Predator 2 (1990) — The hate-it-or-love-it sequel

“Hey, kid. Welcome to the war.”

Justin’s rating: My predator, my predator, my predator and meeeeee!

Justin’s review: It’s always deeply mystified me why there is such sheer hatred and dislike out there for 1990’s Predator 2. It’s the sort of attitude that I could understand if you were talking about genuinely disappointing franchise sequels, say, Alien vs. Predator, or RoboCop 3, or Batman and Robin. But Predator 2 deserves your respect, man, and you best give it before you find yourself missing a spine.

Yes, the original is a scifi-action-horror classic, but I’ve always found that the follow-up is quite terrific in its own right. It was a great move to take the idea of a well-armed alien hunter and transplant it from the leafy jungle to the urban jungle in the sequel. Long before I was allowed to watch this bloody flick, I got a poster of Predator 2’s gadgets from a magazine and hung it up in my room. It only whetted my appetite for the day when I could summon the nerve to go toe-to-toe with this intergalactic game hunter from behind a TV screen.

It’s once again the “future” of 1997, where Los Angeles is being slammed by both a heat wave and an out-of-control gang war. All of these grumpy attitudes and non-stop violence has attracted another one of the alien Predators, who starts stalking the city as his own personal game preserve. It doesn’t take too long before the creature’s gruesome attacks draw the attention of Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover before he truly DID retire from the police force), his team (including Bill Paxton), and some government agents led by the always-welcome Gary Busey.

(And hey, how weird is it that Busey and Glover experience a reunion as opponents after Lethal Weapon?)

We should also give a tip of the hat to Kevin Hall, the actor who inhabited the Predator’s skin for the first and second movie. Similar to classic silent horror villains like Jason Vorhees, the Predator had to communicate solely with body language, something Hall did quite well. Sadly, he died in 1991 from AIDS, making this his last film.

The Predator movies are (usually) about the titular aliens seeking out worthy foes and fighting them, and Harrigan ends up being the top target for this visitor. As it’s been pointed out before, this Predator acts a lot like a serial killer as he stalks a cop who is out to stalk him. It’s just that this serial killer happens to have an invisibility field and shoulder-mounted laser cannons.

Less suspenseful and more in-your-face than the first Predator, Predator 2 takes this very simple setup and has a field day with it. You’d think that the police would be vastly underequipped (at least in comparison to the spec ops soldiers of the first film) to handle this alien, but Glover and his big honking gun have something to say about that. The gritty urban streets make for a great battleground between the two sides, and unlike the Alien series, I don’t think that the viewers much care who wins. Sure, we’re supposed to be on Team Human, but Team Predator has a whole lot of awesome gadgets and new effects dreamed up by Stan Winston’s crew.

And while Predator 2 does sport a different tone than the first movie, that doesn’t automatically disqualify it from being good for what it is. It’s certainly not a boring movie, throwing wild action scenes and full-throated R violence left and right. In a decade that saw many franchises soften their sharper edges to allow in the PG-13 crowd, Predator 2 almost went more hardcore than its predecessor.

I will admit that I don’t think that the Predator itself is quite as sporting as advertised. Becoming invisible at will kind of gives you a near-unbeatable advantage, so tell me why this race of aliens think that they’re incredible hunters when they stack the deck so greatly that the prey doesn’t have a chance? It’s kind of… well, kind of like safari hunters today. I guess I’ll shut up now.

The finale is great in its own right, as the conflict shifts from familiar settings in our world to duking it out on the alien ship. Fans of another scifi franchise geeked out to see a certain xenomorph skull there, helping to tie these two series together.

Predator 2 took some risks, some of which paid off, and some of which did not. But I appreciate that it didn’t play it safe like so many sequels do. If you wrote this one off a long time ago, I’d say to give it another shot.

Didja notice?

  • I love the beginning jungle-to-city fakeout
  • Not that guy’s microwave! NOT HIS MICROWAVE!
  • Harrigan really loves his handguns
  • I don’t think his insurance company is going to cover damages to that car
  • Those invisibility effects have not aged well
  • Nothing says the near-future like laser sights on every single dang pistol
  • Wait, how did the feds know that the Predator was at this crime scene?
  • This movie is the poster child for cops who don’t respect a crime scene
  • Nothing like having a new guy on the squad to justify all sorts of helpful exposition
  • Bill Paxton playing it this cocky brings fond memories of Aliens
  • I really would not want to be the cop assigned to go back to the penthouse bloodbath in the middle of the night
  • The cut from King Willie screaming to realizing that the Predator is just lugging his decapitated head back to his ship
  • Looking at the taxidermy shop — IRONY
  • “Want some candy?”
  • Rush Hour Rambos? I’d watch that movie
  • Epilepsy warning for that subway fight scene due to all the flickering
  • Nothing like chasing an invisible rooftop-leaping alien at night in a car, eh?
  • Apparently the Predator likes being used as a lightning rod? Eh, it looked cool.
  • Tell me that the meatpacking scene — with the remote command unit and video monitors — isn’t a complete ripoff of Aliens
  • Harrigan has the baggiest of slacks
  • Gary Busy’s death is wonderfully understated
  • The Predator using his one claw to slow his fall off of a building is pretty slick
  • And now a scene where the Predator destroys a bathroom, just because
  • The old lady coming at the bathroom with the broom slays me
  • The xenomorph skull! Tell me that’s not a total fanservice moment right there
  • That heart-stopping moment when all the other Predators show up

One comment

  1. Predator 2 was epic for me as a young kid. To be honest, a Predator movie could do no wrong because he was such a great alien character… that it was cool regardless. To be honest, I wish that childlike mentality would have continued because I would love to enjoy the other Predator movies. 2010s Predators really seemed ideally awesome but I absolutely hated the casting in that film. Adrien Brody is so unbelievable as a badass with that annoying raspy voice and Topher Grace is as interesting as a used condom.

    Predator does have a special place in my heart though. I like how it changes the environment from jungle to city.

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