Pop Rocks

Pop Rocks: How Did We Forget It Was the 25th Anniversary of Predator?

There's been a lot of talk about the "greatest summer of movies" (1982, according to the Alamo Drafthouse) lately, and plenty of our entertainment contemporaries are talking about the anniversaries of films like The Godfather (30th) and Lawrence of Arabia (50th). Clearly, many great movies were released in years ending in "2."

But seemingly forgotten in all that is a flick that's notable not just for being arguably the best of a certain former Austrian bodybuilder's career, but also for featuring one of the last assemblages of three future politicians and standing as one of the few straight (as in "non-wiseass") action movies of the 1980s. Why have we forsaken Predator?

Next week marks 25 years since this touching story of an alien big game hunter and the elite special ops unit he brutally murders hit theaters. I'm ashamed to admit I don't remember the first time I saw it. Oh, I was there opening week, but between the hastily shotgunned six-pack of Schaefer and adolescent lack of respect for classic cinema, it wouldn't be until a few years later that I appreciated the film's genius. To wit:

The Passion of the Arnold This was a surprisingly straightforward move for Schwarzenegger, just two years after the goofy Commando and one year before the terrible Red Heat. Arnie was still -- along with Stallone and Norris (?) -- an '80s box-office king. There wasn't much call for the guy to abandon his famous one-liners and participate in a serious action movie, and to be fair, he didn't. Even so, Predator somehow incorporates the Austrian Oak's...thespian limitations and makes them work.

I know people will throw The Terminator (and Terminator 2) in my face, but there's really no comparison. James Cameron's movies are very good, but Arnie is actually human in this. Look how desperate he is for Anna to get to the chopper.

No Civility, Only Politics How many movies could claim three gubernatorial candidates in its cast (and not be a hidden camera orgy set up by various banking interests)? Even better, how many can claim two actual governors (Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura; Sonny Landham was defeated in his Kentucky bid)?

For some reason, I thought Bill "Mac" Duke had run for office of some kind, but maybe that was wishful thinking. In any event, you have to admit there are few qualifications for public office so important as squaring off against a seven-foot-tall Rastafarian.

I Swear to God I'm Going to Pistol-Whip the Next Guy Who Says "Shenanigans." Judging by the usual 1980s action movie's reliance on well-timed jokes, Predator kind of disappoints. Sure, Dutch gets a few one-liners in before the shit hits the fan, and Shane Black has half a dozen decent lines, but I think credit for the best dialogue has to go to Jesse "Blain" Ventura. Seriously, who doesn't want to be a sexual Tyrannosaurus?

Progressive Sexual Viewpoints It's a bit old hat to point out just how "fabulous" a lot of '80s action movies were (see also Commando), but...wow. There's a lot of oiled up bro love here, and none greater than the complicated relationship of Dutch and Dillon.

Happy 25th, Predator. You had to endure two shitty sequels and a couple lousy Alien crossovers, but you managed to make it to your silver anniversary without a remake. Yet.

One of my other favorites from 1987, RoboCop, isn't quite so lucky.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar