Believe it or not, it has been 31 years since director John McTiernan made the first Predator, the 1987 sci-fi horror/action hybrid which would go on to become a huge pop-culture phenomenon. The success of the first movie paved the way for two sequels (Predator 2, Predators) and even a pair of crossover movies (AVP: Alien vs. Predator, AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem“) with varying degree of success. Now, with Shane Black attempted to revive the franchise once again in The Predator this September 13th, it’s time to take a look at all five Predator movies ranked from worst to best.
5) AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
The Predator franchise hits an all-time low with this schlocky sequel to the equally inferior AVP: Alien vs. Predator. How bad? Let’s just say the movie made a colossal mistake of setting an otherwise high-concept AVP movie in the vein of a B-grade, teen slasher genre, complete with the obligatory suburban location. The good news is, the studio (Fox) made a smart decision reverting the franchise from the lame PG-13-rated AVP: Alien vs. Predator to an R-rated (18) territory. But all the amounts of blood, gore and profanity hardly mean much if the movie fails to engage. The Brothers Strause (Greg and Colin), who made their feature-length directorial debut, look as if they are making a direct-to-DVD cheapie. They even made little effort to expand the mythology between the Aliens and the Predators, condensing the entire movie into a tedious monster smackdown. Even the characters are reduced to cardboard cutouts that it’s hard to care whether they will make it alive or not. And the worst part of this movie is how dimly-lit to the point you can’t see a thing since most of the scenes take place in the dark.
4) AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004)
Once upon a time, the crossover idea of Fox’s two famous IP (Alien and Predator) merged together into one movie does sound like a recipe for success. Then a certain director named Paul W.S. Anderson came along. Yes, the same guy who ruined the first Resident Evil and also responsible for botching the would-be sci-fi masterpiece in David Webb Peoples (Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys)-scripted Soldier. If that’s not enough, Fox’s decision of slapping a watered-down PG-13 rating (both Alien and Predator franchise are all previously rated 18) only made things worst. The result is a bloodless sci-fi horror that fails to make good use of its crossover potential. The movie does feature plenty of showdowns between the Alien and the Predator but the action set-pieces are shockingly toothless (no thanks to the rating, of course!) and most scenes are hampered by David Johnson’s dimly-lit cinematography as well as mundane production design. The characters are equally wasted, with Sanaa Lathan only offering a glimmer of hope in her otherwise underwritten character. Except for the fact that seeing her pairing with a Predator as an unlikely ally towards the end makes it feel as if they are in a buddy-cop movie! Despite terribly mixed reviews, AVP: Alien vs. Predator surprisingly managed to make enough money in the international box-office to warrant a sequel that turns out even worst (see No. 5).
3) Predators (2010)
Producer Robert Rodriguez and Vacancy director Nimrod Antal finally set the course right in Predators, especially after the two dismal crossover movies failed big -time critically. Well, at least up to a certain point. The movie, which reportedly served as a direct sequel to the 1987 original, wastes no time getting down into business with Adrien Brody’s Special Ops commando character wakes up and finds himself freefalling down the sky. The story itself actually has potential, particularly during the pacy first half of the movie with enough intrigue, well-staged action sequences and suspense. But it’s a shame the movie couldn’t maintain a consistent momentum once Laurence Fishburne’s Noland character is introduced midway. Antal also relies heavily on callbacks to the first movie that at times, it feels more like a reboot than a direct sequel. Brody may seem like an odd choice of playing a tough-guy character, but he somehow convinced me with his restrained voice and impressive six-pack muscles.
2) Predator 2 (1990)
This underrated sequel to the superior 1987 original isn’t actually as bad as it looks. Sure, it got panned by critics back then and even failed to make respectable amounts of money at the box office. Both critical and financial failure obviously had to do with the casting of Danny Glover as the lead and proved that a Schwarzenegger-less sequel did greatly affect the whole thing (he declined to return due to the salary dispute). Not to mention Fox’s odd decision to release such a violent movie during the Thanksgiving season back in 1990 was simply ill-advised. But beyond all the dismal responses, I personally found Predator 2 is a worthy sequel. Stephen Hopkins, who replaced John McTiernan from the original movie, made quite an impression as a strong visual stylist who successfully blends a gritty crime thriller with the sci-fi horror/action hybrid. Even the action is top-notch and packs with enough visceral punch. The pace is just as swift and the characters are actually better than expected, with both Danny Glover’s no-nonsense portrayal as Lt. Mike Harrigan and Bill Paxton’s snarky comic-relief role as Detective Jerry Lambert deserved a mention here. The sequel is also notable for its cool Easter Egg scene that eventually paving the way for a certain crossover movie over a decade later.
1) Predator (1987)
John McTiernan’s Predator may have been over 30 years old. But this 1987 movie is hardly dated even if viewed by today’s standard. It’s the kind of enduring genre classic that never gets old. And it’s hard to believe that the movie was actually made with a modest US$15 million budget. The story itself — written by Jim and John Thomas, both making their screenwriting debut! — is generally straightforward but kudos go to then-unknown John McTiernan (Nomad) for successfully blending military action and sci-fi horror hybrid and directs the movie with sheer vigour. The pace is equally swift and engaging enough to keep you hooked till the end, complete with thrillingly-staged action sequences. Then, there’s Arnold Schwarzenegger — the actual heart and soul of the movie’s enduring success. His memorable one-liners (“Stick around”, “Get to the chopper!”, “If it bleeds, we can kill it”) and his larger-than-life, tough-guy persona is particularly hard to beat. And frankly, who doesn’t want to see the Austrian Oak takes on the towering Predator during the brutal mano-a-mano climactic showdown?