Predator 3D Blu-ray Review

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Have Fox poisoned one of their most fan-cherished titles still further with this 3D presentation?

by Chris McEneany Jan 3, 2014 at 9:13 AM

  • Movies & TV review


    Predator 3D Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £24.99

    Arnie's Best

    With a movie this well-known and loved, there seems little point in providing a synopsis. But if you are unacquainted with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s big rumble in the jungle, you’d better lock ‘n’ load because here goes …

    “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”

    Picture the scene - it's the steamy rainforest of Central America, the whole place is crawling with bad-ass guerrillas whose idea of the Geneva Convention is a damn good kicking followed by a bullet through the brain, battle-hardened Green Berets “out of Fort Bragg” are hanging from the trees, having been skinned-alive, and there's the biggest, baddest, meanest, ugliest alien uber-hunter on the prowl for human trophies. Do you really want to get on-board that helicopter and drop in for a quick couple of days of sightseeing before bouncing back over the border?
    Well, one blast of Little Richard hollering for “Long, Tall Sally” from the ghetto-blaster, a cigar the size of a rocket-launcher and, man, you ain't gonna hesitate. In fact you'd have to be “a slack-jawed faggot” to resist this close encounter of the grisliest kind.

    John McTiernan’s macho movie may not be Oscar-worthy material, but in and of itself, this is a genre catalyst that has proved enormously influential and set the very bench-mark for others to follow. Part bodycount flick, part horror, part SF mystery, this supreme 1987 actioner remains Arnie’s finest hour.

    It might still be “one ugly mutha***” but the original Predator is, and always shall be, brutally awesome.

    Is it Dimensional?

    Predator 3D Is it Dimensional?

    “Same kinda moon. Same kinda jungle …”

    We still await a decent transfer of Predator, I’m afraid, because, quite frankly, this is still something of a let-down. This said, my initial reaction to the 3D post-conversion was quite some way off the mark. The settings on my Panasonic VT50 were definitely not wrong as I watched the splendid three-dimensionality of Andre de Toth’s House of Wax straight afterwards just to make sure. So, I can only assume that my eyes were playing tricks on me, and that my critical response went hysterically over-the-top with unfair bias and prejudice. Thank God I didn’t write this review straight away and have since been able to watch and enjoy the 3D version a good few times before I was finally able to do so.

    But let us just confirm that this 3D version is taken from the same DNR’d Ultimate Waxfest Edition that horrified us all back in 2010, so don’t expect any fabulously faithful transfer from the source lurking about in this jungle; the same scrubbed look is all-too apparent, although it still favours Arnie’s visage and awards him the most detail and texture. My full coverage of the waxfest has already been covered on site, so for now, let us concern ourselves just with the new dimension.

    A nice touch is the disc menu that floats its text out from the screen, and the pop-up extending out of the movie. The image is slightly opened-up to 1.78:1 and the encode comes via MVC. My initial reactions were that the film was now TOO DARK, TOO BLURRED and offered NOTHING INHERENTLY SCREEN-POPPING AT ALL. Well, the first complaint still stands. Although still culled from the brightened DNR transfer, the image inevitably loses detail in the deeper shadows and contrast is not that well delineated. Some shots are quite indistinct because of the darker aspect. And this only seems to be compounded by the black levels not registering with enough strength and vigour either, leaving them compromised and washed-out despite their greater prominence in the frame.

    The second complaint now seems quite harsh, because upon several subsequent viewings, I really only noted a handful of scenes when the background jungle became mired with ghosting and crosstalk to the point of proper distraction. At first, I found there to be an unacceptable level of rear blurriness that destroyed characters and objectivity, aiding the dimensionality of things in the immediate foreground considerably but at the expense of an overall cohesion to the image. Now I have found that this is not the case at all. The team’s initial discoveries in the jungle still suffer from fronds, trees, leaves and scampering figures at the deepest recesses becoming choppy, softened and camouflaged with ghosting, but afterwards, the image really settles down to deliver elements of depth and spatiality that can be very decently composed.

    The image contains readily perceived planes that bestow tangible dimensionality to the setting, the characters and the action.

    For example – the shots of Dutch, Billy, Ramirez and Anna on the big fallen tree across the ravine retain very strong fore, middle and background depth, even stretching far into the jungle and, if you look in the bottom left corner, much, much further into the canyon along the winding river. Dutch bellowing out his war-cry from the promontory above the lake. The Jaws-style reverse-zoom on Dutch’s face as he begins to understand that their foe is not of the conventional kind. Dillon doing his one-armed twirl and getting gutted by the Predator. The fighting in the guerrilla camp, with individual battles going on at different levels, distances and heights within the same frame. There are many other instances in which this level of depth is convincingly and rewardingly rendered.

    Another moment has Ramirez quizzing Billy about his fears whilst Dillon still refuses to believe any of their suspicions. As the main group of commandos are placed fore and middle-ground, we see Dutch moving up to their position from the deep left, coming up and around a tree to join them and moving from one plane to another with fluid ease and total smoothness. The jungle that I once thought so blurred and flat frequently amazes with fronds brushing against us as they the men move through them, distant ridges really appearing far away and depth continually supplying a sense of viewer immersion. The best use of 3D in this environment has been witnessed in both Avatar and, especially, in Jack Arnold’s classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon, which boasts a truly jaw-dropping and dazzling depth and clarity even underwater, but Predator is now really able to offer us a visual environment that has depth and distance, texture and organic vitality.

    The third complaint was aimed at what I erroneously believed was the waste of money doing a post-conversion when the result would show us nothing of the gimmicky 3D fun that the process should cater for. Well, admittedly, the screen rarely “pops” with anything dazzling, but I would argue that the effect is still far from subtle as characters and objects in the immediate foreground often stand out from the frame. It is true that you can remove the glasses on many an occasion and find that the film looks almost perfectly clear and 2D flat, but this means that the process, arguably selective in its coverage, packs more of a punch only when really necessary. The multiple barrels of Ol’ Painless genuinely poke out as Blain and then Mac wield the mighty weapon.

    That orgasmic muzzle flash from Dutch’s M203 just before he roars out the classic “Get to da choppah!!!!” looks brilliant in 3D. As does the spectacular leap that Dutch makes for the overhanging branch during the ambush sequence of the final fight. This last moment is really elevated by the extra dimensionality brought to bear. Explosions, hurtling bodies and the Predator’s laser-sighting and unleashed energy bolts won’t exactly leap across the room, but they definitely poke through the third wall with enough potency to satisfy. I would also say that some effects now look better realised and more interesting with the added dimensionality (and the grain-less clarity of the DNR’d transfer). Such as the sight of the cloaked Predator shuffling-about on the branch as Mac and Dillon watch him from under cover. This looks clearer now than ever before.

    A classic film has been neutered, sanitised and put under the digital knife to the degree where it bears virtually no visual similarity to the movie we used to know and love … and yet, folks, the 3D version breathes life and energy into that waxed-over, high-gloss image and genuinely allows for a much more enjoyable experience than you might think. It certainly proved me wrong. So, despite my initial gripes, this is actually a fine post-conversion that certainly has some issues – it is too dark and has some inescapable elements of ghosting – but does a remarkable job of making the DNR transfer not only watchable, but downright enjoyable. A strong 7 out of 10.

    Dimensional Sound

    Predator 3D Dimensional Sound

    “You’re expendable assets. And I used you to get the job done. Got it?”

    Whatever our qualms may be about the video transfer for Predator, we can rest assured that no such errors or misgivings plague the audio side of things. For whilst the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that graces this disc will not rattle the cages of too many recent offerings of similarly bombastic material, it performs quite admirably and delivers an exciting and occasionally thunderous experience that does, on many occasions, provide that essential all-round soundscape of bone-jarring chaos and wanton destruction.

    The heavy-guns roar and belch lead with a fine ferocity. Bullets really do whip across the environment and the jungle is regularly uprooted with tectonic violence. The scattering of debris is composed of the usual cacophony, but is also fairly subtle in detail too. There are lots of little, but amazingly crisp metallic effects for the changing of magazines and the handling of equipment. Explosions have plenty of bass support and the sub will enjoy some terrific moments of exercise throughout. Ol’ Painless has some agreeable weight and a cool metallic spin that clatters through the ballistics. The meaty thumping that the Predator doles out to Dutch and his walloping footsteps - running and jumping onto the big log, for example - sound appropriately hefty.

    Ambience comes across well, with birdsong, insects buzzing, background voices, rustlings and twig-snappings emanating from all around. The fizzing and crackling of the Pred's cloaking device, and the delivery of its sound-sampling are now much more vigorously conveyed. Positioning is a mite heavy-handed, but this is a soundtrack that doesn't want to be polite, so be prepared for some sonic bludgeoning. Listen to the thick thwang! of the arrow that Dutch puts through the tree-trunk, or the gassy whump! of the grenades that Ramirez likes to renovate the jungle with. The big, overblown firing-at-nothing scene is truly spectacular, of course. It is given increased weight, movement and impact courtesy of the lossless mix.

    The heavy-guns roar and belch lead with a fine ferocity

    Surround effects are actually really good. I like the positioning of the radio-voices in the helicopter and the distant pop-thump-pop! of the gunfire taking place outside the guerrilla HQ as Dutch and Dillon rifle through the enemy plans. There's some nifty Predator snarling and some directionality afforded the alien's mimicry of human voices, such as “Over here” and “Any time”. Rotor-blades filter across the soundscape with believable detail and steerage. The ridiculously fun bit when the team stand there and strafe the jungle for what seems like forever is an ammo-disciple's delight, the grenades going off the icing on the cake. The rumble of the tree-trunk and the snapping of the vines of Dutch’s final booby-trap also generate crisp detail and placement, and the big explosion at the end - I mean the really big one - erupts from the front and rushes out to the rears. Nice - especially after the Predator's insane laughter has just rippled across the speakers. But the thing that I really liked was the added dimensionality to the underwater moments when Dutch has gone over the waterfall and is struggling in the bubbling froth of the churning river. This now reaches convincingly and clearly around the rear speakers to engulf you. Great stuff.

    Alan Silvestri's score is thick, heavy and powerful. It won't rock the foundations in this audio mix, but you will have little to complain about either. It is not a “warm” presentation. It never was. It is brittle and brusque and mightily percussive. As such, the range can seem fairly limited. The harsh Predator sounds, usually accompanying the wacky thermal-vision, are well-rendered and sound deeper and more guttural than ever before. Those cicada-like clicks and hisses seem to carry more clarity than before. If I was to pick anything to moan about with the sound, it would be the slight swamping of dialogue that takes place during some of the more score and action heavy moments.

    Although there is one instance when some speech seems surprisingly down-mixed even during a specific lull in Silvestri's orchestral broadside. This occurs when Dillon bitches about this “Boy Scout stuff” working, and Dutch retorts that “instead of complaining, maybe you should help.” These couple of lines seemed dialled-down within the surround mix to me. I should add that I was never left scratching my head as to what was being said, or reaching for the volume control either. Most of the dialogue is very satisfactorily presented, although with quotes this memorable, you are apt to be saying them along with the film yourself, so you may only hear your own interpretation.

    A very strong 8 out of 10.

    Dimensional Extras

    Predator 3D Dimensional Extras

    “Dillon! You sonofabitch!”

    There is nothing new presented here for the 3D release.

    First up is the 11-minute Predator: Evolution Of A Species: Hunters Of Extreme Perfection which, to be honest, is little more than a platform for the new kids on the block, Robert Rodriquez and Nimrod Antal, to lavish fan-boy praise upon the film that they have now tried to emulate. Everything else in this package will already be familiar to those with the earlier editions in their trophy cabinet.

    And although there is plenty here, the majority of it is only so-so, I'm afraid.

    The Commentary from John McTiernan is a surprisingly tedious affair. He covers a fair bit of ground, but there is far too much annoying lulls and a meandering style that is apt to put you to sleep. Most of the anecdotes are already pretty well-known ... and fans who have heard this track before will hardly feel the need to revisit it.

    The Text Commentary from film journalist/historian Eric Lichtenfeld, on the other hand, is possibly everything that McTiernan's should have been. Fact-packed, informative and enjoyably frank, this takes in a lot of great material, from cut scenes, the Predator's arsenal, the casting and the FX and how the great jungle sounds were achieved. I like John McTiernan's early films enormously, and I wish we could get to see his cut of The 13th Warrior, but his own yack-track pales when compared to this one ... even though this is just text-based.

    although there is plenty here, the majority of it is only so-so, I'm afraid

    If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It: The Making Of Predator is the same half-hour retro-doc that first aired in 2001. There is plenty of on-set and location footage from down Mexico-way and most of the cast get some time to fool about in front of the camera. However, there is a little bit too much fawning over Arnold Schwarzenegger from all and sundry. But this is a fun little dissection of a cult classic, just the same. It tries to be all things at once - entertaining and spontaneous, as well as informative – and it does reasonably well.

    Inside The Predator bundles together seven little featurettes - Classified Action, The Unseen Arnold, Old Painless, The Life Inside, Camouflage, Welcome To The Jungle and Character Design - that all provide more background on the production.
    We can spend 4 minutes looking at the Special Effects, taking in the red suit, raw footage and, ahem, that naff original monster suit. Only brief, this is still a decent bit of creature-feature nostalgia.

    Short Takes with the filmmakers is another collection of brief vignettes - John McTiernan on Learning Film, Jesse's Ultimate Goal, Stan Winston - Practical Joker, and the sad facts about stomach upsets in Don't Drink The Water.

    Deleted Scenes and Outtakes. Besides a short moment of Anna looking at a very symbolic chameleon and an alternate take of Dutch's hectic slide down the muddy slope, we get to see some good stuff involving the Predator clearly playing with Dutch's fatigued, insect-stricken quarry. I like this sequence quite a lot - but it would definitely have slowed down the big fight-or-flight episode, though. There is also a longer section of Dutch preparing for the final showdown which is more like a montage of ideas strung together.

    Forty stills comprise the Photo Gallery, and besides a Predator Profile that disseminates the big guy's exotic equipment, armour and capabilities, we get the trailers both the first two Predator films.

    Mission Debriefing

    Predator 3D Mission Debriefing

    Have Fox poisoned one of their most fan-cherished titles still further with this 3D presentation?

    Well … despite some initial problems and issues I had with it, I would have to say that no, they haven’t. In fact, what is more, the post-conversion process has actually done the almost unthinkable and turned the previous DNR’d Ultimate Hunter transfer into something that is now well worth watching. The 3D is, for the most part, of the environmentally immersing rather than the screen-popping in-yer-face variety. It brings life, space and tangible depth to the jungle and makes one of cinema’s most claustrophobic and beautiful battlegrounds a dimension of enhanced atmosphere and heightened evocation. The comic-book nature of the gung-ho heroics now burst with an added vitality, genuinely making a film that many of us know like the back of our hands, seem fresh and exciting all over again.

    Have Fox poisoned one of their most fan-cherished titles still further with this 3D presentation?

    Yes, it is too dark at times. Yes, there is some occasional background blurriness and ghosting. But, overall, this is surprisingly effective.

    We have the same extras and the same old waxy transfer in 2D, but I would say that true fans of this adrenalized classic of macho mayhem should still arm themselves with this edition and face that ugly mutha*** all over again.

    Against my better judgement and after a massive turnaround in opinion, I now have no hesitation in recommending this 3D edition of Predator.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99

    The Rundown



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