One of the horror genre's "most widely read critics" (Rue Morgue # 68), "an accomplished film journalist" (Comic Buyer's Guide #1535), and the award-winning author of Horror Films of the 1980s (2007), The Rock and Roll Film Encyclopedia (2007) and Horror Films of the 1970s (2002), John Kenneth Muir, presents his blog on film, television and nostalgia, named one of the Top 100 Film Studies Blog on the Net.
opening shot of Predator 2 (1990) is a remarkable one.
Stephen Hopkins’ camera rockets over a dense jungle landscape, thus reminding
audiences of the 1987 John McTiernan film and its Central American locale.
-- as the camera continues to speed over myriad tree tops -- it pans up to
reveal…modern Los Angeles, the urban
jungle, on the horizon.
composition is a great visual way to connect the two films in the franchise,
and a sure sign that Hopkins boasts an active intellect and more to the point,
a great eye.
as if the last moments of Predator have become, literally, the
first moments of Predator 2.
2 is also appreciated
by many horror movie fans because it provides the first cinematic evidence of a
“shared” universe with another beloved franchise: Alien (1979).
the climax of this sequel cop/warrior Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) finds his
way aboard a grounded Predator spaceship and sees a trophy room that boasts a
Giger-style alien skull.
first blush this might seem like a throwaway moment, but, certainly, it paves
the way for the Alien vs. Predator movies of the 2000s. Already, Dark Horse had
seen success by pairing the two monsters in a comic series, but Predator
2 is the first such evidence of a shared universe on the silver screen.
that’s a good thing or not, I’ll leave up to you, the reader, but Predator
2 intimates a shared history between two great movie monsters in a way
that isn’t entirely obvious or craven (like, say, Freddy’s finger knives
dragging Jason’s hockey mask down to Hell.)
the reveal of the alien skull in Predator 2 is an awesome moment that
expands significantly both franchises.We now know that Predators have defeated the acid-dripping, silver-jawed monstrosities, and likewise that those
monstrosities have been around since well before Ripley’s first encounter with
them. This moment in the film thus succeeds in the manner that was intended. It tantalizes us with possibilities, and with
a history/relationship we don’t fully understand...but can imagine.
sequel also shares much with another science fiction film of 1990: RoboCop
example, both Predator 2 and RoboCop 2 feature moments that
suggest the tabloidization of American news, the rise of such fare as Inside Edition or A Current Affair. Both films also worry about runaway
crime rates in America at the time, and obsess on the notion of our streets becoming the battleground for drug and
both films -- truly -- are anarchic in visualization, graphic violence and tone,
suggesting that the near future will be a time of visceral, bloody horror, sensational news and
In both films, the cops can barely hold their own.
2 never quite reaches
the provocative and anarchic highs or lows of RoboCop 2 but -- to its
ever-lasting credit -- the Hopkins sequel is more than willing to acknowledge
the humor inherent in its central scenario.
one point, the hulking Predator ends up in the bathroom of a cranky old woman,
and at another juncture attacks a busload of commuters (including a Bernard Goetz
character…) simply because they are all armed.
This scene may represent the best argument for gun control ever put to genre film: Don’t
carry a weapon on your way to work, because the Predator -- while on safari -- interprets all gun-owners as “soldiers” and wipes them out with extreme prejudice. Seriously, this film imagines Bernard Goetz-vigilantism as the norm of 1997, and it's a commentary right in line with the imaginings of the RoboCop films.
admire many aspects of Predator 2 and consider it a
worthwhile sequel overall, yet I don’t see it necessarily as an equal to its
predecessor in terms of suspense and storytelling. The movie occasionally suffers a bad
case of Alien-itis too: cribbing too liberally from 20th
Century Fox’s other space monster franchise.
That tendency doesn’t help the film to cement its own
individual identity, and works against the director's best efforts.
the near-future year of 1997, Los Angeles is choking under perpetual smog, and
its streets are a war-zone.
rival gangs -- the Jamaicans and the Colombians -- duke it out for
superiority. One of the city’s best
cops, Mike Harrigan (Glover) attempts to bring order to the streets, but soon
finds that a third, chaotic element has been added to the summertime bloodshed.
particular, a stealthy alien hunter or predator has arrived in L.A. and begun picking
off gang members, as well as cops like Harrigan’s trusted friend, Danny (Ruben
a federal agent, Keyes (Gary Busey) begins interfering in his investigation,
Harrigan suspects a dark secret.
soon comes face to face with the intimidating alien hunter, and learns that
Keyes and his men are planning to capture it…
a new king in the streets.”
I think back on Predator, which I reviewed last week on the blog, the images
that stay with me, in particular, come from the last third of the picture. There,
Arnold’s character, Dutch went up against the Predator with no advanced
technology in a primordial jungle, and won.
The battle could have occurred in prehistoric
a sequel to Predator couldn’t plumb the identical imagery or locale, or even
concept, and so Predator 2 tries hard to carve an original space for
itself. The sequel notes, for example,
that in the 1990s, “cops” are the warriors of civilization, fighting back
criminals on the streets and protecting an endangered populace.
is a valid concept, and also feels very much of the epoch. If you gaze at the
1990s, and consider series such as Law and Order (1990 – 2010), or
movies such as The First Power (1990), Fallen (1998), Resurrection (1999) or End
of Days (1999) it’s not difficult to see how the police procedural
format became incredibly popular, and dominated genre entertainment.
2 fits in with
that trend, and Danny Glover makes for a very different kind of “soldier” than
Arnie did. Both men are fiercely
protective of their teams, but Harrigan is -- living up to his name: “harried” -- forced to accommodate multiple levels of hierarchy and bureaucracy in a fashion
that Dutch simply did not. Dutch
eventually had to deal with Dillon’s duplicity (as Harrigan deals with Keyes’
secrecy and cover story), but Harrigan is more constrained from the get-go
based on his job, his heavily populated “arena” of battle, and other factors of late 20th century human civilization..
One way to gaze at the Predator franchise is simply as a study of
soldiers, an examination of the qualities that go into the making of a good one. Predator, Predator 2, and Predators
(2010) have different things to tell audiences on that topic, and all the
observations are intriguing. Certainly,
Predator suggests that good or advanced weapons don’t make for the best soldiers.
Predator 2 seems to suggest that a good
soldier succeeds by overcoming not his enemy, but those unofficial
enemies who make his task more difficult. Harrigan must contend with the presence of innocent civilians,
bureaucrats, and infrastructural impediments on his mission to stop the alien hunter. Meanwhile, Predators seems to suggest that real soldiers are a breed
apart, and that breed seems to span all cultures.
downside to Predator 2’s approach is simply that as soon as you have a
rampaging alien creature in familiar, city environs, some moments there are going to read as…funny. You can’t play on the feelings
of isolation that you might in the jungle setting.
So when a Predator crashes through a bathroom wall here and nearly runs into
an old woman brandishing a broom, you’re in a whole different kind of
territory. The last act of the film suffers from a tonal ping-pong between action, comedy, and horror. I prefer the
back-to-basics, straight-on approach of Predator’s finale in the jungle. It’s
more pure, somehow; more consistent.
Predator 2, at
times, seems to verge on camp. If the film featured a more pronounced, consistent social commentary (as is clearly the case in
the gonzo-crazy RoboCop 2), the tone-changes in Predator 2 might have
tracked better. I like Gary Busey just
fine, but his presence -- and line readings -- ratchet up the tongue-in-cheek
aspects of the film.
and tigers and bears. Oh my.
the introduction, I also noted creeping Alien clichés in this film. There’s one scene here in which right-thinking Harrigan watches on a row of high-tech monitors as wrong-thinking Keyes leads an ill-fated
attack against the Predator. The
Predator decimates the team, and Harrigan -- tired of being on the sidelines -- steps up to save the day, or win the battle.
This scene is an exact mirror of a scene in Cameron’s Aliens
(1986). There, Ripley watches on a row of monitors as the Colonial Marines get their asses kicked on Sub Level 3. She must take action herself,
because she is right, and Lt. Gorman is so clearly wrong.
There's even a similar deer-in-the-headlights moment in Predator 2 for one Gorman surrogate, Garber (Adam Baldwin).
Harrigan appropriates a Ripley-ish line from Alien, while talking to Keyes. “You
admire the son of a bitch,” he realizes.
This is also what Ripley realized vis-à-vis
Ash and the xenomorph in the Ridley Scott 1979 original
just baffling that a film seeking so aggressively to artistically break free from its successful
predecessor would mindlessly ape another film series at the same. These moments are transparently derivative, and
undo some of the creative success Hopkins achieves with this sequel.
I appreciate the final revelations of Predator 2. These moments prove chilling. One of the final scenes,
inside the spaceship, features not only an alien skull, but evidence that the
Predators have been interacting with humans for a very, very long time
indeed. They have been here, are here
now, and will return soon.
creepy thought, and I love how the old Predator leader demonstrates grudging respect
for Harrigan, his prey, by gifting him a gun from the 1700s…a souvenir
emblematic of their differences, and shared history.
for The Washington Post, review Rita Kempley
wrote persuasively of Predator 2’s “dismal irony” and “brooding
fatalism” (November 21, 1990).
those qualities too, and I enjoy this sequel quite a bit. I’ll take it over AVP: Requiem (2007) or Alien
Resurrection (1997) any day. Predator 2 doesn’t scuttle its franchise, and in some ways it expands the cycle's reach in a
wonderful, creative way.
And yet the
tonal lapses into comedy and rip-off territory prevent Predator 2 from being a truly
great sequel to one of the best action-horror films of the eighties.