Vice sent a corner of the film-loving internet into an infuriated tailspin on Monday when it posted this article, which boasts the hilariously trollish headline, “Does Predator Actually Suck?” Seriously, just look at the replies to this tweet. You’d think they announced an all-female reboot to the famously macho Arnold Schwarzenegger alien flick.
So vitriolic were the comments that the site’s social media moderator had to peek out from behind their computer and address the gathering, torch-waving horde.
While such a response is all but guaranteed whenever journalists or critics deign to evaluate the sacred cow’s of someone’s purported childhood, the article itself is rather nuanced, thoughtfully addressing the tepid reviews Predator got when it was released 30 years ago. The New York Times called it “dull,” The Los Angeles Times called the script “derivative,” and The Washington Post cracked that “scarier critters have checked into Roach Motels” (like this one from Nightmare on Elm Street 4, perhaps?).
Writer Patrick Lyons, a fan of the film, sees its poor response as a sign of the times. While Predator now resonates as a gripping, well-told story wrapped in the gauze of over-the-top ‘80s action machismo, it nevertheless arrived at the tail end of that era of filmmaking. As Lyons puts it:
Critics had been bashed over the head with Schwarzenegger, automatic weapon-toting lunkheads, exotic jungle locales, and extra-terrestrials so often in this decade that by the time ‘87 rolled around, not even the most expertly-crafted combination of those elements could counteract the macho action/sci-fi genre’s critical mass being reached.
It doesn’t help that the cultural climate was shifting, too, having been inexorably shocked by the stock market crash of 1987, another touchpoint that Lyons touches on.
So, no, Predator does not suck. But we can learn something from looking at why people initially thought it did.