Tuesday, March 30, 2021

How I Would Have Done PREDATOR 2 (1990)

Once upon a time, Myopia Movies did an episode on the original Predator film that I was unable to participate in due to attending a friend’s wedding in North Carolina. Given how Predator 2 may have been the first of the two films I actually saw (on TV, long ago), I didn’t want to miss participating in this episode. And although it was a broadly enjoyable film, there’s nothing that can’t be improved on.

So in my usual fashion, here’s how I would have done Predator 2

In General

*Keep the general storyline and the cast. The plot is fine as-is and the cast, particularly Danny Glover, works very well.

Act One

*I liked how the film begins in what looks like a jungle and then scrolls into modern Los Angeles. This is a nice callback to the first film, which took place in a fictional Latin American country during the Cold War. We also just go straight into the action with the police confronting an incredibly well-armed drug gang.

*Although the film premiered in 1990 and (I assume) predicts Los Angeles gang warfare would continue worsening until that far-future date of 1997, having drug gangs openly battling the police in the streets and at one point shooting down a police helicopter is a little much. Most gang violence is criminal-on-criminal or criminal-on-civilian — openly fighting law enforcement is a good way to get the hammer dropped. If the Crips and Bloods are too much for the cops, that’s when the National Guard or even the regular military comes in. It’d be better if we see the fight is between the Colombians and the Jamaicans from the get-go and then when the cops arrive, the gangs attempt to flee rather than openly attack the LAPD. Perhaps the two officers are wounded by Colombian leader El Scorpion (Henry Kingi), who is armed to the teeth and clearly high as a kite. That’s when Lieutenant Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) does his death ride. This allows him to rescue the two officers and kill some Colombians who’re serving as the rear-guard to allow the others to escape. Then Harrigan orders his men after the Colombians because he’s angry that they’ve injured two officers and he doesn’t want them to get away and cause more problems later.

*I would keep the cops’ battle with the Colombians as-is after that. They’re trapped in the building and probably more scared of their deranged commander El Scorpion than the police outside. However, Danny Glover seeing the Predator on the rooftop gives the game away too fast. Instead I would have the police proceed as they do in the film, but no explicit depiction of the Predator. It’ll be something the gangsters can see and fight, but although they can see it, the viewers can’t. Based on the ritualistic display of the corpse and the fact the Jamaicans and Colombians were fighting in the area earlier, the cops assume it was the Jamaicans that killed the Colombians inside the building. However, I’d have some clues that make it obvious in hindsight it’s not them. We see a little of that with no guns and drugs missing when the police finally take the building, but to give a more explicit clue, I’d have them find a bit of neon-green blood from a lucky hit. Although the gangsters aren’t nearly as well-trained as the military guys from the first film, they’ve got a lot of weapons and they’re in a confined space they can’t escape. They’re more likely to wound a Predator, especially a less-skilled or experienced one, in such an environment than in a more open place like the jungle. Most of the cops assume it’s part of the Jamaicans’ voodoo-based terror tactics, but Harrigan is suspicious. Especially once the MIB types show up and take possession of the scene. Owing to Harrington’s greater age and experience, he’s probably worked with the DEA before and these guys are clearly not DEA.

*I’d definitely keep the Predator-POV sequences in the opening, as this would be the first clue the Predator is the main antagonist. This is very similar to the original film, where the first focuses on fighting the guerrillas and the Predator is simply watching the fun until the opportune time to jump in. I would also make sure to keep it clear the Predator is specifically focused on Harrigan — a bad-ass, aggressive police officer would be a much more impressive trophy than a bunch of gang members.

*Even though their particular precinct is depicted as the worst in the city, openly fighting a superior officer and even attempting to physically attack him seems like something Harrigan wouldn’t get away with no matter how dystopic the situation. If he was prone to this sort of behavior he probably wouldn’t get as high up as he does — a police lieutenant is only three steps away from becoming chief. I’d tone down him a bit and make it clearer he gets away with whatever overly-aggressive behavior and insubordination he does display because he’s publicly viewed as a hero for things like rescuing the wounded cops and alluded-to previous incidents that would make disciplining him politically difficult. Maybe hint that he’s in the worst precinct in the city because they can’t find anybody else for the job and stuff that would get an officer fired in a less dangerous environment they have to put up with. This would also make him leery of Jerry Lambert (Bill Paxton) — who in their right mind would WANT to transfer to this part of town?

*And speaking of Lambert, the interaction between him and Leona Cantrell (Maria Conchito Alonso) is kind of cringey. He hits on her and she goes into full-on Groin Attack mode until he backs down. Given how the movie was made in the late 1980s when there were a lot fewer rules about sexual harassment, Leona might have had to deal with things herself and hope her police record and/or the boss recognizing the perpetrator as a slimeball helps her get away with it. Since Harrigan sees it, maybe have him remark to himself something like “more XXXXth precinct crap” (indicating this is a symptom of the precinct’s dysfunctionality) and perhaps have words with Lambert about it later. When Harrigan gives his speech about putting the team first (this clip also includes Lambert being obnoxious and Leona putting him in his place), that’d be a good place to work in that he needs to be careful about…certain things. Leaving aside the moral issue of how Leona obviously doesn’t want to listen to his stories or put up with him hitting on her, there’s also the fact this behavior undermines the team and puts everybody at risk.

*I’d actually keep the voodoo ritual scene, although since the gang is supposed to be Jamaican it’d probably be better to call it obeah. Although I can easily imagine someone claiming it’s racist, it’s pretty clear to me the voodoo stuff is something they play up to terrorize their enemies and from a strategic perspective, that makes sense. Also, if we’re trying to keep the viewer thinking that it’s the Jamaicans who wiped out the Colombians as long as possible, their whole “hang your captive upside down and mutilate him” schtick and the Predator’s display of its kills are very similar. Given how the police have no reason at all to think aliens are involved, whenever they’d see this sort of thing they’d just believe it was the Jamaicans. That will be the first scene where I’d reveal rather than just imply the Predator. At this point the Jamaicans have been the red herrings for a fifth or so of the movie, much like the Communist guerrillas in the first film, and their exploits against the Colombians have set them up as something to be feared. Then the Predator just walks in and obliterates them, showing the viewers that he (it?) is the new king of the urban jungle.

Act Two

*Given how improbable it is that the MIB types under Keyes would leave the site of a Predator killing unsecured, I would have simply had Harrigan’s team capture the Predator’s weapon before Keyes’ men hustle them out. Having Danny Archuleta (Ruben Blades) sneak back into the crime scene undermines Keyes’ men’s competence, since not only is the site poorly-secured, but Keyes and Harrigan have butted heads before. This is something the MIB should see coming, especially given how Harrigan’s team is willing to join him in insubordinate behavior. This means Danny dies differently — perhaps he stakes out the building where the Colombians died in hopes of seeing what Keyes is up to and is killed by the Predator instead? This would be another clue that the Predator has fixated on Harrigan specifically.

*I would have kept the broader arc where Harrigan and his loyalists begin their own investigation into Danny’s killer despite the anger of Harrigan’s superiors. This includes Harrigan’s meeting with King Willie, the leader of the Jamaican gang. I actually liked his depiction as a sort of Rastafarian Master Splinter. He even uses the correct terminology, like referring to Harrigan (a police officer) as a representative of “Babylon.” However, I would have included King Willie’s fight with the Predator, since one of my problems with the original was that Billy’s duel with the Predator  (on a log over a river where the Predator can only attack from one direction) was never seen.

*When the police scientist Irene Edwards (Lilyan Chauvin) studies the captured Predator weapon, having it made wholly of elements that aren’t on the periodic table is overkill. Virtually all elements on Earth and in the broader universe are made in stars. I would have made it so that it’s made of elements that are recognizable but associated with very advanced technologies (“niobium—they use that in superconductors”) or are very rare on Earth (“iridium—isn’t that something they only find in asteroid craters?”). Although the viewers at this point already know we’re dealing with something inhuman, this is something that would help the cast realize they’re dealing with something not of this Earth and King Willie might not have been completely full of it.

Act Three

*The train sequence can stay broadly the same, although I had some suspension-of-disbelief issues with how Lambert wasn’t able to injure the Predator at all despite repeatedly shooting it with a handgun at close range. The Predator when we see it is wearing largely fishnet and not a lot of metallic armor. The later film Predators shows they can be injured and killed by human-made swords and the main Predator’s skin is repeatedly penetrated by shotgun blasts later, so it’s not like the hide is bulletproof. I would have had Lambert miss a couple of times in the pandemonium of the train car and his remaining shots bounce off what’s obviously metallic armor. Maybe Lambert can wound it a bit like the Colombians would have in my version, but in the end he goes down. Leona is spared like in the film due to her pregnancy — the fact the Predator has an honor code (or at least a hunting code of ethics) is a character moment for it.

*Harrigan’s pursuit of the Predator to avenge Lambert and his capture by Keyes’ MIB stays broadly the same. However, given how they were clearly trying to take Harrigan alive, I would have made the vehicular mayhem a little more subtle — they pin his car against something rather than slam into him full-on in a larger vehicle, something that could easily kill or injure him.

*The rest of the movie works pretty well as-is. Fast-moving, entertaining, some good one-liners (like Harrigan’s exchange with the old lady in the apartment complex), and the reveal that the Predators’ trophy room has a Xenomorph skull sets up the wonderful crossover video games and novels (and less wonderful crossover films) we get later. The other Predators sparing Harrigan and even giving him a 250-year-old trophy pistol (implying the Predators have been hunting humans on Earth for centuries) as a matter of honor was pretty cool too. I also liked how the MIB Garber looks to throw his weight around until he sees the LAPD coming – he might be a federal agent, but the LAPD of the early 1990s didn’t have a great reputation and I’m sure he didn’t want to fall down the stairs in a one-story building for trying to push around an LAPD officer on his own turf.

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