Written by FidoWhether you’re getting “to the chopper” 23 years ago (man, has it really been that long?) or now, Predator is still one of the more purely fun Arnold Schwarzenegger movies of the ‘80s. And honestly after watching it in its now newfound glory on the ol’ Blu-Ray format, nothing has been done to displace that love.
In the end, that is the best compliment I can give to an older movie being released on a new format. Simply put, this release just adds another layer of sheen onto an already fun film to watch. When it washed over you like most ‘80s action flicks did, without consequence, but fun while it lasted, it now washes over you with a shiny new coat of wax that makes it that much easier to go back and check out again.From the opening slap handshake / bicep close-up to the ridiculously odd maniacal laugh of the vertically mouthed Predator himself, I was thoroughly entertained, yet again, by this movie - even more so, on Blu-Ray as a paramilitary group battles against the ultimate hunter from the stars in the jungles of Guatemala.
Though Blu-Ray is far from the once brand new-fangled thing everyone is surprised by, I still marvel at how older movies are being churned out with this kind of quality. Whatever source they’re deriving these films from or however the process goes that cleans them up; this format has done wonders for movies like this.Not only does it expose it to a new audience (although the now-released Predators and the accompanying ad bum-rush for these films doesn’t hurt), but it shows them that movies without the complete and utter over-use of CGI can still hold just as much attention and wonder in them as slicker effects of the now can. Sometimes practical effects, such as the man-in-suit ones of this film, really lend to a warmer / deeper feeling of immersion into a movie and its story.
Anyway, that’s a rant for another time…Picture
Though I usually am pretty picky when it comes to picture, I find myself being incredibly forgiving to films that are 20-plus years old (again, ouch) being released with this kind of picture. I’m fascinated with just how this kind of cleanup is done. Movies that I saw in the theatre at their height as still pretty ragged copies are being churned out with some crazy levels of clarity. There were honestly times when watching this disc that I found myself staring more at the backgrounds (especially in the more lush jungle scenes) with a bit of awe.It may seem pretty lame to be looking at trees when Conan, Apollo Creed, the governor of Minnesota, and everyone else is trouncing through South America blowing crap up, but I found myself hypnotized by the small details (probably unforeseen by the filmmakers at the time). The clarity is remarkable considering the notoriously careless ’80s era. There are moments when colors really pop well. The red of the blood against the intentionally flatter colors of the film are a true stand out through the whole thing.
So I was saying something about being forgiving to older movies on Blu-Ray right? O.K., back to that.Sure, there are plenty of moments in the movie when the film grain becomes a bit prominent, but it’s really hard for me to completely rip the picture when it’s derived from a source that was much less than the now-common 1080p style we’re all getting quickly accustomed to. A quick little crank down of some of the brightness took care of quite a bit of the graininess. Of course you don’t want to adjust your TV every time you watch a new disc, but if it becomes this huge distraction (which with all the movement and background detail in this movie it shouldn’t) there is an easy way around it there.
The grain becomes readily apparent when there’s a static shot with one big color dominating the screen. But in most of the jungle scenes when there’s a fair amount of browns, greens and blacks playing with each other the clarity is pretty dang sweet. It’s a flatly filmed movie anyway. Meaning the depth of characters in foreground to jungle in the background or vice versa was never really a strong point of the flick to begin with. So it’s hard to hold that as a fault of the Blu-Ray release.The most noticeable drawbacks with the picture are when the p.o.v. shots of the Predator flash up. The black levels are mediocre. They’re not as deep as they could’ve been done. Again, it could be a matter of adjustment on different sets, but I threw this into another monitor as well to check the same thing and it still had the same lack of depth in the darker colors.
Movie-wise, one would hope that by the time those shots start coming in (about 20 minutes or so into the film) that you’re not that easily distracted by what turn out to be small nibbles of imperfection.Sound
It’s nothing crazy great, but it’s a strong enough 5.1 mix that when jacked up to a not-safe-for-apartment-living level even on my modest sound system - it has palpable dynamics. The shuffling through the jungle is well handled for the source they more than likely worked from. With movies like these, ‘80s action flicks, it was never really about the tiny touches of sound as much as it was about using sound and music as another way to get a rush out of you. The spikes in the soundtrack or the stings of the sound effects are sharp enough here to still get you nice and pumped up when you’re supposed to be.Extra Stuff
When it comes to Special Features of older films, again I’m really biased. I appreciate that film companies (and yes I know they have the material available right here, but still) go through the effort of finding deleted scenes, outtakes (which though minimal are really fun to watch by the way) and culling together some making of featurettes is great to me.Certainly for the inflated price (my opinion only there) they charge for this format, some bells and whistles are almost mandatory any more, but it’s still good to see some care taken. With sci-fi / action / cult movies such as this it’s always cool to sit back and rifle through the previously unknown and unseen special effects blurbs (check out the red Predator suit, used to knock it clear of the green background he played against – cool beans) like the ones that are included here. “If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It: The Making Of Predator” is something I know I’ve seen cuts of on previous incarnations or somewhere on broadcast television before. It’s pretty much older interviews all pieced together.
My favorite of all the stuff is still the deleted scenes (only a smattering of them – four in all), which yet again were deleted for a good reason, and the unexpected outtakes that a machismo-based flick like this produced. Though the deleted scenes and outtakes were not hi-def it’s really nothing I’d expect the manufacturers to go through the hassle of doing anyway. The fact that these special features don’t always have the best of presentation to them is nothing that detracts from the fun of watching them for me. They weren’t looking to shoot in hi-def in 1986 and it’s not something that counts as a black mark on the disc nowadays.Not all the special features are standard def though. The preview for the now-released Predators is in hi-def as well as the reflective “Evolution of the Species: Hunters of Extreme Perfection". So if it bugs you that much, you’ve got something there. Photo galleries are photo galleries, nothing I really go back and look at ever, since most pictures have been seen or can be found online anyway.
All In AllThough it’s surely a by-product of promotion, it’s always great to see an old familiar friend get its day on a new shiny format like Blu-Ray. Predator is one of those movies that, if you like it, you’re going to go buy this version of it, despite any tiny flaws in the picture or lack of hi-def special features. There’s enough here to yet again bring that wonderfully visceral feeling back that only ‘80s action flicks can give. It may not be the most stunning looking or sounding release, but it still is a blast to watch, even after Arnold’s term in government.
In the end, that is the best compliment I can give to an older movie being released on a new format. Simply put, this release just adds another layer of sheen onto an already fun film to watch. When it washed over you like most ‘80s action flicks did, without consequence, but fun while it lasted, it now washes over you with a shiny new coat of wax that makes it that much easier to go back and check out again.Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Predator - Ultimate Hunter Edition on Blogcritics.