I watched Predator again tonight ... hey, it's out on Blu-ray. And as I was watching, I found myself wondering: is Predator the second-best Arnold movie of all time?
I'm assuming everyone has the sense to appreciate that The Terminator is the best Arnold movie. What are the candidates for second-best?
The IMDB users rank his films as follows:
1) Terminator 2
2) The Terminator
4) The Long Goodbye
5) Total Recall
6) True Lies
I don't see how any other movies could rank higher than these. Maybe Pumping Iron if you want to count that. But that seems like a reasonable Top Five ... five because The Long Goodbye is a wonderful movie, but it's not an Arnold movie.
First, I have to take back my assumption that "everyone" knows the first Terminator movie is the best, since the IMDB users disagree on that one. So I'd have to accept that for most people, the two Terminator movies are his best. Until A Scanner Darkly came along, Total Recall was the best Philip K. Dick adaptation ever, and True Lies is a real oddball, one of the strangest giganto-budget movies I've seen. But I think they're a notch below the big three. So, for me at least, the question is, does Predator outrank T2?
Looking at my ratings, I give T1 10 out of 10. I give a 7 to T2 and to Predator. I don't seem to have ever rated the other two, but off the top of my head, they, also, are 7/10 movies. Still, I'm gonna go with Predator as his second-best, because otherwise this post has no point.
Why is this a good movie? Robin watches a lot of movies on the Sci-Fi Channel on Saturdays, and they are real stinkeroos ... straight-to-video junk, occasional Sci-Fi originals, all of which feature crappy special effects, crummy acting, and only one actor you've ever heard of (like Corbin Bernsen, or Annabella Sciorra, although Lance Henriksen often also sneaks in). Predator is a lot like those movies, with one important exception: it's good. I wouldn't say it transcends its genre, exactly ... I'd just say it does what it does quite effectively. It's well cast ... the guys who aren't great actors (Jesse Ventura, say, or Sonny Landham) are put in roles that fit them snugly, Bill Duke adds actual skill, and Arnold is at his peak, which is to say he's like Jesse or Sonny only he's better and more iconic than they are. The special effects remain intriguing 20 years after the fact. The Hemingwayesque undercurrents are there but aren't overdone. The soundtrack works on the audience. None of this is earth-shattering, but all of it is well-done, and the end result is a fine movie.
Compare it to Terminator 2. The latter has special effects that were mind-boggling at the time, although I'd argue they don't seem quite as amazing now that we are used to them ... there's no art to them, they are all effect, whereas the Predator was clearly created by an artist. Arnold is fine, the movie is part of pop culture, it grossed more than half a billion dollars worldwide (Predator didn't break $100 million). And it has Linda Hamilton's defining role, which isn't something I'm ready to just toss off. But it's also overblown ... it came about halfway between the first Terminator movie and Titanic, and that progression doesn't make James Cameron look very good ... he goes from the punkish Terminator to the best of the Alien movies, and then The Abyss and T2 and True Lies, with big budgets (the first Terminator had a budget of $6.4 million, the second $102 million), good movies, but it's like if the Ramones had gone from their legendary first album to making Sgt. Pepper six years later. Whatever ... this sounds like I'm dissing T2, when in fact I love that movie. But it's only the second-best Terminator movie ... and Predator is the best Predator movie, and that counts for something.