Predator appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Depending on your point of view, the Blu-ray looks great, awful, or both.
I’m inclined to go with that last option, though I lean toward “awful” as well – or at least “wrong”. The biggest problem here stemmed from the excessive use of digital noise reduction (DNR). Predator was always a really grainy movie, and apparently the folks who author Blu-rays find grain to be the enemy. In their semi-defense, the combination of Blu-ray’s high resolution and the size of modern HDTVs means that viewers see grain to a much higher degree than ever occurred in the past – and many of them don’t like it.
I didn’t see the prior Blu-ray of Predator, but I heard that it definitely walked the grainy side of the street; that was true of earlier DVDs, so I expect that’s simply how the movie’s supposed to look. It appears that some buyers were distinctly unhappy with all that grain, so this Blu-ray’s producers decided to clean up the film to an extreme.
On the positive side, the Blu-ray eliminated any source flaws. On the negative side, the absence of any and all grain made the film look decidedly non-filmlike. A high-quality Blu-ray presentation doesn’t necessarily make a movie look good; it makes the film look accurate, and this simply didn’t occur here.
The DNR tended to give the film a hyper-perfect look. Overall detail actually was pretty good much of the time, but the DNR meant very odd exceptions occurred. Whenever smoke appeared onscreen, the DNR scrubbed it away and left a soft, tentative image. In the shots of Carl Weathers at the briefing, he took on a ghostly look, and other foggy/smoky sequences suffered from odd blurriness. The DNR simply couldn’t differentiate between the smoke and the characters, so it wiped the detail away from everything.
Even when the DNR didn’t erase clarity, it made things look weird. Faces could look waxy, and the image often resembled a rotoscoped flick. The image sometimes actually looked damned impressive, but it just didn’t resemble film.
This spread to other aspects of the transfer. With all that grain removed, colors looked brighter and peppier – probably too bright and peppy, as they didn’t really match the dark jungle setting. Blacks were dark and deep, and shadows showed good definition.
As mentioned, source flaws were utterly absent, and I saw no artifacts or edge haloes. As also mentioned, definition could sometimes seem very good; even with all the DNR, a fair amount of detail still materialized. To be fair, Predator could look great – from a certain point of view. In an abstract sense, it was often very attractive, even with some of the weirdness that the DNR introduced.
But it just didn’t look like a movie. This transfer of Predator tended to resemble some brand-new hi-def production packed with digital elements, not something made 23 years ago, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. The transfer wasn’t an utter disaster, but it didn’t accurately represent the original film.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Predator presented a very active soundfield that seemed quite impressive for a moderately old film. The forward channels dominated the proceedings as they offered nearly constant audio that made the movie much more engaging. Directionality seemed strong, with sound that was well-placed and vivid, and audio moved effectively from channel to channel.
The surrounds also kicked in a solid amount of support, from gunfire and explosions in the louder scenes to general ambiance the rest of the time. The rear speakers also added a lot of “oomph” to the score and complemented the mix nicely.
Audio quality seemed largely solid. Some of the dialogue was poorly looped, but speech usually sounded crisp and distinct with little edginess and no problems related to intelligibility. Music was nicely bold and vibrant, and the score appeared fairly dynamic; it showed its age at times but it generally came across well. Effects displayed minor distortion during a few of the louder scenes, but as a whole they were clean and accurate. The entire track boasted surprisingly solid bass. The low end didn’t compete with modern standards but it seemed nicely taut. This was a consistently impressive track that has held up well over the last 23 years.
How did the picture and audio of this Blu-ray compare to those of the 2004 SE DVD? Audio was similar, as I didn’t think this disc’s lossless track did much to surpass its predecessor’s DTS mix.
Visuals were a different issue. The DVD came with the often heavy grain that was always a part of Predator. It also had source flaws and a few other issues. The Blu-ray eliminated the grain but also took away definition and made the movie look like some sort of hi-def video production. While the DVD suffered from print problems and the format’s limitations, I’d still prefer to watch it because it actually looked like Predator.
Virtually all of the 2004 DVD’s extras reappear here. We open with an audio commentary from director John McTiernan, who provides a running, screen-specific chat. The veteran of many commentaries, McTiernan proves illuminating - when he speaks. He gets into his involvement with the project, his attempts to subvert genre notions, working with the actors and methods used to promote closeness, locations and effects, and differences between the script and the final product. The implementation of the predator creature receives good attention, especially when we hear amusing tales like the attempt to put a monkey in a suit at one point.
Most of the material is solid, and McTiernan seems honest and blunt about the various topics. He lets us know about the challenges he faced on his first studio flick. Unfortunately, a fair amount of dead air occurs. The gaps don’t seem overwhelming, but they pop up somewhat frequently and make the discussion drag. There’s still more than enough good material to warrant a listen, but the empty space keeps this from becoming a thoroughly solid commentary.
We also find a text commentary written by film journalist/historian Eric Lichtenfeld. The track includes excerpts from his interviews with co-supervising sound effects editors Richard L. Anderson and David Stone, second unit director/stunt coordinator Craig Baxley, casting director Jackie Burch, special effects coordinator Al Di Sarro, editor Mark Helfrich, visual effects supervisor Joel Hynek, editor John F. Link, cinematographer Donald McAlpine, and screenwriters Jim and John Thomas. Lichtenfeld also occasionally tosses in some comments of his own.
A glance at the jobs of those folks gives you a good clue what topics receive attention in this text commentary, as it focuses largely on the technical side of things. Although that might have meant a dry discussion of the flick, instead it offers a lively and informative examination of the various issues. It opens with a look at the story and script’s origins and gets into casting, visual and practical effects, photography, stunts and sound design. The last area receives a great deal of attention, as does a detailed examination of how one burns a man on film. We learn a bit about how Predator fits into McTiernan’s style and some reflections on his work. Overall, the program is very informative and offers a solid look at the flick.
Now we head to a documentary called ”If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It: The Making of Predator. In this 28-minute and 46-second show, we see film clips, behind the scenes materials, and a mix of old and new interviews with McTiernan, McAlpine, Baxley, Hynek, production designer John Vallone, creature creator Stan Winston, screenwriters John and Jim Thomas, assistant director Beau Marks, producer John Davis, and actors Shane Black, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Duke, Sonny Landham, Jesse Ventura, Carl Weathers, Kevin Peter Hall and Richard Chaves.
The program goes through the piece’s genesis and path to the screen, McTiernan’s style, casting, training and competitiveness among the actors, location challenges and the film’s visual look, stunts and weapons, Predator-related effects and connected problems, the movie’s hiatus due to a lack of funds and inadvertent benefits, the Predator redesign and execution, and the flick’s reception. If you already checked out the earlier extras, you’ll have heard a fair amount of this information. However, “Bleeds” ties it all up in a neat little package, and it tells the story well. Not that all the notes are redundant, as we learn a lot of new facts here. The best moments connect to the Predator design and execution, but this entire program seems like a solid examination of the production.
Inside the Predator breaks down into seven separate featurettes. “Classified Action” (five minutes, 21 seconds) looks at the filmed military mayhem with Black, Weathers, McTiernan, Duke, and Baxley. “The Unseen Arnold” (4:42) presents remarks from Landham, Duke, McTiernan, Black, Davis, John Thomas, Weathers and Schwarzenegger as they reflect on the lead actor and his behavior during the shoot. “Old Painless” (3:30) focuses on the massive weapon with info from Ventura, Weathers, Duke and Black.
”The Life Inside (Tribute to Kevin Peter Hall)” (4:26) discusses the late actor via notes from Winston, Davis, McTiernan, Weathers, Duke and Hall himself. “Camouflage” (4:54) examines the actors’ military garb and other makeup with Chaves, Black and makeup artist Scott Eddo. “Welcome to the Jungle” (2:40) looks at the film’s setting and locations with McTiernan, McAlpine and Vallone. “Character Design” (4:41) details those development issues with McTiernan, Vallone, Duke, Black, Chaves, and Eddo. All seven pieces get into their topics pretty nicely. They don’t combine to make a coherent whole, but they go over the subjects well and offer lots of useful tidbits.
In the Special Effects domain we see a few smaller components. Three clips focus on “red suit” Predator elements; these last between 17 seconds and 57 seconds for a total of two minutes, eight seconds of material. The first two show an actor in a sack-like red Predator costume for elements used to work the camouflage scenes, while the third shows the original, discarded design for the alien. Two camouflage tests follow, and they run 35 and 75 seconds, respectively. None seem fascinating, especially since we already saw the unused suit snippet in prior materials.
Next we find a collection of Deleted Scenes and Outtakes. Called “Fleeing the Predator”, the sole deleted scene lasts 103 seconds and presents exactly what the title promises: more of Dutch as he runs from the alien. It wouldn’t add much to the movie, but I feel sorry for Schwarzenegger that it didn’t make the cut; they put ants on him for nothing! The outtakes span 28 seconds, 2:12 and 0:56, respectively. Only “Sliding Downhill” seems interesting, as it provides extra snippets of Arnie’s wild ride.
Some stillframe material appears via Predator Profile. Over nine screens, it gives us some details about the alien’s bodysuit and arsenal. The Photo Gallery follows suit. It fills 101 screens mainly with a mix of publicity shots and behind the scenes pictures, though it ends with international covers from Predator videos.
For a new piece, we go to the awkwardly titled Predator: Evolution of a Species: Hunters of Extreme Perfection. In this 11-minute, 13-second show, we hear from producer John Davis, and filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal. Davis throws out a few details – which are already covered elsewhere – while Rodriguez and Antal do little more than tell us how great Predator. Why do we hear from them? Because they’re the head guys behind Predators. “Evolution” exists to promote the new movie; it doesn’t tell us much that we need to know.
Under Short Tales, we get four brief pieces. These include “John McTiernan on Learning Film” (3:05), “Jesse’s Ultimate Goal” (2:18), “Stan Winston: Practical Joker” (3:02) and “Don’t Drink the Water” (1:58). These give us quick thoughts about various topics; I believe they appeared as Easter eggs on the 2-disc DVD. They’re never special, but they’re fun additions, and I’m glad we don’t have to hunt for them ala the old DVD.
The disc opens with an ad for Predators. It also includes a one-minute, 44-second Sneak Peek at the 2010 film as well as trailers for Predator and Predator 2.
I found the Predator to be a somewhat lackluster but decent action piece. It never quite lives up to its potential, but it provides enough solid adventure to deserve a look. The Blu-ray boasts terrific audio and supplements, but the transfer looks odd due to excessive noise reduction. That factor makes this one a disappointment that I can’t recommend; Predator just doesn’t look like a film here.
To rate this film visit the original review of PREDATOR