“Predator” (1987) introduced a menacing character that would go on to claim cult status among film buffs and eventually land a franchise. Directed by John McTiernan, the film is pure old-school action with muscular elite soldiers on a mission in a rainforest in Central America. Along with that, there is the enemy of these soldiers, one that is completely ruthless but has a true sense of competition. What makes “Predator” so appalling yet appealing and a classic is its tangible quality, be it in the action, the actors, the music, or the villain. Good characterization, great visual effects, and a nice pace make for an apt action film, and it is rightfully evergreen. Or should we say ever-red?
What Happens In The 1987 ‘Predator’ Film?
An alien spaceship deploys a shuttle towards Earth that lands, as revealed later, in the middle of a rainforest in Central America. It is the same location where a rescue team of six highly trained and experienced elite soldiers arrives for their next mission. They are to rescue a Central American cabinet minister and his aide, whose chopper went missing 18 hours earlier, and who are now believed to be in guerilla hands. The team is led by Dutch and includes Mac, Billy, Poncho, Blain, and Hawkins. They have been assigned the mission on Dillon’s proposal, who once fought alongside Dutch and now works for the CIA. Dillon, too will accompany Dutch’s team, something that Dutch is against, as his team works alone but is forced to comply.
They arrive at the location and begin their search. Only a few minutes have passed when they find the missing chopper, which has seemingly been brought down by a heat-seeker missile. This plants the seeds of doubt in Dutch’s mind about whether Dillon is telling the truth, as heat-seekers are way too sophisticated for guerillas, and they aren’t the real threat. Furthermore, Billy, who was searching for trails, reveals that along with the guerillas, there were six men who had army boots issued by the US. As they continue their search, Billy discovers three skinned and mutilated bodies. One of the dog tags has the name Jim Hopper, whom Dutch knew. They seem to be the same guys whom Billy mentioned earlier. There is no sign of the rest of the team (there were three more, according to Billy). Somebody sent them here in the middle of nowhere. The question is, who? And what happened to the men?
Dutch and his team finally reach the spot where the guerillas are holding the hostages. They witness the killing of a hostage and don’t waste any more time, launching an attack immediately. After bringing down the whole band, Mac informs Dutch that all the hostages are dead, save a guerilla girl named Anna. Moreover, the cabinet minister was no cabinet minister at all; he was a CIA agent. And some of the men they killed weren’t guerillas but Russian military advisors. All this proves that something big was being planned there. Dutch realizes that they were lied to about the mission and confronts Dillon about it. Dillon reveals that he first sent Hopper and his team after the chopper, which had his men, went missing. But when Hopper’s team stopped responding, Dillon nominated Dutch’s team to “get the job done” and find the culprits. They just stopped a major invasion on US soil. But Dutch isn’t happy at all. Hawkins, on the other hand, finds out from air surveillance that more guerillas are on their way to their location. Dutch issues an evacuation order. Dillon decides to take Anna along as she is an asset. As they make their way to the extraction point, they are followed by an entity that is tracking them using thermal imaging and a cloaking device. Billy manages to get his eyes on it and is spooked. As he tries to get everyone’s attention to it, Anna tries to escape.
Hawkins runs behind her, but as soon as he catches her, the “predator” attacks him and takes his body away, sparing Anna. Poncho arrives at the spot and finds Anna covered in blood. It’s not hers. Looking around, he finds disemboweled organs and realizes that they are of Hawkins. But the body is missing. Upon asking Anna, she answers that the jungle “came alive and took him.” Dutch and Dillon realize that the same thing happened to Hopper, so the one who killed him and the one who killed Hawkins are one and the same. Dutch orders his team to sweep the area and find Hawkins’ body.
As they carry out the sweep, Blain is killed by a plasma beam fired by the predator. Mac, who was nearby, hears the sound and rushes toward Blain’s direction. He discovers Blain dead on the ground and also manages to see the creature that killed him, cloaked but visible enough for him to fire at it and alert the others. One by one, all of them arrive at the spot and open fire in the direction in which Mac is firing. This wounds the creature. Realizing that they are being hunted, Dutch orders his team to set up traps to catch the creature. They set up camp for the night and wait. When one of the trip flares is set off in the dark, Mac is the first to take action and plunges his knife into whatever it is that set it off. When the rest of the team arrives with a torch, they find that it is a wild boar. Meanwhile, Blain’s body is gone. This is when Dutch realizes that the hunter is hunting one person at a time; killing, taking the body, and then returning for its next kill. And it is using the trees to do it, which is the only way to avoid their traps. Anna reveals that the creature is wounded as she found its blood on the leaves.
The team, now with only Dutch, Dillon, Mac, Billy, and Poncho, set up a net trap using the trees. The predator triggers it and is captured inside the net. However, it manages to free itself and escape, and Poncho is heavily wounded. Dillon and Mac both see it, and Mac runs in its direction. Dutch tells Billy to take Poncho and head towards the extraction site along with Anna.
Meanwhile, he decides to follow Mac. But Dillon is adamant and tells Dutch to leave with his team and let him follow Mac. Dutch gives Dillon his gun and leaves. Meanwhile, Dillon rushes in Mac’s direction.
While hiding among bushes, Mac and Dillon both manage to get their eyes on the predator. They try to kill it, but instead, it kills Mac first and then Dillon. Mac falls prey to its plasma blaster while Dillon has his arm shot off and then stabbed with dual-blades. His scream is heard by Billy and Dutch, who are on their way to the extraction point with Anna and Poncho. Billy decides to stay behind and fight it, but he too is killed. The predator tracks down Dutch, Poncho, and Anna and manages to kill Poncho. Dutch yells at Anna to get to the extraction point while shooting at the predator. He gets shot in the arm but somehow manages to pull himself up and lure the predator away from Anna. He falls into a river and comes out of it covered in mud. The predator has been following him too but isn’t able to see him as the mud prevents the heat in Dutch’s body from being revealed. It leaves and goes back to collect its “trophies” from the other bodies. As the sun sets, Dutch lays an elaborate set of traps and creates makeshift weapons to kill the predator. He also covers himself in mud so that the creature isn’t able to see him. He then lights a fire and calls out to the predator with a war cry.
Ending Explained: Does Dutch Kill The Predator?
The predator arrives at the spot to answer to Dutch’s war cry. Dutch manages to shoot a gunpowder-filled arrow at it. The predator takes a hit and, in a rage, starts firing its plasma blasts in Dutch’s direction. The predator’s cloaking device gets damaged, and it is clearly visible to Dutch as a biped creature wearing a mask. He manages to injure the creature again, but in trying to escape, he falls into a pond that washes away all the mud from his body. This enables the predator to see him clearly and catch him. It then takes off its mask and reveals its “ugly” face. Realizing that Dutch doesn’t have any weapons, it decides to fight Dutch mano-a-mano, with bare hands, perhaps out of a sense of competition. After a gruesome fight that almost has Dutch killed, an injured Dutch manages to set off a trap that brings down a huge log on the predator and crushes it to the ground. As he looks at the predator in disgust, it sets off a self-destruct mechanism on its wrist device, laughing maniacally. Realizing what the predator has done, Dutch starts running away for cover and manages to find one at the very second the explosion occurs. At the end of the film, we see Dutch rescued by the same chopper that has Anna in it. But his whole team is gone.
The fact that the predator activated a self-destruct mechanism indicates that it wasn’t willing to die without a fight. And when it realized that it was going to die, it decided to take Dutch along too. This is perhaps a way to show that he didn’t yield to his competition. The film doesn’t explain why an alien was sent to Earth or what its intention was. However, these questions don’t really count as we get a great action film that gave us one of the greatest non-human antagonists in the history of films.
Interesting fact; the predator is played by Kevin Peter Hall, who also played Bigfoot Harry in Harry and the Hendersons (1987). As for the voice of the “Predator,” Peter Cullen was the choice who also voiced King Kong (1976) as well as Optimus Prime in Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise.