John McTiernan’s “Predator” still a massive hit, even 31 years after its release

Courtesy of dreadcentral.com

The 1987 version of “Predator,” starring an unrealistically buff Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a macho, explosive and brainless film that still holds up surprisingly well in 2018.

The film stars Schwarzenegger as Dutch, an elite soldier sent in with his team of misogynistic alpha males to the steamy jungles of Guatemala to rescue some politicians captured by guerilla fighters. Upon arrival, the WWE-esque military men find themselves hunted by a monstrous, technologically advanced creature, known as the Predator, that enjoys toying with its prey before ripping it limb from blood-soaked limb. Hilarity ensues in this film of toxic masculinity and over-the-top carnage. “Predator” has a viscerally satisfying sense of fun that ultimately overshadows all my numerous critiques.

Across the board, the performances in “Predator” are suitably exaggerated for such a ridiculous premise. Everyone involved in the production seems to know they’re in a cheesy science-fiction action film and adapts accordingly.

Schwarzenegger gives a performance that often proves more humorous than compelling. Nevertheless, his one-liners sprinkled throughout the film — including the timeless “Get to the chopper!” — always left a smile on my cynical face.

The rest of the characters are forgettable, but their dialogue proves thoroughly entertaining. Lines such as, “If it bleeds, we can kill it,” and, “Time to let old painless out of the bag,” kept me eager to see what outrageous exclamation the burly boneheads would spout next.

The writers definitely knew the tone they were trying to set, and that deserves recognition, even though the characters themselves aren’t noteworthy.

Despite the tongue-in-cheek tone, “Predator” also features some surprisingly effective suspense, at least when the Predator itself isn’t directly visible.

The film’s tension comes mostly from the cinematography and orchestral soundtrack, which provides viewers a sense of uneasiness and vulnerability. Much of the film is seen through the Predator’s perspective as it stalks the soldiers from the treetops, which gives certain sequences a darkly satisfying flair.

Occasionally, the cinematography is to the film’s detriment. The Predator’s heat-seeking vision is visually nauseating, to say the least. It’s honestly baffling how the Predator can find anything at all.

The Predator itself also never reaches the shock factor of Xenomorphs from Ridley Scott’s “Alien” franchise, as the creature’s often computer-generated appearance diminishes the dread established earlier in the film. The film was released in 1987, after all, so viewers will have to overlook the technological limitations of the time.

The action, on the other hand, has aged perfectly well. The stunt work is top-notch, with bombastic explosions that could still challenge anything directed by simple-minded Michael Bay.

The characters waste tons and tons and tons of ammo when in combat, which plays into the film’s semi-comedic tone and provides ample opportunities for unbridaled destruction.

I do, however, feel pity for the foliage the soldiers mow down. One prolonged sequence in particular, as the soldiers fire into the brush hoping to wound the Predator, is cringe-inducing. The plants didn’t do anything to deserve this torture.

All these elements combine to make a film that harkens back to a simpler time. Plot, characters and emotion all take a backseat in favor of unapologetic action. Political correctness is also thrown to the wayside. Indeed, there’s only one female character in the film, who’s so forgettable and passive she doesn’t do much of anything to advance the story.

For viewers looking for a film where muscular army men face off against a super mutant, “Predator” is top-shelf. And for anyone who doesn’t feel like watching it as a respite from school-induced stress, well, “You got a real bad attitude.”