I am hypnotized by dancing Predators. About a week ago, I ran across a video on the interwebs showing a group of men in surprisingly authentic-looking Predator costumes doing, like, the Chicago Bears Super Bowl shuffle in what looked like the Predator ship from Predator 2. Now, if the existence of the footage only served to provide me an opportunity to use the word "Predator" four times in the last two sentences, it would already be worth its weight in gold. But no, just when you process that half a dozen 6-foot-plus dudes put on Predator outfits and choreographed a dance . . . Danny Glover walks out and starts dancing with them (search "breakdancing predators" on YouTube). Because the footage was actually filmed on the set of Predator 2, and these are actual and true Predators performing awkward pelvic thrusts! And, while the footage is hypnotizing, the video of dancing Predators also reinforces some basic film truths.
Let's get the most controversial one out of the way first: Predator 2 is better than Predator. For one thing, it's truer to the premise of the series. If you're an intergalactic big-game hunter and you want the sport of hunting modern man, then you hunt him in his natural habitat, not one more suited to your aims. Modern man's natural habitat is the city, not the Central American rainforest. It's like if I wanted to go sport fishing, but I went and did it out of a fish tank in a record store while I'm looking for Bobby Womack CDs. So you need to have a Predator running through The City taking dudes out! For another, there's hucklebuck Danny Glover at his big-black-man sweatiest, channeling 1977 Fred Williamson and running an elite police squad in Crime Ridden Future Los Angeles made up of the infinitely cool Rubén Blades, Maria Conchito Alonzo, and Bill Paxton. OK . . . that's a film in and of itself. Sorta like you could make a whole movie about a secret black-ops governmental agency charged with investigating alien activity headed by Gary fucking Busey and badass Adam Baldwin. And, since Predator 2 was filmed in the late '80s, why not throw in the hilariously over-the-top Jamaican drug cartel headed by '70s blaxploitation icon Calvin Lockhart as King Willie, complete with bad dred wig, worse Jamaican accent, and Island Voodoo. Seriously, just reread this description. Can you imagine how much cocaine you have to snort to come up with this kind of spectacle? Predator was a movie, but Predator 2 was an experience. Of course, some extras took hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of costumes, film sets, and who knows what other kind of equipment to make some jokes, and, of course, one of the most respected actors in the world joined in on the shenanigans because, hey, Predator 2!
Secondly, the footage speaks to the immense joy of the freedom that science fiction film had during the relatively brief window of its heyday, the '80s. I always think of Predator 2 as marking the end of an era. Everything was so serious and didactic in the '70s with societal metaphor and commentary. It's like Stanley Kubrick set the tone with 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange and, though there were certainly some unintended goofy moments, '70s science fiction was a generally grim affair. And, once you get to the '90s, the studios were well into the process of moving into the big-money spectacle that had to be focus-grouped and sanitized for all the different markets. God knows I love Will Smith, and I have immense fondness for both Men in Black movies, but you can tell they were ready-made to sell bed sheets, T-shirts, and action figures. Again, imagine the tonal differences of Gary Busey and Adam Baldwin as the Men in Black? Predator 2 came out in 1990 and Army of Darkness squeaked by in '92, but, really, once the glossy Terminator 2 came out in '91, you get the sense there are as many accountants on movie sets as creative people. I still miss going to see immensely goofy stuff like Megaforce or Escape From New York, or the fever-dream visions of something like Alien or Blade Runner.
Look, I still love the genre, and, of course, I believe some really smart science fiction has come out in the years since the '80s, even with the overall sanitizing it underwent. Still, I did feel a little ache of melancholy looking at the dancing Predators, because that period is over and done with. I doubt there will ever be off-the-cuff video footage of dancing Na'vi, or NuKirk and NuUhura doing the Hustle, and I miss the environment that would have allowed that kind of joy.
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