Review for Predator
It’s time for another quickie Blu-ray review, and also my first ever second hand Blu-ray purchase. When it comes to the double dip, I’ve always intended for my favourite movies to be priorities when it comes to upgrading from DVD to BD, which doesn’t explain why it took me this long to get around to buying Predator on Blu-ray, very much one of my favourite films, and certainly my favourite Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, a perfect statement of eighties action-sci-fi. I hopped on the HD bandwagon back in 2011, a year after the Predator Ultimate Hunter edition was released, and during that brief period when some home cinema fans and studios were trying to convince everyone else that massive DNR, grain elimination, and plasticisation of classic films was the way to go on Blu-ray. I saw this image on the Blu-ray.com forums which convinced me otherwise.
The Ultimate Hunter edition got the extras that were on the 2-disc DVD, but the first single layer Predator Blu-ray from 2008 was a barebones disc. I kept hoping that someone would put out a decent version of Predator, honest transfer plus extras. Fast forward six years, and I’m in the mood to watch Predator again, and I have no choice but to look up that 2008 disc. Alas, it’s now only available second hand.
A late night, helicopter incursion finds an elite Special Forces team in the thick of the jungle on a rescue mission. But things go wrong straight away when they find the remains of a previously unmentioned rescue team, skinned, butchered and hanging from the trees. Assigning this horror to bloodthirsty rebels, they attack their mission with resolve. The rebel compound is devastated in an effective attack that leaves no-one standing but one survivor, Anna to be taken prisoner. But there are no hostages, only the fruits of a CIA mission. Angered at being double crossed, team leader Dutch proceeds to take his team to the evacuation point. But their troubles are only just beginning, because the ultimate incursion force is in turn being stalked, stalked by something not of this Earth.
Predator gets a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer on this disc. The whole problem with Predator, which has plagued home cinema presentations of the film from barebones DVD all the way to that Ultimate Hunter Edition, is that the film was shot on really poor film stock. Even the Special Edition DVD with its DTS audio and feature laden discs suffered from a poor, grainy, artefact laden transfer. What this Blu-ray offers is a pretty faithful presentation of the original film, to the degree that there’s a slight frame wobble all the way through, the image is grainy, colour presentation is poor, and detail levels are lacklustre. The film varies between adequate sharpness and DVD level softness depending on the light levels. But, I didn’t notice any compression, no aliasing, no banding, and certainly no DNR. It’s good enough to watch, and it’s infinitely better than the Ultimate Hunter Edition.
I really do like the audio experience here, a DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English track with optional DTS 5.1 Spanish and Italian too. There are subtitles in these languages as well as Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. The sound is awesome given that this is a film from 1987. You’d expect it to stick to its stereo roots and keep things mostly at the front of the soundstage, and when it comes to dialogue, ambience and music it pretty much does. But when it comes to the action, you’re thrown right into the middle of it, bullets, explosions, helicopters, crashing trees, it’s all a thunderous experience that will leave a grin on the face, and blood dripping from your shredded ear drums. There’s also some nice LFE that will loosen the plaster from your walls.
The disc autoplays the movie, and loops to the beginning after the end credits have played. You only get a pop-up menu on this disc, and the sole extras are trailers, one for Predator, one for the Marky Mark Planet of the Apes, and one for Eragon.
Back when this disc was released, fans clamoured for a better transfer and a better quality release. Be careful what you wish for. Now this disc is in more demand, harder to find, and more expensive than the Ultimate Hunter Edition, because you get the original film, unmolested.
As for the film, it’s still brilliant; the quintessential action movie, with over the top action, and large than life characters, all wrapped up in a sharp and elegant script. Here’s my review of the DVD if you want to know more of my feelings about the film.
Thankfully it seems that the studios have toned down their hack and slash revisionism of their back catalogue. The one problem is their subsequent refusal to correct those errors, or even admit to them. Consumers are left seeking out the toe-in-the-water, early releases for authentic presentations that had limited circulation, while the subsequent plastic versions flood the market.
Here are some more screencaps.