Instead of providing a Predator clone that yet again pitted a galactic hunter against a squad of trained mercenaries in a tropical hot zone, it was decided that the ante needed to be upped. What better way to reintroduce the terror of a cloaked alien armed with laser aiming shoulder canons than to bring it to a concrete jungle? A new alien warrior touches down in Los Angeles to put a few notches on the ole' kill belt and test its mettle against an adversary worthy of the hunt. After the cloaked invader slaughters a large number of heavily armed Colombians during a gang war, Lieutenant Michael Harrigan practically volunteers himself as the Predator's next target by showing he's loaded with guts and ingenuity. There are a lot of other distractions to keep the film from being incredibly bland, but that's pretty much the bottom line for Predator 2's plot.
I can certainly understand wanting to come out of Predator's original mold in order to provide the audience with a different experience, but this is the best they could come up with, really? They can take away the palm trees and mud and replace it with skyscrapers and sidewalks all they want. Hell, they can even replace a highly trained muscled mercenary with a cop that's armed with nothing more than street smarts and a pistol. Go ahead and throw in all the back story hogwash to keep the film from only being 45 minutes long, but in the end Predator 2 is still about a game that's being played out between cat and mouse. Although this basic premise was what made the first Predator film such a success, its successor is missing the crucial elements of nail biting and suspenseful buildup, as well as a believable pairing for what should have been a memorable and primal battle for survival.
The film also doesn't try to give the audience the familiar rush of fear or dread. No, Predator 2 instead opts to bring a rocket launcher to a knife fight. Why waste time tapping in to exciting human emotions when you can 'thrill' your audience with lots of gore and loosely strung together action sequences? The film hasn't a single character I could give a toot about (including Harrigan), and the plot is painfully bloated with boring fluff that really hampers the pacing at times. Predator 2 almost has to make up for its shortcomings by turning itself into a charming and cheesy 90's action spectacle that goes out of its way to satisfy everyone's desire to see the Predator do what it does best - fire, slice and impale. Alarms generally go off inside my head whenever I see substance get thrown out in favor of some action and special effects, especially when said film happens to be a sequel. Traditionally a recipe for disaster, Predator 2 actually shines because of the mindless popcorn flick formula. The rock 'em, sock 'em action sequences that show off the Predator's gizmos to no end really makes you forget about the rest of the film's inadequacies, such as its ho-hum script and ridiculously clichéd cast of characters.
Predator 2 is without question light-years away from being a great film, and as a sequel it can't even come close to holding a candle to its predecessor. It matters little in the end though as the film doesn't make the mistake of attempting to duplicate the timeless original we all know and love. It tries to make up for its lack of decent writing or character development with thrilling action sequences and a much better look of our Predator baddie in action, as well as plenty of charm that's exhibited via self parody and comedic relief amidst the final showdown near the end of the film. These qualities don't make Predator 2 a better film overall, but they sure make it a highly entertaining one that's hard to peel your eyes away from. Most importantly of all almost 20 years after its initial release, this film is a textbook example of why cheesy 90's action flicks were the crème de la crème. Never seen the original Predator film? No worries. The plot for the sequel is self contained and requires no prior knowledge of the franchise at all. When compared to the original, high expectations may split some of the fan base from the pack, but if you ask me Predator 2 is way too fun a flick to miss.
Predator 2 is presented in a fairly unimpressive AVC encode (1.85:1) at a resolution of 1080p. Color saturation and contrast is improved upon a little, but the rest of the high-def presentation falls pretty flat. The image is generally soft, and although this may be par for the course on a catalogue title such as this, it's not just the source that contributes to the complete lack of depth on this transfer. DNR has most definitely been applied to try and clean things up a little, although there's still some film grain that's been left intact. I can't say this was the smartest thing to do with Predator 2, at least with how the source material looks at the moment. DNR is never acceptable in my mind, but why utilize a process that takes away clarity and detail when the film is already sporting a semi-soft focus? Not to mention the print itself isn't the cleanest I've seen from a catalogue title, and Predator 2 is pretty dark and gritty by nature. There are also some minor compression artifacts that can be seen throughout, as well as some edge enhancement now and again.
I know the main question most of you have is how this compares to the standard def DVD, and if this is really worth the upgrade or not. All I can really say is, "Eh, not really." There is a small boost in clarity and detail once in a while, but the picture overall isn't really that much different than the special edition DVD that's been released. It's pretty disappointing because I'm sure this film could have looked a lot better, even being that it's almost 20 years old. Don't give up hope yet though, not with rumors of a reboot called Predators floating around the net. Also take into consideration the film's 20th anniversary will be approaching in the next couple of years. Based on the film quality alone, I would say you'd be better off holding on to your DVD until the inevitable rerelease comes along. If you're a fan and never got around to getting Predator 2 in standard definition and simply can't wait any longer, then that's really the only scenario where I can endorse this 'high def' experience.
Much like the sound design itself, Predator 2's DTS-HD 5.1 track is loud and flashy. Surrounds aren't utilized all that much until the film needs a certain tone set by providing ambient sounds or the film's overpowering score, but boy they really kick into gear when the action picks up. The dialogue remains clear and audible throughout the film regardless of what's happening on the screen, so there aren't any complaints there either. I'm sure after giving this a spin you'll find that this doesn't compare to any recent Hollywood blockbuster in sound design or anything, but the lossless track that's been provided is about as accurate as you can expect for a film that's pushing a couple of decades in age.
Commentary with Director Stephen Hopkins - Almost every aspect of the production is discussed at great length, but unfortunately Mr. Hopkins presents all his information in a rather dull and dry fashion, keeping this from being the entertaining track it could have been. All the technical information you could ever dream of is here though, and if that sort of a commentary is up your alley, then by all means check this one out.
Commentary with Writers Jim/John Thomas - There are some overlapping areas of discussion that appear on this track, but these writers are able to provide much better insight into the history of the film as opposed to discussing the technical aspects until the viewer at home falls asleep. They wrote the original Predator film, so their thoughts and musings are definitely worth listening to.
The Hunters and the Hunted - At over a half an hour in length, this is a fairly information behind-the-scenes featurette that provides a look at some of the stuff that's been discussed in the commentary tracks. If you're the kind of person that can't stand sitting around just to listen to someone talk for a long time, then you'll most likely find this to be the informational supplement you need to satisfy your curiosity over the film's production. The most curious aspect about Predator 2 was why it needed to be made, and you'll find discussion on that matter here as well.
Evolutions - This shows how the special effects were done for the scenes Main Title, Something on the Roof, Enemy in the Alley and Subway Showdown. This is an interesting watch as Predator 2 was made before CGI was used to handle practically every special effect in the book.
Weapons of Choice - This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a breakdown of the arsenal that's at the Predator's disposal. If you've paid close enough attention to the kill scenes in both of the Predator films though, chances are you won't learn a whole lot from this but it's still nice to see such a thing included.
Hard Core Segments - I found the fictional show Hard Core in Predator 2 to be rather obnoxious, so the full length snippets that are available as a supplement didn't really strike me as enjoyable material. I have to give credit where credit is due however, as it's certainly nice that these were included. After all, I'm sure not everyone shares my opinion and actually enjoyed this aspect of the film!
Promotional Gallery - Three short featurettes that were obviously meant as promotional material have been thrown into this promo gallery. Predator Goes to Town quickly discusses the intricacies of trying to bring the Predator into a city setting. International Making-Of Featurette is a very brief spot that has interview snippets of cast members promoting the film, as well as some film clips and behind the scenes clips. Last but not least, Creating the Ultimate Hunter covers some of the technical aspects of the Predator's hunting abilities, such as the heat vision he uses to find his prey. Also included in the promo gallery are some trailers and TV spots.
Rip apart the pieces of the formula that have been used to make Predator 2 and the evidence would be enough for you to want to stay far, far away. This film has a fairly awful script, pacing issues, and a very clichéd cast of characters that you honestly couldn't care less about. It's as if the bar in the storytelling department was intentionally lowered so the audience wouldn't pine for the film to reach unrealistic heights. It was a bold move to make but I'll be damned, it worked! The Predator sequences really show off its skills to a degree that's sure to keep fans happy, and I'm sure the disturbingly realistic gore doesn't hurt either! Such action scenes are few and far in between, but the loud and flashy action sequences are ultimately what keep this film afloat from beginning to end. I think I actually appreciate Predator 2 more today than I ever did. Maybe it wasn't intentional, but the film plays out as if it was trying to parody the 90's action scene. As cheesy as Predator 2 can be, this aspect of the film gives it a charm that I think actually made it better with age. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, that's for sure, but this film to me has become an unintentional part of cinematic history. This may merely be because it's a Predator flick in the end, but who cares? It's damn good fun.
Despite all the good times I had watching it though, I can only in good conscience give this Blu-ray release a rent it rating. If you're a fan of the franchise, you most likely already own one of the two DVD releases. The extras are pretty nice for a catalogue title such as this and the audio is a bit better, but the video isn't really that worthy of an upgrade. I'm an upgrade beast, don't get me wrong. I'll replace any DVD with its Blu-ray counterpart as long as the upgrade is at least somewhat better, but I honestly can't say that Predator 2 is really worth the money right now. If you don't already own the DVD then you may as well bite when the price comes down a little, but if you're perfectly content with the special edition DVD, you may as well wait for the inevitable rerelease that's likely to come once Predators comes out (if it comes out) or the film hits its 20th anniversary.