You are all aware by now that Jesse Bullington and I have decided to embark upon a quest: watching “classic” adventure movies that informed one or both of our childhoods. These columns will run every Wednesday on our blogs, excluding the last post of each month, which will appear over at Fantasy Magazine. This week we do some good work filling in yet another Arnold-shaped gap in my movie knowledge. . .

Film: Predator (1987)

AKA: Hunter (insert Frisky Dingo reference here), and Primevil—would it still be a classic if it had been saddled with this horrible title?

WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Direction by John McTiernan, who once gave a less than convincing explanation for how his film Die Hard is actually an adaptation of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Screenplay by Jim and John Thomas, who also penned the De Palma not-classic Mission to Mars. Not-really-all-that-appropriate soundtrack by Alan Silvestri (The Abyss, Lilo and Stitch), with a number by the always-appropriate Little Richard. Starring more beefcake than is really reasonable for a single film: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Sonny Landham, Kevin Peter Hall, and some other people who don’t deserve mention by virtue of not being super beasts, except maybe action movie screenwriter Shane Black, who plays the terrible nerd commando. Oh, and Elpidia Carrillo as the film’s single female character, who spends most of the time cowering.

Quote: “You’re ghostin’ us, motherfucker. I don’t care who you are back in the world, you give away our position one more time, I’ll bleed ya, real quiet.”

Alternate quote: “If it bleeds we can kill it.”

Alternate alternate quote: Not as strong guy: “You’re bleeding, man.” Stronger guy (Jesse the Body, specifically): “I ain’t got time to bleed.”

First viewing by Molly: A couple of nights ago.

First viewing by Jesse: Around eight years old.

Most recent viewing by both: A couple of nights ago.

Impact on Molly’s childhood development: Honestly, I had no idea there was even a monster in Predator until, seriously, I saw the trailer for Alien vs. Predator and I laughed bemusedly along with the rest of the theatre.

Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: Sizable. Mind, I didn’t actually watch the movie with sound for years after my initial viewing, which makes a pretty big difference in appreciating the film, though the muted viewing wasn’t the impediment to understanding that it would be for most movies.

See, when I first watched this I was a really little kid visiting my family in California because my grandfather was dying. He was at home, hospice being the only real option, and wasn’t conscious most of the time. Since the only tv was in his room—he loved to watch horse racing when he was awake—when my brother Aaron and my cousin John rented Predator they had to watch it with my semi-comatose grandfather right behind them, and obviously all the shouting and explosions and gunfire and flaying of human skin wouldn’t help a dying man find peace, so they did the considerate thing and put on head phones. There weren’t enough jacks for me to listen as well, so I had to watch in silence; well, not quite silence, since the wheezing of my grandfather was right beside me. Thinking back on it, I really hope he slept through the film and didn’t awake to images of skinned people strung up in the jungle where his ponies should have been. Even without sound the film made no small impression on me, I assure you.

Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:

Molly’s thoughts prior to watching:

(cell phone rings)

John:             Hey, Beez! What? Hold on, lemme ask. Hey Molly—Jesse wants to know if we                                     want to watch Predator tonight?

Me:                What? OK? I guess?

Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Pretty happy—Molly’s reactions to seeing these movies for the first time are usually every bit as entertaining as the films themselves, and I very much doubted Predator would be the exception to the rule. I also had beer and freedom fries, which enhances the viewing of such things exponentially. The only thing I was really worried about was whether or not the movie would set off my beef allergy, and so I kept benadryl at the ready lest I break out in hives.

Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: I know I have a degree in Women’s Studies, but fuck that noise, I’ve seen the light (hallelujah!) and that light is men. MEN. In the jungle. With MUSCLES. Solid, rippling man-flesh and man-cunning, and also sometimes a Native American with sixth sense to go with his man-flesh and man-cunning. Oh, and guns! Guns with lots and lots of bullets. But in the end, what matters is men. In the world of jungle, where a predator stalks the unwary, bullets can only take you so far. I know this now. It is man-muscles and man-brain that determine whether you’ll be skinned and hung from a tree by a snatch-faced alien, or standing above said alien until it’s time to book it away from a nuclear explosion. (Jesse says: really, it’s a small nuclear explosion, so it’s not as implausible as she’s making it sound. Also, Molly is forbidden from describing movie monsters in the future—not cool)

But seriously, wow. Wow! This movie. I got into trouble with my friend David for alleging that the first part of Predator has nothing to do with the actual movie itself, documented here in this Facebook conversation:

David: Molly, the beginning of that movie is the plot. Coincidentally an alien shows up, guns are fired, people die, but the real question remains–who is the strongest (physically that is) warrior? Only a power handshake can tell us who the greatest of foes for the predator can possibly be.

Molly: David, no. The beginning of the movie is entirely irrelevant. They could’ve plugged in any “reason” to get Arnold and Jesse the Body into South America to bazooka a bunch of huts (is that a verb? it is now!) and then get messed with by the Predator. I was unmoved at the time and remain nonplussed that Arnold’s team “only does rescue missions” or whatever, it makes no difference to his “character” since his character was mostly biceps and tying spikes to tree limbs with vines and the awesomeness of being called “Dutch” as a nickname. Which is pretty cool, don’t get me wrong–but the plot has nothing to do with the beef between the CIA and the Army or whatever Arnold and Carl Weathers argue about intensely for a few minutes before the explosions start.

David: Molly, you are mistaken and this is why. The power handshake (Jesse says: see clip below) determines not only who is the most powerful, as in who will be the champion, but also to show us the audience exactly what kind of champion we actually have. It is Dutch that will defeat any foe. As you can see, he [can] and will beat all foes in the way most fitting. Carl Weathers (or Dillon) tries to subdue Dutch with politics, but Dutch will hear no lies and defeats him with his own tactics. A handshake of unmatched power is the weapon against the enemies of freedom.

And yet.

Regardless, it is silly, and I liked it a lot. It’s not often that you find a film as educational as Predator—being in the Army is awesome; mud negates your body heat—as well as explaining perfectly why the citizens of California have elected Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Governator (a phrase that Wikipedia earnestly informs us is a “portmanteau” of Terminator and governor!) more than once. Seriously! Why? Because in one scene Dutch demands that Anna tell them what she saw; Anna has, up until that point, spoken only Spanish, but then, through the sheer willpower of man, Arnold Schwarzenegger (apparently) makes that girl speak English. From what I hear out of CA these days, that really, really matters to folks out there.

Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: Jesus, man—fucking Predator. Molly’s reactions ranged from a mild gape to a full-on gawp at points, and I know my arms gained about three inches of thickness just from exposure to the testosterone levels. Really, there’s not much to be said about this film that hasn’t been said elsewhere, but holy goddamn hell, it is one stupid, loud, awesome film. My friend David wrote a paper in college breaking down the worth of the characters by their physical strength and BMI, and I’ve gotta say he hit the nail right on the head—strength is everything; well, strength, and an ability to set traps that would make Wile E. Coyote jealous.

Jean Claude Van Damme actually played the Predator for a few days before quitting and leaving the role to Kevin Peter Hall (who played Harry, of the Henderson Harrys); van Damme was apparently pissed that his face would not be shown. Sixty-four people die in the course of the film. The Predator’s blood is, indeed, made of the stuff inside glowsticks. All this is incidental, anecdotal, irrelevant: Arnold fights an alien badass in the jungle. That’s it.

High Points: The unapologetic and unintentionally hilarious machismo, which starts at farcical levels and only increases as the movie progresses. The Predator itself, which remains a pretty sweet cinematic monster. Arnold’s trap-building montage. The hand shake, which sums up the whole movie perfectly, as does the giggling in the background of the clip:

Final Verdict: Though Molly prefers her Arnold with long hair, sword, and loincloth, in terms of modern action movies where shit blows up and guns are fired, Predator is hard to match.