Predator appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As a whole, the film presented a solid picture, but a few concerns harmed its appearance.
Sharpness seemed consistently fine. One or two instances of soft or fuzzy images occurred, but these were rare. During the vast majority of the movie, it looked crisp and well-defined. Moiré effects and jagged edges offered no problems, but some light edge enhancement reared its head at times. Print flaws caused the image’s main concerns. Grain appeared semi-frequently and could become quite heavy at times. I also detected some grit, speckles, and a few nicks throughout the film. I won’t say that the movie looked tremendously dirty, but I thought the print defects were somewhat excessive for a movie of this vintage.
Predator took place in a heavy jungle environment, so it used a palette that stuck strongly to various shades of green. Within that realm, the picture displayed the colors accurately. Everything looked appropriately drab, and the greens were deep and clean. Black levels seemed rich and dark, and shadow detail usually came across as appropriately opaque but not overly thick. On a few occasions, I thought the low-light scenes became a little too heavy, but these were rare. All in all, Predator suffered from some print flaws but otherwise offered a pretty strong image.
Predator provides two different soundtracks: we find both a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a DTS 5.1 track as well. I didn’t discern any enormous differences between the two, but ultimately I preferred the DTS mix. As such, I’ll discuss it first and then summarize the reasons why I was fonder of the DTS track.
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. On a couple of occasions I noticed some light tape hiss, but these passed quickly.
For the most part, the Dolby Digital mix seemed similar to the DTS track, but a few differences appeared. In general, I thought the Dolby version displayed slightly more brittle and edgy qualities, and the bass sounded less deep and rich. It had a “choppier” tone that was especially evident during musical passages; the horns seemed thinner than they did during the DTS track. The Dolby mix also appeared somewhat less active and it didn’t involve me as well. These differences aren’t enormous, but I thought they were significant enough to merit alternate grades for the two mixes. The DTS track received an “A-“ while the Dolby edition earned a still-solid “B+”. If you can utilize the DTS version, do so, but you’ll still be happy with the DD track if you need to listen to it.
This special edition represents the third DVD of Predator, but since I only saw the prior one from 2000, I can’t compare it to the original from the late Nineties. How did the picture and audio of this new special edition match up with the last one? They seemed virtually identical. I saw no indications that the 2004 DVD offered audio or picture that differed between this release and the prior set.
Where the special edition clearly tops both earlier discs comes from its supplements. Virtually nothing appeared on the prior releases, but now we get two discs with materials. On DVD One, 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.
Also on DVD One we 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 DVD Two, where we start with 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 extras on DVD One, 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.
If you click up from “Classified Action”, you’ll find an Easter Egg. This allows you to see a two-minute and 15-second featurette that reflects upon Jesse Ventura and his career after Predator.
In the Predator 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.
From “Main Menu” in this area, click to the left for another Easter Egg. “Stan Winston: Practical Joker” gives us a three-minute piece in which the creature creator discusses a practical joke that backfired.
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, two minutes, 12 seconds, and 56 seconds, 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. Finally, the DVD ends with the film’s trailer.
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 DVD offers better than decent but somewhat flawed picture plus quite strong sound and a very good set of extras.
Recommendation time, and for those who own no prior version of Predator, the issue is easy: get this one. If you have the original non-anamorphic release, this set also merits your attention as an upgrade. However, if you have the 2000 re-issue, your decision will depend on how much you like supplements. Since this disc and the 2000 one present identical audio and picture, the only difference comes from the extras. The material here is good and fans with an interest in the behind the scenes notes will want to check out this version.
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