The Future is Here: Light-Bending Invisibility Cloaks!

predator-invisibilityInvisibility cloaks are fast becoming a reality. That is to say, they are moving out of the realm of science fiction and the theoretical and into the realm of science fact. However, issues remain when it comes to developing this technology for real-world applications. Outside of adaptive camouflage that merely allow objects to blend into the background, true invisibility cloaks suffer from the problem of angles.

To break it down, invisibility cloaks are based on the scientific principle of bending light around an object, thereby rendering it invisible to sight. The problem with every device based on this principle built to date is that it only worked if both the viewer and whatever was cloaked remained still. This, of course, is not entirely practical since it means that a cloaked object would only be invisible from one angle.

invisibility_cloakHowever, the latest effort to create a true cloak – developed at the University of Rochester – not only overcomes some of the limitations of previous devices, but relies on inexpensive, readily available materials in a novel configuration. For the first time ever, researchers have made a cloaking device that works multidirectionally in three dimensions and uses no specialized equipment, but four standard lenses.

As well as at least partially solving the viewpoint problem, the Rochester cloak also leaves the background undisturbed, without any warping, as has appeared in other devices. As Joseph Choi, a professor of physics at Rochester University John Howell, explained:

There’ve been many high tech approaches to cloaking and the basic idea behind these is to take light and have it pass around something as if it isn’t there, often using high-tech or exotic materials. This is the first device that we know of that can do three-dimensional, continuously multidirectional cloaking, which works for transmitting rays in the visible spectrum.

invis_cloak_rochIn order to both cloak an object and leave the background undisturbed, the researchers determined the lens type and power needed, as well as the precise distance to separate the four lenses. To test their device, the off-the-shelf lenses were placed at such a distance from each other so as to allow the light to act in specific ways – first focusing it down to a fine point through one lens, then again through the next, and then repeated.

This bends the light so that an object in the ring-shaped cloaking field is not visible to a person peering through the array. To be sure, they placed the object being viewed through the lenses in front of a grid background, and then shifted the viewing angle. In all cases, with the grid background appeared perfectly normal, with no discontinuity appearing behind the cloaked object.

invisibility_cloak1Their simple configuration improves on other cloaking devices, but it’s not perfect. As Choi explained, the the cloak bends light and sends it through the center of the device, so the “on-axis region cannot be blocked or cloaked.” This means that the cloaked region is shaped like a doughnut. In addition, the cloak has edge effects, but these can be reduced by using larger lenses, and the team has some more complicated designs to address the other issues.

For the time being, the technology isn’t exactly workable as far as Predator-style invisibility cloaks are concerned. However, Howell and Choi had some more benign applications in mind, such as allowing surgeons to operate without their view being obstructed by their own hands. Also, such a device could be used to allow truck drivers or even regular commuters see through their vehicle’s blind spots.

And, because the setup is so simple, anyone can grab some lenses and give it a try. You can find instructions for doing so on the Rochester University website, and a paper describing the research on arXiv. And of course, the University of Rochester was sure to provide a video of the cloak being tested out. Check it out below:


Sources:
cnet.com, arxiv.org, rochester.edu

More Terminator 5 News!

terminator1Despite rumors that T5 was stuck in a development phase known as “development hell”, Mr. Terminator himself recently came forward to offer an update which set the record straight put fans of the franchise in a much better mood. In a recent interview with Metro magazine, Arnold Schwarzenegger claimed that the movie was on track and that they are busy writing the script for it as we speak.

In addition, he claimed that other projects which will be involving him in the next few months were green lighted and getting the go-ahead. This included the much-anticipated T5, as well as some other sequel/relaunches:

We’re writing it now. There are three projects being written that involve me. One is Terminator 5, the other is a Conan movie that Universal is doing and there’s the sequel to Twins, which is called Triplets. We’ll all look quite different in that. The third triplet is Eddie Murphy, so figure that one out.

Really? Still doing the Conan relaunch, huh? And Twins too? Wow, these are a few candidates for download! I can see the Conan relaunch making sense, given how poorly the last relaunch did. But isn’t there a statute of limitations on how many times you can relaunch a series? Or did I just make that up?

terminator2In any case, no indications have been given yet as to what role Arnie himself will be playing. No doubt that is a detail which the studio will keep closely guarded until they finish hammering out the script, or figure it out for themselves! But we can safely assume that he was referring to Patrick Lussier and Laeta Kalogridis when he referred to the writers.

One thing is clear. Whatever they make couldn’t be much worse than the last two Terminator movies. Let’s just hope they ditch the continuity thing and go back to their roots on this one. That’s what Superman Returns did and I can’t recommend it enough. Though not everyone liked that relaunch, it did present a good idea for franchises that were tired and washed up: Make a movie that picks up where the last good one left off and pretend like the abortive sequels never happened.

And while they’re at it, do you think could Hollywood should relaunch Predator and Alien, preferably to a point before AVP was spawned? There’s a concept that has huge potential, but for some reason can’t seem to express it on the silver screen!

avp-alien-pov1Source: IO9.com

Drone Wars!

X-47BThat’s the crux of Timothy Chung’s research, an assistant professor in the Systems Engineering department at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. For the most part, he and the Advanced Robotics Systems Engineering Lab (ARSENL) have been working on a way to construct a series of low-cost, lightweight autonomous flying vehicles known as Aerial Battle Bots that will give the US and the western allies an advantage should a full-scale conflict involving UAV’s happen.

The aspect of cost is especially important, seeing as how drones cost on the order of several million dollars apiece. By supplementing reconnaissance and hunter-killers with dogfighting drones, the army and navy of the future will have a lost cost-option for keeping their big-budget fliers safe. What’s more, it’s extremely important that the drones work in tandem, since it’s highly likely other nations will be developing similar swarms of drones in the future too.

Chung_droneWith the help of a DARPA research grant, Chung and his associates have completed a small fleet of about a dozen drones. Each is a essentially a commodity radio-controlled flying machine, called Unicorn, that has been retrofitted with an onboard computer and other gear in order to take their places in the larger group. He hopes that by this August, he and his team will be able to get the vehicles flying and be able to start experimenting with getting them working together, as well as facing off!

In other news, questions relating to drone dogfights and the issue of autonomous drones were raised once again at the White House. Back around Thanksgiving, the mounting concerns from the human rights community led Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to sign a series of instructions that were designed to ensure that human oversight would always be a factor where drone strikes and UAV’s were concerned.

john-brennanThese concerns have since mounted with the recent announcement that John Brennan, the White House’s counter-terrorism adviser and the man known as the “Drone Godfather”, was nominated to become the next head of the CIA. For years now, he has been the man in charge of the US antiterrorism efforts in Central Asia, many of which have involved the controversial use of Predator and Reaper strikes.

These concerns were voiced in a recent letter from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore), a member of the Senate intelligence committee. In it, he asked Brennan pointedly when and under what conditions the president would be able to target American citizens using drones:

“How much evidence does the President need to determine that a particular American can be lawfully killed? Does the President have to provide individual Americans with the opportunity to surrender before killing them?”

Naturally, the questions were quite specific when it came to the authorization of lethal force and when such authorization would be given to target people within the US’s borders. But there were also many questions that highlighted concerns over how this same process of authorization has taken place in other countries, and how little oversight has taken place.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)In short, Wyden used the occasion to express “surprise and dismay” that the intelligence agencies haven’t provided the Senate intelligence committee with a complete list of countries in which they’ve killed people in the war on terrorism, a move which he says “reflects poorly on the Obama administration’s commitment to cooperation with congressional oversight.” And given the mounting criticism at home that using killer drones against unspecified targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan has earned, not to mention the blowback happening overseas, he is not alone in thinking this.

Like it or not, it’s a new age where “umanning” the front lines is having an effect, albeit not the desired one. At one time, the predominant thinking in military and intelligence communities was that using automated aerial, land and sea vehicles, war could be fought cleanly, effectively, and without the loss of life – at least on OUR side. However, this thinking is coming under increasing scrutiny as it comes closer and closer to realization. And at the center of it all, the philosophical and existential questions are numerous and impossible to ignore.

For starters, war is and always will be a human endeavor. Just because you are not risking the lives of your own people doesn’t mean the fight is any more sanitary or bloodless. Second, even though none of your own citizens will be mourning the death of their loved ones doesn’t mean there won’t be mounting civilian opposition as conflicts go on. In a global community, people are able to witness and empathize with the plight of others. And finally, the increased use of machinery, be it autonomous or remote controlled, will inevitably lead to fears of what will happen if that same technology would ever be turned against its own people. No weapon is so safe and no government so trustworthy that people won’t fear the possibility of it being turned on them as well.

Source: news.cnet.com, wired.com

Favorite Cult Classics (Part The First)

It might be that I’m feeling nostalgic, or it might be that since my wife and I sprung for Netflix, I’ve been finding my way back to several of my favorite old movies. Hard to say exactly. All I know for sure is, I want to talk about the cult classic movies that I like best. You know what I’m talking about! Those rare gems, those diamonds in the rough, the movies that few seem to know about, but those who do always seem to love.

Yes, THOSE movies! Sure, we’ve all seen plenty of big hits, but these movies are the ones that occupy a special place in our hearts. Perhaps it’s because they are not so widely known, like the Star Wars’ and and Indiana Jones‘ of our time. Perhaps it’s because they didn’t get the recognition or the money they deserved, at least in their own time. Or it could be that they were simply the kind of things that got better with time.

In any case, I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 favorite cult classics, movies which I saw during my childhood, teen years and even in my twenties, and keep coming back too. Some were adventurous, some were funny, some were downright cheesy. But all have two things in common: One, none of them are known beyond a select group of appreciators, at least in this country. And two, those who like them, like them a lot! Check out the list below and see if you agree, and feel free to tell me your own favorites as well. I know we all got em!

Akira:
One of the greatest animes I have ever seen, and with a very poignant and intriguing story to boot, Akira starts this list off right! The movie adapted several volumes of manga to screen, and did so in such a way that didn’t skimp on either story or detail. Even shortened, the plot still manages to convey the sense of awe and dread of atomic war, revolution, and evolutionary cataclysm. And the fact that the bulk of it is told from the point of view of disillusioned orphans who are all part of a bier gang only heightens the sense on confusion and angst of little people being thrown into situations far greater than they can handle.

And then there was the quality of the movie itself. Having seen this movie several times now and different versions thereof, I can tell you that no matter what the format, every single frame was animated in such a way as to be saturated. And not with digital effects, mind you, but with hand-drawn animations that really manage to capture the post apocalyptic and cyberpunk feel of Katsuhiro Otomo’s original graphic novel.

All in all, I consider this movie to be compatible in many respects to 2001: A Space Odyssey in that they both deal with grandiose of questions of existence, biological evolution, and both managed to blow my mind! And having first been exposed to both of them in my teen years, they are partly responsible for kindling my love of science fiction.

Army of Darkness:
Here’s a movie I kept being told to see, but did not get around to seeing until I was in university. And truth be told, it took me two viewings to really get the appeal of it. After that, it grew on me until I finally found myself thinking it hilarious, and quoting from it whenever I could. “Come get some!” “Groovy!” “This be my BOOMSTICK!” and “Good? Bad? I’m the one with the gun!” All classic lines!

Yeah, this movie is definitely filed in the guilty pleasure section, the space reserved for movies that are deliberately cheesy, over the top, and have a robust sense of humor about themselves. It’s also one of the many that gave Sam Raimi (director of the Spiderman trilogy) his start, and established Bruce Campbell (who appeared in all three) as a gifted ham actor.

Taking the position that decapitations and flesh-eating demons can be funny, this movie tells the story of a blue-collar, rough and tumble, one-liner spouting man named Ash who’s been sent back in time to fight an army of the undead. Automatically, hijinks ensue as he tries to convince people he’s not a demon himself, but instead chooses to establish who’s boss by demonstrating the power of his chainsaw and “boomstick” (aka. his sawed-off double-barrel shotgun).

But predictably, this anti-hero rises to the challenge and becomes a real hero, and does so with as little grace as possible! And of course, there’s a love story as well, which is similarly graceless thanks to Ash’s lowbrow romantic sensibilities. Nothing is left untouched by the ham and cheese! And all throughout, the gun fights, duels, and confrontations with creepy, evil forces are hilarious, made possible by Campbell’s hammy acting, facial expressions, one-liners and some wonderfully bad cinematography. Think Xena: Warrior Princess, but with guns and foul language!

Blade Runner:
Another personal favorite, and one which I wish I had come to know sooner. But lucky for me I was still a teen when I saw this movie, hence I can say that I saw it while still in my formative years. And today, years later, I still find myself appreciating it and loving it as one can only love a cult hit. It’s just that kind of movie which you can enjoy over and over again, finding new things to notice and appreciate each time.

And once again, my appreciation for this movie is due to two undeniable aspects. On the one hand, Ridley Scott created a very rich and detailed setting, a Los Angeles of the 21st century dominated by megastructures, urban sprawl, pollution and polarized wealth. It was the picture perfect setting of cyberpunk, combining high-tech and low-life.

On the other hand, there was the story. Loosely adapted from PKD’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, this version of a future differed greatly in that the artificial humans, the antagonists of the original story, were about the only sympathetic characters in the story. The result was not a cautionary tale on the dangers of creating life in our own image as much as a commentary about the line between the artificial and the real.

The question it asked was: if you overcome all boundaries, if machines possess memory, feelings and a fear of death, is there anything at all to separate them from the rest of us? Will their lives be worth any less than ours, and what will it even mean to be alive?

Conan The Barbarian:
Here’s a movie which has appeared in some friends “guilty pleasure” list, usually next to Predator, Commando and other Anrie classics. But I am here today to tell you it really doesn’t belong. Unlike many 80’s Arnie movies that were so bad, they were good, this movie had some genuine quality and depth to it.

Examples? Well, for starters, this movie was a faithful adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s original concept, Conan the Cimmerian, which was first published in 1932. This franchise, which went through countless adaptations over the ensuing decades, wove real history and myth together with fantasy to create a tale of a bronze age adventurer who traveled across the ancient world, seeking fortune and glory.

One can see this in the movie as well. To create the setting and the various people that make up the universe, imagery, mythology and even names were borrowed from various real sources. For example, the Cimmerians (Conan’s people) were inspired by Celtic and Norse sources. The followers of Thulsa Doom, black-clad warriors from the East, were meant to resemble the Huns, the Goths, and other Eastern invaders. There are also several scenes showing a warlike people meant to resemble the Mongol Hoards, and much of the setting was made to resemble ancient cities of lore – Babylon, Jerusalem, Antioch, et al.

Add to all this some pretty damn good writing and good storytelling, and you can see why this movie has remained enduringly popular with many people over the years. Arnie excelled as the stone-faced barbarian of few words, but who made them count when he chose to spoke. James Earl Jones was exceptional as the amoral, Nietzschean warlord Thulsa Doom, and the production value was surprisingly good for a low-budget flick.

Serenity:
Yeah, I get the feeling everybody knows what I’m talking about with this one! After losing the wonderful show in the midst of its first season, every fan of Firefly was pleased to know that Joss Whedon would be making a full length movie. And personally, I th0ught he did a pretty good job with it too!

Picking up where the show left off, we are reunited with our favorite characters as they continue to work freelance jobs and try to stay one step ahead of the law and the expanding Alliance. From the outset, it is clear that things are getting desperate, as the jobs are proving more risky, and the Reavers are moving in from the Outer Rim. At the same time, a new threat has been thrown in in the form of an Alliance agent known only as the “Operative”, who has made it his business to bring River in at any cost.

And I personally loved how all these threads came together in a singular way, showing how the Reavers, River’s condition, and the Alliance’s ultimate agenda were all connected. Not only was it a tight and entertaining plot that captured the same sense of loss and desperation as the show, it also gave a sense of closure to the series, which ended before its time.

Yes, for myself and many fans, this movie is a way of commemorating a truly great show and idea that faltered because of insensitive boobs couldn’t see the value in it. But that seemed thematically consistent with the series itself, which was all about rebels in a hopeless fight against an evil empire. Take a lesson from this Fox Network, sooner or late,r the bad guys lose!

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For brevity’s sake and the fact that I’m a busy man, I’ve decided to divide this list in half. Stay tuned for entries six through ten, coming up tomorrow! Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

Futuristic Guns

Many of these will look familiar, and for good reason. In addition to being futuristic looking, they also happen to be real! For many years, science fiction movies and series have used weapons of legitimate manufacture in order to inspire a futuristic feel.

Calico M960:
Calico960aHere’s a gun that has been featured in several movies, games and television series, and its obvious why. Just look at the thing. A fully-automatic pistol, this baby provides a lot of firepower in a small and uniquely shaped package. As one of the first personal defense weapons to feature a top-mounted magazine, a revolutionary concept for its time which has since caught on bigtime.

Guns of this class were featured in the sci-fi movies Robocop 2, Robocop 3, Total Recall, Virtuosity, and Star Trek: First Contact.

Daewoo K11:
daewook11This gun not only looks futuristic, it is downright revolutionary in its design. Whereas most assault rifles have grenade launchers slug underneath the front barrel, this version carries an launcher mounted on top and fed by a bullpup magazine.

Designed by the Republic of South Korea in 2006, the weapon also comes with a state of the art scope which features the latest in a ballistics computer technology as well as thermal/night vision. I have yet to find a sci-fi franchise which has used it, but time will tell. These things aint cheap, after all!

FN F2000:
f2000As part of the new generation of bullpup assault rifles, the F2000 is of Belgian manufacture that’s been around for the better part of a decade. It’s futuristic features include the revolutionary new handle and trigger grip, bullpup magazine and updated sights.

Because of its aesthetic appeal, the F2000 has been featured in numerous places, including Terminator: Salvation, the Modern Warfare and Ghost Recon video game series, and the upcoming G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.

HK XM29:
Xm29Also known as an OICW (Objective Individual Combat Weapon), the XM29 is part of the new generation of hybrid assault rifles that features the a secondary bullpup magazine which houses its compliment of grenades.

Much like the K11, this weapon combines the benefits of a 5.56mm assault rifle, a 20mm grenade launcher and an ultra-modern scope that contains a ballistics computer, laser range finder, advanced optics and night vision. It was featured in the Ghost Recon series, Die Another Day, and Universal Soldier: The Return.

KRISS Vector:
kriss1When I first saw this weapon, all I could say was “Wow, now there’s something that doesn’t qualify for home defense!” A .45 caliber weapon, fully automatic, and very compact, this weapon is futuristic, uniquely designed and deadly. A triple threat, quite literally!

And the list of features and featurettes include the upcoming Total Recall remake, Resident Evil: Retribution, the Nikita television series and the Modern Warfare and Ghost Recon game franchises.

Mossberg 500:
mossberg_500_bullpupHere we have a game changer! And interestingly enough, it’s been around for quite some time. Back in 1985, Mossberg decided to upgrade their long lineup of shotgun stocks by taking advantage of the concept of bullpup firearms. Essentially, this means that it is loaded from the rear and ejects spent cartridges from behind the trigger mechanism.

Given it’s futuristic look, it was featured in several sci-fi movies during the 80’s and 90’s, most notably The Running Man, Predator 2, and the film version of Stargate.

NTW-20:
ntw20_1Go big or go home! That seems to be the reasoning behind this 20mm (.78 cal) assault rifle, which comes direct from South Africa, famous purveyor of grisly firearms! As part of an international series of large-caliber rifles which emerged during the 1990’s, this weapon was meant to give snipers the ability to take down armored troops and vehicles. Well, it certainly does that!

In addition to appearing in the movie District 9, it was also featured in the Halo series as the USNC sniper’s rifle. And anyone’s who played that series knows just how powerful that baby is. Blamoo! They all fall down…

PP-2000:
pp_2000Next up, the Russian sidearm of choice for today’s military, police forces, and apparently even cilivians. At least that’s what the designation PDW (Personal Defense Weapon) means. Can’t imagine most houses have any real cause for stocking a 9mm submachine gun, but that’s a matter for the courts.

Because of it’s appearance and popularity with modern armed forces, it was features in the video game series’ Modern Warfare, Ghost Recon, Bad Company, SOCOM, and the Russian sci-fi thriller The Interceptor (Zapreshchyonnaya Realnost).

P90:
P90Here we have yet another PDW that really doesn’t seem to fit that criteria, not when its a compact submachinegun and packs as many as 50 bullets! And in addition to its ammo count, it also boasts two very high-tech advancements, including a top loading magazine and the same handle/trigger grip as the F2000. Not surprising since they have the same maker – Fabrique Nationale (FN) from Belgium.

For obvious reasons, this gun has a long history of making special appearances. Its credits include Equilibrium, I, Robot, Babylon A.D., District B13 and its sequel, and was specifically chosen to be the sidearm of choice on the shows Stargate and Stargate: Atlantis.

Steyr AUG:
Steyr_augAnother popular item, and one which I’m sure everyone out there is familiar with. Invented back in 1978 by the Austrian-based Steyr company, this weapon was the first assault rifle to introduce the bullpup loading design. On top of that, its appearance is downright futuristic!

It too has a long list of credits, including Robocop 1 and 2, Predator 2, District B13, as well as the television shows Red Dwarf, Space: Above and Beyond, and Firefly.

Okay! There’s more, of course, but ten examples is kind of my limit. And because I think something like this could go longer than I’m willing to type… at least in one sitting. Enjoy the gun show (no bad pun!) and see y’all next time.

The Future is Here: Invisbility Cloaks!

Well, almost here. But according to this news segment from the Associated Press, the technology for an invisibility cloak may not be far off. Scientists working at the University of Berkley are working on a suit that would be capable of bending light around it, and are getting close to some viable results. If made available to the US army and other armed services, this technology would go a long way to making the concept of Future Solider truly futuristic! Soldiers would be able to enter the field of battle virtually invisible and be able to reveal themselves only after they’ve killed the enemy – Predator style!

The video goes on to state that the technology is already in use, as evidenced by some insurgent’s video which was taken inside Iraq. Draw your own conclusions, I have little to say about that other than that it seems clearly fake. Video hoaxes are nothing new and the posters word that he has run it through filters and has not tampered with it are hardly sacrosanct. My main concern is the development of this technology and how it might very well become feasible in the next few years.

Imagine, a whole platoon of digital soldiers who are able to activate cloaking shields and patrol city streets, completely unseen. Does this frighten you, because it scares the shit out of me! In addition to making soldiers that much more lethal, it’s also likely to give whichever army that is in possession of the technology a massive edge over every other country in the world and trigger a whole new level of arms races. As it stands, Russia and China are already pushing to keep up with the US and most Western European nations on the Future Soldier front. The addition of stealth suits is likely to take that to a whole new level…

Man the future is scary sometimes! Is it wrong of me to smell another novel idea when I think of this ;)?

The Predator Franchise

If there were a contest for which alien life form is the most badass in the universe, then Predators would be at the top of the list! Why? Because they’re big, powerful, stealthy, scary-looking, and pack enough artillery to take out an entire city block!

Yes, Predators is one of those franchises that contained some true seeds of genius, but kind of fell flat for a couple of reasons. Chief amongst them, in my opinion, was money and the desire to appeal to the “lowest-common denominator”. How else can you explain the whole AVP cinematic fiasco?

Still, the Predator concept has had some impressive renditions over the years, not the least of which came with the first two movies and a slew of crossover video games, novels and comics. And with the latest movie, there are clear attempts to break them away from their Alien peers. So I thought I’d get right into it and see what makes these badasses just so bad! First off, the movie that started it all…

Predator (1987):
The movie opens with an alien spacecraft flying towards Earth and jettisoning a small pod down into Central America. Cut to the surface, where we see an American base located somewhere in the jungles of Guatemala. A bunch of hooligans are being flown into an Army base and Arny is in the front seat with a massive stogie in his mouth. Very quickly, it is established that this man is elite commando named Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer, the best in the business.

In the course of his briefing, he is told that his team is needed to rescue a Guatemalan cabinet minister and his aides who have been kidnapped by guerrillas. He’s also reunited with old friend George Dillon (Carl Weathers), a former military man who has since joined the CIA. Apparently, he will be acting a liaison during the mission, and stresses to Dutch that this is going to be no cake walk!

We learn all we need to know about the mission from a single exchange, even if we didn’t know it at the time:

Dillon: “How come you passed on Libya?”
Dutch: “Libya’s not my style.”
Dillon: “You aint got no style!”
Dutch: (pause to light a fresh stogie) “We’re a rescue team, not a bunch of assassins.”

We then get to meet the team: Mac Eliot (Bill Duke), Blain Cooper (Jesse Ventura), Billy Sole (Sonny Landham), Jorge “Poncho” Ramirez (Richard Chaves), and Rick Hawkins (Shane Black). Grabbing their heavy artillery, they hop into their choppers and are inserted into the jungle.

What follows is some obvious build-up as the team discovers the crashed chopper which was supposedly holding the minister and his aides and finds a whole bunch of skinned bodies hanging upside down. Assuming the guerrillas did this, the team sets off post-haste for their hideout with payback on their minds. When they find it, they proceed to blow the shit out of it and kill anything that moves, save for one woman named Anna (Elpidia Carrillo).

This scene is something that was surely impressive to audiences in 1987, but which has gone down as one of the cheesiest action sequences ever since. For one, elite commando teams that are on a rescue mission aren’t supposed to blow shit up! That’s how you get the people you’re trying to save killed! Second, these guys were obviously not trained for the role. Basically, they just walk around and shoot people with no effort! Kind of like he did in Commando! Way to research that role guys!

But in the end, Dutch and his team realize that there are no hostages. The base was merely an encampment where some Soviet advisers were known to be. Dutch’s team were thus set up to attack the place and kill everyone as part of some CIA black op. Dutch is pissed and wants to tear Dillon’s head off, but they are forced to beat a retreat since their blowing the shit out of the place couldn’t help to draw attention. They thus take Anna and head on out. Meanwhile, we get some extended (really extended) scenes where the Predator watches them through its thermal vision.

Things start to get interesting shortly thereafter when the Predator begins to do its thing: take down the team one by one.  Naturally, it kills the weakest guy first, the one who carried only small guns and made all the bad jokes. Yeah, he goes down faster than a… I can’t think of a way to finish that sentence. Jesse Ventura, the man with the ridiculous portable minigun is blown apart shortly thereafter too. Luckily, the team learns from these early encounters a few important tidbits. One, the creature can camouflage itself. Two, that it bleeds. And as Arny says: “If it bleeds, we can kill it!”

Unfortunately, this proves more difficult than it sounds. Despite some clever traps and lying in wait, the Predator still manages to get the upper hand on them and continues picking them off one by one. In the end, Arny is wounded and sends his last remaining man with the Anna with instructions to “get to the choppa!” He narrowly escapes death by crawling through some cold mud which masks his thermal signature.

After prepping some more traps, crafting some jungle weapons and smearing himself with warpaint (more mud), Arny lets out a giant bellow to draw the Predators attention. They have their final battle, Arny gets to see exactly what one looks like, and is generally unimpressed. “You’re one ugly motherfucker!” is the way he put it. The Predator must have understood too, because he proceeds to whoop Arny’s ass!

However, Arny still has one trap which he uses to pin the alien hunter under a log and then picks up a rock. However, he hesitates on the verge of delivering the final blow, giving him time to set off his little self-destruct sequence. Arny runs and barely survives the explosions, and the rescue chopper crew find him shortly thereafter looking shell shocked and dirty!

Well, that’s the first movie in a nutshell. Over the top, with lots of explosions, deaths and the constant sense of impending death.

Final Thoughts:
Naturally, this movie had its strong points. For one, the concept of the Predator itself was quite interesting and well illustrated. And I don’t just mean its weapons and active camouflage, even though those were pretty cool too! No, what was most interesting, in my opinion, was the rules that the Predator observed. In the beginning, it chose its arena carefully, being drawn to a region where there was active fighting. Second, it took the time to assess its environment and identify worthy game, and then went about stalking them. Last, it made sure to identify the individual hunters that made up the pack and worked its way through them, leaving the best for last and making sure that fight was hand to hand and one on one.

Oh, and let’s not forget that when faced with capture, it chose to blow itself up rather than let its remains (and technology) fall into its prey’s hands. Smart thinking! From all this, you can tell that these aliens have been doing this a long time and developed rules, tactics and equipment accordingly. Most of this would be further developed and explained in the second movie, but it was apparent from the first that some thought went into the alien development.

Really, the only problem I saw with this movie was the cheese factor. The commandos are way too brawny and brazen, nothing like the stealthy, quick and deadly tactics that actual Special Forces are known for. Second, the ensemble was just a huge bunch of macho stereotypes! Arny is, as with all his 80’s movies, the picture-perfect macho badass – smoking stogies, talking war stories, and flexing his muscles every chance he gets. Similarly, Ventura plays the massive gun-toting, cowboy hat-wearing Texan who chews tobacco and says shit like “he’s burrowed in their deeper than an Alabama tick!” Why didn’t they just call him “Tex” and get it over with already?

Then there’s Mac, the cold crazy dude dry shaves and makes chilling threats, but who naturally goes nuts when the Predator attacks and gets himself killed chasing it. And of course, there’s Billy, the token Native American who is real quite, stoic, and is the first to know they are being hunted. He also figures out that what’s after them is not a man, that they are all going to die, and seems to accept that with fatalistic calm. Oh, and did I mentioned he decides to stay behind and face death, fighting the Predator alone with his knife rather than die? Yeah, that was real “it’s a good day to die” moment there, a final Native warrior stereotype to cap off a blatantly cliched portrayal.

But hey, I already said the movie had signs of quality. It just so happens that they were buried under piles and piles of cheese! And what the hell, the action was pretty cool too. And ultimately, most of these strengths would go on to be developed further by the second movie and other installments in the franchise, culminating in a crossover with the Alien universe in 1989/90. More on that soon enough!

Predator:
Entertainment Value: 7/10 (cheesy but fun)
Plot: 6.5/10
Direction: 7/10
Total: 6.5/10 (Guilty pleasure movie, mainly)

FYI: Cool site to check out for Alien and Predator info, the AVP Wiki: http://avp.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page