Anyone will tell you it’s a common rule of sequels that they don’t hold up as well as the original film. This is especially true of sequels that change major concepts of their franchise and replace the entire cast. Somehow though, Predator 2 manages to survive a change of cast and venue and although it may not live up to the original, it’s still a fun romp.
In 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger faced up against the Predator in the jungles of Central America. You remember the Predator, right? The alien hunter who wears camouflage armor, has night vision, and is able to mimic sounds it hears in order to confuse and mock its prey? Well, despite the death of the Predator and just about everyone else from the first film, ten years later another Predator has returned. This time the alien seeks a different kind of prey in a different kind of jungle - the asphalt jungle of Los Angeles, during one of the worst heat and crime waves the city has ever seen.
The cops are working hard to beat the heat and the criminals, although they are desperately out manned and outgunned, caught in a turf war between Colombian drug dealers and a Jamaican cartel. Trying to stay on top of things is Detective Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover)... whoops, wrong movie. In Predator 2 Danny Glover attempts to prove to the audience that he’s not too old for this shit with his portrayal of Lt. Mike Harrigan, a cop who’s more concerned with getting results and saving his men than following procedures or direct orders. By his side is Danny Archuleta (Ruben Blades) and Leona (Maria Conchita Alonso) as well as the new guy on Harrigan’s team, Jerry “The Lone Ranger” Lambert (Bill Paxton). However, Harrigan and his squad aren’t the only ones hunting down the Colombians and Jamaicans.
As Harrigan starts to witness odd ritual killings of the two enemy forces, he starts to realize there is another player in town, and it isn’t annoying reporter Tony Pope (the 80’s version of Jerry Springer, Morton Downey Jr.). It’s something that has brought the attention of the Feds as well, seen in the form of Peter Keyes (Gary Busey) and Garber (Adam Baldwin). After the new player kills Harrigan’s right hand man Archuleta, Harrigan swears revenge and starts stalking the Predator, determined to figure out who, or what, it is.
Predator 2 tries to throw several different stories together, relying heavily on stereotypes and story clichés to fit everything in. You have the rogue cop who won’t listen to the rules, the annoying new guy on the force attempting to prove himself, the irritating reporter who shows up at every possible bad time, and the mysterious feds who won’t reveal more than they have to. On top of all of that, in the middle of this story that could easily be another Dirty Harry movie, the alien Predator is thrown, disrupting a lot of what should be normal in a story of this type.
The big problem here is that we know right off the bat that this is a Predator sequel, thus robbing the film of any of the mystery or suspense of the first Predator movie. The audience already knows what’s behind the killings and what the Predator looks like behind his cloaked appearance, so while Harrigan attempts to figure things out, those watching are a step ahead of what’s going on. It’s a bit of a shame, because if the film hadn’t been a sequel, it easily could have gotten the same feeling of suspense as the first film. Alas, as a sequel, it doesn’t. Luckily though, all of the creative people behind the scenes give you plenty of eye candy (in the form of blood and new weapons for the Predator) to keep you interested in what’s going on.
While it may not live up to the sense of wonder of the first film, you have to give Predator 2 some credit. It’s not easy to swap Arnold Schwarzenegger for Danny Glover and Carl Weathers for Gary Busey and still have a success. Predator 2 does the best thing it can do by not taking itself too seriously and just having fun with its story. As a result, the audience gets to have fun too, as long as you consider aliens hunting down humans and taking their skulls fun.
When the special edition of Predator came out I had a couple of big complaints - primarily the shoddy packaging, the lack of anamorphic widescreen and the mumbling director’s commentary. Surprisingly, Fox seemed to hear these complaints, because all of these areas are improved. This special edition of Predator 2 has a standard plastic case (although with the overused slipcover) and is presented in anamorphic widescreen for your viewing pleasure. The improved director’s commentary is just the tip of the iceberg on this great treatment of what was previously a bare bones edition.
As with the special edition of Predator, this release is a two disc set. The first disc holds the film with the commentary tracks. This time not only is there a director’s commentary with a much more coherent Stephen Hopkins (as opposed to John McTiernan from the first film), but also a commentary by writers Jim and John Thomas. Writer and director commentaries are typically more interesting because they are the people who picture the entire project, rather than just focusing on one specific area, and this release is no different. Neither commentary here is a let down, although they to tend to get a bit redundant with the featurettes which are presented on disc 2 along with the meat and potatoes of the DVD.
Included on disc two is the documentary, “The Hunters and the Hunted” which uses vintage and modern interviews with cast and crew to talk about the making of the film. It’s not a straight forward documentary though, as Danny Glover and other cast members do a lot of BSing around. Gary Busey in particular seems to run his mouth about a lot of nothing, leaving viewers to wonder if this film, which was one of his first films after his terrible motorcycle accident, didn’t come too soon in his recovery.
Other featurettes focus on more specific areas such as developing special effects or the creation of the Predator for this film and the changes they made from the first Predator. The most interesting of the featurettes is “Weapons of Choice” which goes into a brief analysis of each of the weapons in the Predator’s arsenal. It’s a neat look at one of the highlights of the film, explaining the concept for each weapon and sometimes how they created the effects surrounding them.
As usual, there is a weak point of the release. For this disc it comes in the form of the “”Hard Core” mock news reports, extended from their appearance in the actual movie. The extended reports are nothing more than raw footage, which mostly appears to have been filmed on video. Morton Downey Jr’s annoying reporter Tony Pope repeats the same drivel he says in the movie, sometimes just in different combinations of lines. It’s something the set would have been just as strong, if not stronger, by leaving out. Finally you have the movie’s promotional trailers and television spots, as well as a photo-gallery.
For fans of the Predator films, this special edition of Predator 2 is a must buy, if for no other reason than to place the cooler looking package alongside the special edition of the first film. This is a solid release of a fun movie. Sure it was responsible for leading us down the road to Alien vs. Predator with its Alien skull cameo, but try not to hold that against it.