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review added: 1/18/01



Predator

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Predator (DD & DTS)

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Encoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

Predator
Enhanced Widescreen - 1987 (2000) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): B-/C-

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): B/A

Specs and Features

107 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 53:03, at the start of chapter 13), Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens with animation and sound, scene access (25 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1, 2.0 and DTS 5.1) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned



Predator Predator
1987 (1998) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C/B/C-

Specs and Features

107 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (25 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned



"If it bleeds, we can kill it."

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as Dutch Schaeffer, the head of a commando unit that is hired to infiltrate the South American jungle on a rescue mission. A guerrilla group has downed an American copter and taken a cabinet member and his crew hostage. Once Arnie and crew head into the jungle, they quickly learn that there's more in store for them than a simple search and destroy. Something that's not of this world lurks deep within the jungle, and the only thing on its mind is its next trophy. Killing this nasty villain off is no easy job. You see, he can camouflage himself by mimicking his surroundings. This big fella becomes a virtual mirror of the jungle and is able to float effortlessly through the trees and brush of the dense jungle. And his preferred method of killing his prey is to strip and gut them, hang them from a tree and bleed them to death.

Schaeffer's up to the challenge, but he can't do all this work alone. He's got a crew to help him out. There's Jesse Ventura, who proves that he's just as adept at making an ass of himself as an actor as he is at playing politician. An action star he's not, but he does manage to almost completely ditch his wrestling persona and deliver the obligatory one-liner ("I ain't got time to bleed") without cracking a smile. Actor/director Bill Duke plays a perpetually shaving psychopath and comes off as an African-American Gene Simmons from KISS, which isn't too much of a bad thing. Sonny Landham plays their American Indian tracker Billy, who feels something just isn't right about the jungle, but can't quite put his finger on it. Richard Chaves is Poncho, who doesn't really make too much of an impression, but must be here for his Spanish translating abilities. And rounding out the team is Shane Black, playing jokester Hawkins. Black would go on to become famous for writing the original Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight. Also along for the ride is shady CIA operative Carl Weathers, just on the cusp of his Action Jackson glory days, carrying half the movie as the sleazy counterpart to Arnie's dedicated, whip-ass nice guy. They all play their parts well enough, but they're all dispensable. They serve their purpose by stepping in front of the bullets when necessary and getting mauled by the alien when the time calls for it. Predator is engineered to be a Schwarzenegger movie, and it is just that from beginning to end.

After a slow start, the action in Predator swells and doesn't let up until the end. There's not a whole lot of room for plot development, but when has that ever stopped a Schwarzenegger film from being entertaining? Outside of the Terminator films, this is probably Schwarzenegger's best work. Admittedly, Predator falls prey to its share of action genre clichés, namely the extended booby trap sequence. Arnie squares away a dozen or so booby traps all by himself in near record time. Normally, I'd think that's a feat that would take an army of men, but common sense often plays second fiddle when your objective is to get from one explosion to the next. The movie also takes a turn for the silly when the Predator finally rips off his dreadlocked helmet. He and Arnie drop their weapons and go fisticuffs, WWF style. This part is laughable at times, and Schwarzenegger spouts enough cornball lines to fill two or three of these movies.

Predator was John McTiernan's first big screen success. He'd later go on to direct contemporary action classics like Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October. There was also a big bomb of a movie called Last Action Hero in there somewhere, but let's try to forget about that one. McTiernan's strength as a director is his ability to craft impressive action scenes that are so potent that they almost leap off of the screen. Fortunately for the audience, he's also able to wax over the flaws in the story by pumping it full of powerful combat sequences and special effects. The effects in Predator aren't the groundbreaking fare they were when the movie first hit theatres, but that doesn't stop Predator from still being a hugely entertaining action flick.

Fox's initial DVD release of Predator was an average looking, non-anamorphic transfer that was riddled with grain and digital artifacting. The new DVD is mastered from the same print used for the initial release, but improved with an anamorphic transfer. The result is a frustratingly inconsistent widescreen image. At times the picture takes on a very fresh, clean looking quality. Flesh tones are flawless and natural, without appearing too processed. Colors are also stable and appropriately saturated, with good contrast that produces a picture with depth and detail to it. Unfortunately, at other times, the picture looks really bad. Some scenes (look at the 51:40 point in the movie) have an excessively high amount of grain that really distracts from watching the film. You'll also be able to spot some instances of NTSC noise clouding up the picture. There's no reason why a movie that's less than 15-years-old can't look better than Predator does on DVD. This new disc does look miles better than any previous incarnation of Predator, but it's not what consumers have come to expect of the format's superior quality.

Both discs sport the same Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. It's none too impressive on either release, and it's nearly as unstable as the picture. That's not to say it's a bad track, but compared to newer releases, it lacks the immersiveness that makes good movies worth hearing. Dialogue levels are steadily maintained to the center portion of the sound field. But to hell with dialogue - this is a Schwarzenegger film, and talk means nothing outside of a one-liner here and there. A few explosions litter the sound mix and give it a good kick in the butt, but it never really takes off from there. A good portion of the track lacks extended fidelity and ends up sounding tinny and shallow, with very little inflection added to the sound effects. The separation effects are there sporadically, adding a little life to a sound mix that otherwise is nothing special. On the other hand, the DTS track is a huge improvement. It's full sounding with crisper music and much better dynamics overall. Predator really comes alive with the DTS track. While sampling it for this review, I soon found myself watching the film all over again - that's how good it sounds.

After a stellar year of special editions, Fox has taken that basic route and given Predator the minimalist treatment. All you'll find on here is the film's theatrical trailer. Nothing about Predator feels like special edition material, and since the effects already seem out of date, a behind-the-scenes featurette could have potentially been laughable. It's no big loss for this disc - the new anamorphic treatment and DTS track make up for the lack of supplemental material.

Predator is a solid action flick. If you're a fan, the new DVD is worth picking up just for the increased picture resolution. It's not by any means a perfect picture, and the Dolby Digital sound mix is a little weak by today's standards. But the added DTS track, if you can make use of it, should leave you happy. One word of warning - the packaging for the two discs is nearly identical, so make sure you're picking up the "enhanced widescreen" disc instead of the old one. Enjoy!

Dan Kelly
dankelly@thedigitalbits.com


Predator (new 16x9, DTS & DD)


Predator


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