Review: Predator 2 (dir. by Stephen Hopkins)

Predator 2

Like any successful genre film, Predator would remain in the consciousness of filmgoers during the late 80’s. The film was that popular and successful. This also meant that the studio who produced and released the film were more than happy to try and replicate what made them a lot of money.  So, a sequel was quickly greenlit within the halls of 20th Century Fox.

Yet, despite the success the first film was able to garner despite some major production problems, this time around luck wasn’t with Predator 2. The follow-up film would have different production issues than the first but they would affect the film in the long run.

First off, John McTiernan wouldn’t be on-board to direct the sequel. His back-to-back successes with Predator and Die Hard has suddenly made him a coveted action director. His schedule would keep him from directing Predator 2 as his slate was already full with The Hunt for Red October being his next film. In comes Stephen Hopkins to helm the sequel.

Yet, the biggest blow to the production would be not being able to get Arnold Schwarzenegger to return in the role of Dutch, the sole survivor of the elite rescue team from the first film. As with most stars and sequels, this time it would be over a salary dispute that would keep Arnold from returning so in comes Danny Glover to take on the sequel’s lead role.

Now, Danny Glover has more than pulled his own action film weight with two Lethal Weapon films already under his belt, but in terms of on-screen charisma he would be a major downgrade from the presence Schwarzenegger provided the first film. But Glover was more than game to take on the role of Lt. Harrigan of the LAPD as the setting for the sequel moves from the steaming jungle canopy of Central America to the blistering asphalt and concrete jungle of gang-ridden Los Angeles.

This change in location made for an interesting take as it helped establish some world building that showed these Predators have visited Earth many times in the past and not just in the faraway jungles but more towards areas and places rife with conflict. We learn that it hunts those who have survived the conflicts of the area they’re in. Only the strongest for these extraplanetary hunters.

Unlike, the original film, Predator 2 fails in not having a cast of characters that the audience could empathize and root for. This follow-up is mostly about action and even more gore than the first. Even the opening sequence tries to one-up the jungle shooting scene from the first film, yet instead of shock and awe the sequence just seems loud and busy,

Predator 2 suffers from a lot of that as the film feels more than just a tad bit bloated. The Thomas brothers (Jim and John) who wrote the original film return for the sequel but were unable to capture lightning in a bottle a second time around. Where the first film was very minimalist in it’s narrative and plot, the sequel goes for the throw everything in but the kitchen sink approach. We have warring drug gangs, inept police leadership, secretive government agencies with their own agendas.

What does work with Predator 2 and has made it into a cult classic as years passed was the very worldbuilding I mentioned earlier. We learn a bit more of this predator-hunter. While some comes as exposition from Gary Busey’s special agent role Peter Keyes, the rest comes from just seeing the new look of this particular Predator courtesy of special effects master Stan Winston.

The biggest joy for fans of the films comes in an all-too-brief scene showcasing the trophy case of the Predator inside it’s spacecraft. Within this trophy case are the skulls of the prey it’s hunted and killed. One skull in particular would ignite the imagination of scifi action fans worldwide. It’s a skull of a xenomorph from the Alien franchise. It made fans wonder if the two films were part of a larger tapestry. Both properties were owned by 20th Century Fox, so there was a chance and hope that the two meanest and baddest alien creatures on film would crossover together.

It would be many, many years before such a team-up would happen. Even when it finally did fans of the franchises would be let down with what they get after waiting for over a decade.

Predator 2 could be seen as trying to make lightning hit the same patch twice or it could be seen as a quick cash grab by a studio seeing a potential franchise. Both are true and without its two biggest stars, Arnold Schwarzenegger and John McTiernan, returning to reprise their roles for the sequel the film was already behind the eight-ball before filming began.

While the follow-up had some interesting new ideas that helped round out the Predator as one of film’s greatest onscreen villains, it also failed to capitalize on those ideas in a creative way. There’s some good in Predator 2, but way too much baggage and too much bad to have it live up to the success and popularity of the original.

Quickie Review: Return of the Living Dead 3 (dir. by Brian Yuzna)

In 1993 horror fans were greeted with the release of Return of the Living Dead 3. This third film in the Return of the Living Dead series produced by John Russo ends up being a very good zombie movie and actually has genuine horror that the second film lacked. What ROTLDIII, its writers and directors seem to have left behind was the comedy side of the series which made them cult-classics to begin with.

Taking up directing duty this time around was genre-veteran Brian Yuzna (Beyond Re-Animator) who films this third entry purely on a horror standpoint. This film is serious horror from start to finish. This time around the military is still trying to find a way to use 2-4-5 Trioxin as a way to create zombie soldiers, but ones that could be easily controlled by them. To say that this project hasn’t met with success is an understatement. But it’s the story of the son of the military project director and his girlfriend who dominate the film’s plot. As portrayed by J. Trevor Edmond and Melinda Clarke, these two star-crossed lovers find themselves enmeshed with the dark secret of the project being held in secret. Son soon uses the Trioxin gas to try and ressurect his girlfriend who gets killed early on during an accident. What he gets instead is an undead girlfriend whose hunger for live brains (for some reason the zombies in this ROTLD sequel also feed on other bodily parts) can only be controlled when she causes herself bodily pain through extreme forms of piercing. The rest of the film deals with the father trying to save his son not just from himself and his undead girlfriend but from the hordes of escaped zombies in the facility.

The horror in the film was actually pretty good and this was helped a lot by the gore effects work which surpasses anything the first two films in the series had. The acting was decent enough with Melinda Clarke as the zombified girlfriend putting on a sexy, albeit creepy performance. If it wasn’t for the brain and flesh-eating she sure would’ve made for quite a poster girl for teenage boys.

In the end, Return of the Living Dead 3 continues the series admirably. Despite not having much humor and comedy in the film, this third film in the series more than makes up for it with high levels of gore and a definite sense of horror the first two didn’t much have not to mention a bit of romance which seemed to work.