The Predator series has a long history in the film and comic book medium (not to mention video game adaptations and the crossovers with the Alien franchise), but when all is said and done it all comes back to the original Schwarzenegger film. Although the special effects may be dated, the who’s-hunting-who feeling that the film gives off is timeless and is something that future installments of the franchise failed to capitalize on (although the upcoming Predators film looks like it may be something worth keeping your eye on). Now, for the second time on the format, Predator arrives with an all-new transfer (one that will no doubt polarize the Blu-ray community) as well as a few new featurettes piled in top of the already meaty smattering of extras we got from previous releases.
Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger; The Terminator) wages an all-out war against an unseen enemy, a force more powerful and deadly than any on Earth-because the Predator is not of this Earth. As he leads an elite group of commandos on a rescue mission deep into the jungle, Dutch and his team quickly learn that their foe kills for pleasure and hunts for sport. However, this time….it picked the wrong man to hunt.
It’s no real surprise that we’re seeing another Blu-ray release for this film—I mean the newest installment in the franchise is due out in a few weeks (a ticket to which is included with this Blu-ray). But since they were doing to double-dip so soon, Fox at least took the time out to freshen up the transfer, although they did it in such a way that will probably annoy more people than it will please…but more on that later. For now we’ll focus on Predator and why it’s such a fun film to watch even twenty-three years after its initial release.
I didn’t even see this film until recently when I’d borrowed the two-disc DVD edition from my brother. I expected to be disappointed with it like I was with the Terminator series (too much hype when I was younger and not enough of a pay off when I was finally old enough [as deemed by my parents] to see it) which is probably why I held off on watching it for so long. Admittedly the film is pretty ridiculous at times, not only with its violence but also just the dialogue. But that’s where the charm and ever-lasting appeal comes with this film—it’s got the usual Schwarzenegger staples but at the same time it’s also a much more serious and dark film. Everyone around him is dying and the only thing standing between him and his own death is a ugly ass alien. I think what I loved most about this film was that while there was an obvious sci-fi element to it, it never really worked its way into the movie much. It was more just about the battle between the best the human race had to offer and the best the…predator race had to offer (I admittedly don’t know much about the franchise, so I don’t know if they were even given a species name). In any case, the film was exciting and with its mindless violence came quite a few horror-film staples that accompany the boogie-man you can’t see.
Unfortunately this didn’t carry over to the second film—which to this day completely undermines the series for me. I mean here you have someone like Schwarzenegger having difficulty in taking this thing out and then a random copy played by Danny Glover is able to wipe the guy out? But I digress—thankfully I can ignore that (and the AvP films) and pretend that there is only the original Predator. With some great Schwarzenegger lines and plenty of tense action and mayhem, Predator will go down as one of the ultimate action films of all time…for me, at least. It has its flaws but you only really notice them if you can’t get into the whole concept anyway.
Not that it shouldn’t be obvious already anyway but this is a Highly Recommended film.
And now the main event—the whole reason we’re here! The new Ultimate Hunter Edition of Predator really isn’t all that different from the previous 2008 Blu-ray release except for a few key things. The first is a brand-new cover, which is fairly subtle in nature and something I really like that Fox tries to do with their catalog re-releases by adding new art that may not necessarily be never-before-seen, but it at least wasn’t something that was used on store shelves previously. The rest of the case is pretty standard, with an Elite Eco Blu-ray case housing the single disc which is just some black disc art with the film logo and Blu-ray edition title emblazed upon it.
And now the video. This new transfer is an AVC encoded 1080p effort with a meaty 33mbps bit rate. The main problem that people had with the old release was the low-bit rate and the use of a 25gb disc—so while you may think they just expanded the disc size and upped the bit rate, you would be (sadly) wrong. I’m no fan of the old transfer and, in fact, it was a reason I never picked up either the DVD or Blu-ray releases—whether the grain was intentional or not, it was devastatingly distracting at times to the point where I had to avert my gaze. The line Schwarzenegger uses to describe the Predator once his mask comes off is something I would attribute to the old transfer—it was really just that bad.
This new transfer is decidedly less grain-infused but at the same time Fox took it upon themselves to DNR the hell out of the image. Interior shots are incredibly waxy and devoid of detail; the meeting with Arnold’s character in a small bunker while wearing that red polo shirt is a key example of what went wrong with this transfer. At the same time that scene looked terrible on the old release to, so it’s kind of a crossroads thing—it’s less garish on the eyes, but it completely washed away all of the images detail. This isn’t something that is constant throughout the film, as some of the jungle scenes look fine in their own right, although they’re victims of being DNR’d as well. It’s a slippery slope when you start wiping away the grain and Fox apparently just decided to go full-bore with it rather than dial it back in places.
For me the new transfer isn’t completely terrible. I didn’t want all that grain there and while I would have perhaps liked a little bit less DNR, for me it works. One scene that looked particularly fantastic to me was the bit after Jesse Ventura’s character gets killed and Bill Duke’s character picks up his mini-gun and begins unleashing devastation into the jungle. Not only is the scene completely bad-ass, but the close up on Duke’s face reveals so many individual beads of sweat you can’t help but gawk at the clarity. The transfer is definitely not flawless and it is, in fact, very flawed, but at the same time it’s something I’m more comfortable with than the previous release. It’s really not going to be a transfer that’s well loved by the Blu-ray community, but you can at least still pick up the 2008 Blu-ray for cheap so you’re given a choice between heavy grain or heavy DNR.
Audio is the same as the 2008 DVD release, with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track thrusting itself front, center, surround, and LFE at all times. It’s a nice little mix and while the sound effects do sound a tad dated or muted, it’s still a much stronger mix than I’m used to getting from an 80s action movie. There is some great ambient jungle noise here with crickets, radio noise and, of course, a cornucopia of different varieties of weaponry being unleashed into the jungle. It’s not the most stellar A/V combination out there, but it’s adequate enough for me to enjoy this movie.
•ALL-NEW Sneak Peak at Predators
•ALL-NEW “Evolution of the Species: Hunters of Extreme Perfection” Featurette
• Feature-Length Audio Commentary by John McTiernan
•Text Commentary by Historian Eric Lichtensfeld
•“If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It” Making-Of Documentary
•“Inside The Predator” Documentary
•Special Effects Featurettes
•Deleted Scenes and Outtakes
The only thing new is the “Sneak Peek” which runs under two minutes long so we don’t really see much and the “Evolution of the Species” is an eleven minute look into the series itself and how it’s progressed over the years…although it’s mostly Predators focused, since it’s the team behind that film talking about it rather than the crew behind Predator. The remaining extras are all ported from the previous two-disc DVD/previous Blu-ray releases and are a welcome addition to round out this package. Aside from trailers, photo galleries and Predator profile, they’re all in standard definition as well.
Overall a disc that is Recommended if you’re in the same anti-grain mindset as I am; I understand completely the directors original vision and how it should be preserved on the format and I wholeheartedly agree that this should be true with every release put out by any studio. However in the case of Predator I’m not sure a shot of the moon that looks like it’s made up of a billion tiny gnats is something that McTiernan really wanted. In any case the chance to buy the old release is still there for those who were expecting this to be a wildly better transfer.
Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition is now available on Blu-ray.