon”, delivers some nicely-timed comic relief — even if it feels unnecessary.

PREDATOR 2 (1990)

This time around, it’s an entirely different story and cast. Danny Glover takes the reigns and that’s a curious choice. He was fresh off “Lethal Weapon 2” and it was hard to buy him as anything other than an aging man who could barely keep up with a partner. Even here, he fights drug lords while wearing a polo, slacks and loafers. Miami Vice, this isn’t. Even still, Glover does have the acting chops and the experience to convince us that he’s a cop even if he’s not quite the “tough-as-nails” cop the film seems to be trying to convince us he is. He does a decent job here, especially when he interacts his partners and colleagues who are played by veteran actors Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, and the late Bill Paxton. Unfortunately, these interactions aren’t given the chance to breathe and all three bite it too soon, leaving Glover alone to deal with the Predator. Gary Busey is here as “Peter Keyes”, a smarmy asshole of a government agent who knows more about the Predator than he letting on. Robert Davi is Glover’s captain in the film and he’s reduced to a cameo, which is fine, but he’s too good an actor to have such little screen time. Morton Downey, Jr. is also here. more or less playing himself, a trashy, sensationalist shit disturber who pushes his audiences buttons, with regard to how out of control the crime is in L.A., in order to get ratings. So much potential was wasted, even though Glover turns out to be pretty good.

PREDATORS (2010)

Adrien Brody leads the cast as “Royce”, a mysterious military commando who threateningly growls or whispers each line like he’s Dirty Harry. He’s another odd choice for a leading man in an action film and he’s not entirely convincing but, much like Glover in “Predator 2”, he’s fine. He has a nice supporting cast that spans the globe in Topher Grace, who plays “Edwin”, a doctor, Alice Braga who plays an IDF sniper, Walton Goggins who plays a prison inmate, Oleg Taktarov who plays a Russian special forces solider, Danny Trejo who plays a Mexican drug cartel enforcer, Mahershala Ali as a Revolutionary United Front officer and Louis Ozawa Changchien as an enforcer for the Yakuza. Thankfully, the film doesn’t mow through the cast like a cheap horror film, which provides the audience with some great interactions between the different cast members and gives us an idea of what each of their specialties are, which has the pleasant side effect of giving us some great action sequences. Laurence Fishburne appears in the second act as a U.S. Army Air Cavalry officer who has been on the Predators’ gaming planet for quite some time, before the rest arrived, rounding out the cast, beautifully. Everyone involved is good, if not wholly compelling, but you still end up rooting for some of them.

THE PREDATOR (2018)

Boyd Holbrook (who played Pierce in “Logan”) is the lead as “Quinn McKenna”…and he’s just ok. In “Logan”, he was ruthless and you wanted his head. Here, he’s a plain old meathead. There’s nothing remarkable about him or his performance. Olivia Munn is also here, playing a biologist, and she would have been better than Holbrook. The rest of the cast is a lot of fun in Trevante Rhodes, Thomas Jane, Augusto Aguilera, Alfie Allen, and Keegan Michael-Key as a group of government captives who are all imprisoned for various reasons. Sterling K. Brown brings a nice intensity to the cast as Traeger, a government agent whose loyalties aren’t quite clear and who ends up standing in McKenna and his team’s way. Yvonne Strahovski (“Serena Joy” in “The Handmaid’s Tale”) plays McKenna’s wife while Jacob Tremblay plays Rory, McKenna’s son and he’s the best part of the cast, next to the rag-tag team of government prisoners.

WRITING

PREDATOR (1987)

The Thomas Brothers, John and Jim, wrote the original film and it’s insanely well-written for an action film. Taking inspiration from the notion that man is the most violent animal in the universe, the Thomas Brothers wrote a script about alien hunters hunting some of the most dangerous men on Earth. What remains of what the Thomas Brothers actually wrote is anyone’s guess as David Peoples came in for re-writes after Arnold Schwarzenegger delayed filming due to outside commitments. Regardless, what’s seen here is absolutely tight with a thrilling concept (seasoned soldiers in the jungle playing cat and mouse with an alien who seems to have their number) with some classic lines and banter between the soldiers. It’s a lot of fun.

PREDATOR 2 (1990)

The Thomas Brothers return here with a script which sets the action in what they called “an urban jungle”, which is basically a futuristic crime-ridden Los Angeles during a massive heat wave and a huge gang war. It takes the original concept and turns it up to 11. Also nice is the slight expansion of the Predator mythos: the visits we’ve seen them make aren’t the first. The inclusion of the Predator’s trophy room, which includes the skulls of various beings from around the universe (including the Alien from the “Alien” films) is a nice touch. The dialogue is mostly forgettable but the pacing of the script is pitch-perfect.

PREDATORS (2010)

Robert Rodriguez (“El Mariachi”, “Desperado”, “Sin City”) wrote a script for a third film EONS ago. Fox turned him down because they thought the budget would go through the roof. Years later, they contacted him to use his treatment and said they wanted him for the third film. For whatever reason, Rodriguez only ended up producing the film instead of writing and directing like he should have. The script duties were handed over to (checks notes) Alex Litvak and Michael Finch, two screenwriters who have written about a dozen films between the two of them. Oh, sorry. That’s the amount of films they’ve written following this feature. “Predators” was their first script. Luckily, it’s based on Rodriguez’s original idea, so the concept, at the very least, is interesting. The rest of it, however, is by-the-numbers and the pacing isn’t nearly as good as the first two films with some fairly flat dialogue. It’s really odd that the studio had Rodriguez, put him on as a producer and ultimately hired two no-name writers who went on to author some straight-to-video messes and a director whose only major credit was the so-so horror film, “Vacancy”.

THE PREDATOR (2018)

The legendary Shane Black (who appeared in the original “Predator” film as the soldier with a penchant for vagina jokes) wrote the film along with his long-time colleague, Fred Dekker. Back in the 80’s, the two collaborated to write “The Monster Squad”, which was a wonderful, if campy, love letter to the old Universal movie monster set. Black would go on to write classic action pieces like the original “Lethal Weapon”, “The Long Kiss Goodnight”, “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” and the recent buddy cop film, “The Nice Guys”. With “The Predator”, Black hasn’t lost his trademark snark (though he DOES ditch the expected Christmas setting and sets this one during Halloween instead) with some great banter between the characters (the bit about why the Predator is called “The Predator” is great and Rory’s response to Traeger’s condescending attitude made me laugh) but it’s aggravating just how sophomoric it gets. Plus the action set pieces are just so-so and the pacing isn’t exactly as strong as the prior films. That, and there are hints of outright sexism which permeate things.

PRODUCTION

PREDATOR (1987)

Nothing about this feels cheap. Everything works, from the suspenseful game between Arnold and the Predator, to the big, brash Silvestri musical score, to the big, sweaty jungle setting. The Predator’s design isn’t at all hokey. The design of the creature is insanely convincing. The thing looks real. Also, getting to watch the Predator spy on its prey and learning and mimicking their speech patterns (and using that against them later) is as creepy as it is cool. It’s a genius stroke. Director John McTiernan does nothing half-assed, giving us big bangs with a nice amount of quiet, hushed set-up.

PREDATOR 2 (1990)

Another big, bold production that’s a little heavier on the grittiness than the first film. The entire first sequence (the battle against the drug lords all the way up to the aftermath) is a test. It remains almost inaccessible in its gratuitousness and, if you can get past that, this is the movie for you. The movie is a big budget monster-fest that exhausts you with some expert pacing. The hunt and the climatic battle inside the Predator ship is really awesome. Here, Harrigan and the Predator find themselves on near equal-footing at times and it’s fun to see the two duel. This remains one of my most favorite sequels.

PREDATORS (2010)

A big, murky film shot mostly in a jungle environment. The effects team does a nice job with the monsters as well as the setting. Most of this was shot in Hawaii and it manages to look alien and not of this world. Despite this, there’s a supreme lack of suspense in the film and with several Predators hunting multiple good guys, it feels less like an action piece and more like a glorified reality game show. This movie just feels mechanical.

THE PREDATOR (2018)

“The Predator” has a bit more of a small town feel to it. It definitely doesn’t feel as big as the last three films and the film feels like we’re getting this story from the point of view of a miscreant rather than an honest recap. The film has a supreme lack of suspense to it. There aren’t any scares and the Predator Dog thing is just so awful, it deserves a Raspberry Award for worst effect or character or what have you. Shane Black attempts to make up for these weaknesses with witty dialogue and snarky exchanges but this movie, while not the absolute bomb people have made it out to be, is pretty weak.

DIRECTING

PREDATOR (1987)

John McTiernan is a top action director with the awful remake of “Rollerball” being his one and only flaw. I mean, aside from being a legend for having directed the original “Die Hard” film (and “With a Vengeance” which I believe to be just a notch below the original but still great), he’s responsible for “The Hunt for Red October”, the badass, underrated meta-cop film “The Last Action Hero”, and the severely underrated “The 13th Warrior”. “Predator” was a walk in the park for McTiernan as he applies the same expert blocking he used for “Die Hard”, providing us with a suspenseful chess game of a brawl between man and alien.

PREDATOR 2 (1990)

Stephen Hopkins gives us a nice sequel — even if it feels over-the-top with the violence level and the goofball satire and silliness that director Paul Verhoeven might have approved of. Hopkins, however, does a nice job and once the movie starts, it’s a thrill ride. It doesn’t stop and leaves you breathless.

PREDATORS (2010)

Robert Rodriguez was slated to direct this movie. Instead, director Nimrod Antal does the directing. There’s no real style evident here. Antal was apparently chosen because “he handled large ensemble casts well” which is like choosing your alcoholic uncle to direct “Leaving Las Vegas” because he “knows a lot of about alcohol”. The film has a great cast but the action sequences are sub-par and the film is just outright boring. Additionally, there aren’t any real stakes to the whole game and the final battle is pure crap with a resolution that isn’t very satisfying. The jungle setting is also monotonous. We’ve been there and done that. Points, though, for having a fairly diverse cast and exploring various cultures.

THE PREDATOR (2018)

I have a soft spot for Shane Black. He’s one of my all-time favorite writers. He’s good-humored and he loves what he does. his films are also so fun. That said, his direction is hit-or-miss. This is one of the “misses”. Black eschews everything that came before this film and attempts to return to the feel of the first one by injecting the old school machismo that made the first one so successful. Unfortunately, he makes a movie that doesn’t take itself seriously and gives us a creature that isn’t so much a hunter as it is a big horror movie monster. You might laugh at some of what’s written and cheer for Black’s penchant for noir, but nothing can cover the fact that Black made a major miscalculation here.

THE WINNER

SCORING:

MUSICCASTINGWRITINGPRODUCTIONDIRECTIONTOTALAVERAGE
PREDATORA- (4)A (4)B+ (3)A (4)A (4)193.8
PREDATOR 2B- (3)B (3)B (3)B (3)B (3)153
PREDATORSC (2)B (3)C- (2)
C (2)D (1)91.8
THE PREDATORD (1)B- (3)C+ (2)C (2)C- (2)102

POST-GAME THOUGHTS

Once again, the original classic beats all comers. John McTiernan’s sure-footed direction, a suspenseful action script, late 1980’s Arnold in his element and Alan Silvestri’s memorable score make for one hell of a film. “Predator 2” comes so close to matching the original but is handcuffed by a cast which vanishes too quickly. Surprisingly, both Robert Rodriguez and Shane Black couldn’t return the franchise to glory, despite the familiarity they have with it. “Predator” is the best of the “Predator” films.

NEXT WEEK: It’s still Summer and we’re still on our blockbuster kick. It’s part 1 of 2 of the Batman v. Superman as we pit Batman (1966) against Batman (1989)…against Batman Begins (2005). Join us next week! Same Bat-time! Same Bat-channel!

About Matt Perri

Matt Perri
Matt Perri is one of those literary Ronin you’ve never heard of until he shows up and tells you he’s a literary Ronin. He’s a native Californian, a film buff, old school gamer geek, and a sports/entertainment fan. A lifelong Giants, 49ers and Sharks fan, he also covers the world of pro-wrestling, writing recaps for WWE Monday Night RAW and Total Divas at Scott’s Blog of Doom. You can follow the guy on Twitter via @PerriTheSmark as well as here at The Workprint and his own blog, We Hate Your Gimmick.

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