Follow us on

Featured Blu-ray Review: Predator Ultimate Hunter Edition

June 26th, 2010

Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

With the release of Predators just a couple weeks away, now is the perfect time to release the original Predator on a special edition Blu-ray. The 1987 original was a relatively low-budget offering that at the time was Arnold Schwarzenegger's biggest hit and spawned a franchise that is still going strong 20 years later. However, have the years been kind to the movie? Or is it past its prime?

At the beginning of the movie we are introduced Arnold Schwarzenegger, a.k.a. Major Alan "Dutch" Schaefer, and his team of special forces. There's Mac Eliot and Blain Cooper, who served in Vietnam together. There's Billy Sole, a Native American who is an expert tracker. There's Rick Hawkins, the technical man and the guy always trying to get Billy to laugh. Then there's Jorge "Poncho" Ramirez, the... the character that's the least developed, so he's probably the one that's going to die sooner rather than later.

They've been called into Guatemala by Major General Homer Phillips who tells them they are needed to go on a rescue mission. And they are needed, as Agent George Dillon tells them, they are the best. Turns out a helicopter carrying a presidential cabinet minister and others went off course and crashed in the neighboring country and are being held as hostages. Their mission is simple. Go into hostile territory, grab the hostages, and get them out. However, when they get there, they find out the situation is anything but simple. Finding three dead Green Berets hanging upside down in a tree is a sure sign of that.

First of all, there is no cabinet minister to rescue, but the target is military base the Russians were at helping guerrilla forces prepare for an attack on Guatemala. Dillon had sent CIA operatives into the area, but they were captured. Then when he sent in Green Berets to rescue them, they never came back.Dutch is pissed off at Dillon for being lied to and used, but he doesn't have time get angry, because their problems are a lot bigger than guerrillas. Guerrillas didn't skin three Green Berets and hang them in a tree. And whatever did is now coming for them.

Amazingly, when this film first came out, it earned very negative reviews with a lot of critics complaining about the paper thin story. ... Granted, the movie doesn't have as rich a story as some films, but it's an action film, and it has enough story to serve its purpose. We need a diverse group of soldiers in an area where they can't easily leave and can't call for backup. Done. The rest is for bonus points. For instance, the fact that the film is setup at the beginning to be like a typical Rambo / Commando / Missing In Action jungle war movie, then switches to something a lot darker, a Sci-Fi action movie with some definite horror elements is pure gravy.

And it delivers on the action and the tension. In fact, in my opinion I think it delivers both equally well. Going into the jungle for the first time, finding the downed helicopter, the first Predator victims, etc. all build up tension. Then there's the big action scene to release it. We find out they were lied to and that getting out will be tougher than anticipated and the tension builds and the cycle repeats. Sometimes the releases are "Gotcha!" moments, which might feel cheap, but they are fun and effective. And at the very least, you can play, "Who is going to bite it first?" However, the characters are not just victim #1, victim #2, etc. They are real and diverse.

That brings us to the Predator itself. The design of the alien is incredible. It's look is instantly recognizable, it's many weapons makes it a formidable movie monster, while the variety add to the cool factor. And nothing is cooler than a cloaking device. I think it was a particularly wise decision to let us see from the Predator's point of view. Because the heat vision is so alien to us, it adds to the horror, while knowing that it can get that close to its prey without its prey even knowing it's being hunter adds to the tension.

That's not to say the film is perfect. Some of the special effects have not aged well. Some of the "witty" one-liners are more groan-worthy than quotable. And finally, there are some parts of the film where the energy starts to drag, which diminishes the tension.

Overall, it is still one of the best of its genre.

Moving on to the Blu-ray, we find a number of special features, much of which is carried over from the old DVD release. (The previous Blu-ray was devoid of special features.) The director, John McTiernan, sits down for a solo track. Good information, but not a huge amount of energy. Typical of solo tracks. There is also a text track that uses the subtitles with information from film historian Eric Lichtenfeld. If you are looking for information overload, you can watch the movie, listen to the audio commentary track, and read the trivia track. If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It is a nearly 30-minute making of featurette that is a mix of talking heads, clips from the movie, and behind-the-scenes footage. There is a whole collection of shorter featurettes under the header, Inside the Predator. They talk about the battle at the guerrilla compound, "Old Painless", filming in the jungle, etc. Special Effects has test shots of the Predator, including some really early designs. Short Takes has four more interview clips with various cast and crew members. Finally there are some deleted scenes and outtakes.

New to the Ultimate Hunter Edition Blu-ray is Predator: Evolution of a Species, an 11-minute retrospective on the film with a focus on its legacy. There is also a nearly 2-minute look at the upcoming Predators. More importantly, the audio / video have been remastered for this edition, and boy did it need it. The previous releases was middling, at best. Now the video really shines; there's something about the green of nature that brings out the best in High Definition. Not every scene is perfect. For instance, some will complain about the amount of DNR used and there are times when it is used too much. Other times, like when Arnold is escaping from the Predator and slides off a cliff and into the water. That one shot is... well, it doesn't look like it is in High Definition. The audio is strong with clear dialogue, for the most part, and good use of surround sound speakers and strong bass.

The Verdict

If you don't own Predator yet, the Ultimate Hunter Edition: Blu-ray is worth picking up. Yes, it is a double-dip, but the previous Blu-ray had no extras, so it is worth the upgrade. My only concern is with the possibility of a box set coming out in time for Predators' home market debut. If that happens, it will probably be an even better deal.

- Submitted by:

Filed under: Video Review, Predator