Prometheus launches onto our screens this weekend with one of the biggest marketing campaigns and with as much hype as if Peter Weyland was Steve Jobs announcing the release of David like an Apple product. This time the maestro behind the first, Ridley Scott is back behind the camera in a bid to restore some glory to a character that has suffered a lot over recent years. Once Predator came along it was only a matter of time before H R Giger’s creation would share screen time with mankind’s other great extra-terrestrial foe. Here is the first half of a breakdown of each of the Alien/Predator instalments to date.
WARNING: these reviews contain mild spoilers, but then again if you haven’t seen these films already you’ve really been missing out.
The original made a household name out of the former advert director from Doncaster and the female protagonist Sigourney Weaver as Ripley. The crew of a behemoth mining ship travelling back to Earth are awoken from hypersleep to check out a distress call on a windswept planet. It all goes wrong when John Hurt goes into a cave that’s “like the goddamm tropics in here”. Teasing images of the monster little bits at a time Scott pulls the audience in slowly and like the face-hugger, not letting go. Masterfully he never reveals the full extent of the monster until it is too late, by that time, we’re all too terrified. We only see our critter in full in the brilliantly-played chest-bursting scene but only when it’s a little nipper.
As it picks off the seven-man crew one by one the claustrophobia gets more and more intense. Air conditioning workers must have quit their jobs in droves after one heart-stopping scene. As if the monster isn’t bad enough, the crew have to cope with a malfunctioning ship and robot. Scott made another break with tradition by casting Weaver as Ripley, a lone woman who has brains as well as looks instead of the usual terrified bimbo. A game-changer if ever there was one.
James Cameron picks up the baton and while Alien was dark and intense, he goes for a hi-octane and testosterone-fuelled “bug hunt” in space. Ripley’s escape pod from the last film somehow fails to get picked up the first time round and she wakes up 50 years later. This time Weyland-Yutani, who were responsible for all the mess the last time have gone and done another BP-style cock-up by colonising LV426. Who’da thunk it but they only just gone and lost contact with the colonists. “How many families are there?”, Ripley asks. “I don’t know, 50, 60 families,” the suit shrugs. Cue the sound of millions of palms slapping foreheads in shock.
Ripley is sent up along with some tanked-up marines led by a clumsy lieutenant fresh out of West Point who is side-kicked by a cigar-chomping sergeant to investigate along with a quiet, suspicious-looking robot called Bishop. With more one-liners than a Peter Kay joke book (“Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man? - “No. Have you?”), eventually they bump into some xenomorphs. Lots of them. And their mother who isn’t too impressed that they’ve put their marine boots on her carpet. They all end up getting picked off one by one an army of the slimy aliens. Many fans of this instalment cite this one as their favourite but is it because of the cool guns and gung-ho attitude?
If you thought Aliens wasn’t macho enough then you haven’t seen Arnie take on the ugly melon-farmer that is Predator. Special force ops are sent in to a South American jungle to rescue hostages from a downed chopper from a guerrilla army but little do they know that the bad guy is actually some eight-foot tall dread-locked monster from outer space. Arnie plays Major Dutch Schaefer with biceps bigger than Bournemouth to lead the crew to safety. With more one-liners than a Les Dawson joke book ( “this stuff will turn you into a sexual tyrannosaurus, just like me”) the crew find themselves getting picked off one by one by a one-man army with a small arsenal on its back.
Director John McTiernan would bring us more bloke action with Die Hard so he was only flexing his muscles (probably literally) with this one but it has become another fan-favourite. With a stomping staccato scoreline, his delivery of the scares is closer to Scott’s cloak-and-dagger style rather than Cameron’s subtle-as-a-brick technique. Here we see the green-fatigued men from the perspectives of the monster, through ultra-violet vision. But McTiernan doesn’t go for all that psychological stuff; he turns the action up to eleven.
Predator 2 (1990)
Here the gore is turned up to eleven and brings a mixed-bag of results. Set in a futuristic Los Angeles, a gang war between voodoo-worshipping Jamaicans and drug-peddling Colombians (not stereotypical, at all) has erupted but it’s down to veteran cop Lt Mike Harrigan (Glover) to clean up the mess. Soon it becomes clear there is more to the killings than a bunch of crack-heads on a drive-by. Crazed actor Gary Busey is the Fed who is trying to shield the LAPD from the truth but in the end it’s down to LA’s finest to get the tusked creature who picks off the protagonists one by one.
While the original had the Austrian Oak this one has … Danny Glover? It’s not to say that he can’t be a leading man, but he isn’t suited to the same style of action. While the original had bunch of beefed-up braves in the jungle, this has the boys in blue of the LAPD in the urban jungle. Already it doesn’t sound quite as thrilling. Many fans like this instalment because it shows more of the intelligence of the supreme hunter that is the Predator. But others say the clunky action scenes and a leading man not suited to action let it down.
The second half of the review of the saga will appear tomorrow night.