At 31 years old, Predator hasn't lost a step. Schwarzenegger's takedown of an intergalactic hunter remains one of the best sci-fi/action/horror mashups to ever reach movie screens. 20th Century Fox gives Predator a much-needed update for 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, producing the very best presentation this film has yet enjoyed on home video. Gone is the dreaded DNR, leaving behind a beautiful (for this film), detailed image with smartly effective HDR10. The same DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is recycled here, but it's still thunderingly effective. Recommended for fans who don't want to buy the 3-Film Collection.
"He didn't kill you because you weren't armed. No sport."
There's not a whole hell of a lot I can add to the conversation about Predator. It's an exceptional film that persevered through some of the toughest shooting conditions on and behind the camera. The film is a tightly edited action, horror, science fiction masterpiece that could only work with someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead. We've done some excellent coverage over the years of this franchise so check out our reviews of the 2008 Release, the 2010 Ultimate Hunter Edition, and Predator 3-D from 2013.
My love for Predator began not long after my Dad bought the VHS tape when I was 6 years old in 1988. Already an established fan of Schwarzenegger's Conan The Barbarian, Conan The Destroyer, and Commando, this mysterious colorful cover with the Austrian Oak holding a gigantic machine gun instantly caught my eye. But because I was little, I had to wait for my dad to view it first. And, yeah, that didn't go well. Initially denied, I was persistent about watching it and since it wasn't the first R-rated film my little eyes had seen, reason won out in the end. My Dad was a skilled remote controller duelist slinging both the television remote and the brick that came with our VHS player simultaneously muting language as best he could and zipping past any particularly brutal gore without me even noticing it.
Predator was one of the few movies to actually scare me when I was a little kid. It wasn't the gore. It wasn't the mandibled titular alien. It was the sound of the creature that freaked me the hell out. Growing up in heavily wooded south-east Michigan, I spent a fair percentage of my childhood swamp stomping digging up bugs, frogs, and snakes. I would be having a great time until I heard a woodpecker knock on a tree. That sound was exactly like the cackle Predator made as he stalked Schwarzenegger and his muscly, heavily-armed army pals. I knew it was only a movie, but it's a creepy dissonant sound that always made me stop what I was doing and book it for home as fast as my little legs could carry me.
From the first Dark Horse comic book mini-series (especially the amazing Batman vs Predator series) to the Kenner action figures, to the direct sequels, I've loved this spine-ripping trophy hunter. Hell, to a degree I even enjoyed the AVP films even though I don't consider them real sequels in any way shape or form. But the love is why I've owned this film on every format to come down the pipeline. VHS, LaserDisc, twice on DVD, twice on Blu-ray - and now 4K. It's a favorite and I've always got to have it in my collection.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
20th Century Fox lets Predator hunt some 4K goodness with a two-disc 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital set. Housed in a sturdy 2-disc black UHD case with identical slipcover artwork, the film is pressed onto a BD-66 disc. The included Blu-ray disc is the Ultimate Hunter Disc - and has not been updated with a new image transfer. The disc loads to an animated main menu with traditional navigation options. The included digital slip is Movies Anywhere compatible and redeems the film only in HD (more comments on this in the next section).
Images for this review were sourced from the included 1080p disc.
They should not be used to judge picture quality.
Predator was shot and finished photochemically, so, natively speaking, it's a rich source for a 4K home video presentation. For this 2160p / H.265 / HDR10 master, I have no knowledge whether it is a new recent scan, the restored scan Studio Canal did a few years ago, or if it's the same scan used for the Ultimate Hunter release before it was butchered with excessive DNR. No details were given in any press release I could find.
Suffice to say, Predator looks better than it ever has on home video - with some small baked-in caveats. As has been well reported, this film's production was not an easy shoot. Location issues, wrong film stock, Jean-Claude Van Damme, shutdowns for a new creature, the use of fog machines, all of these factors play into the film's look and as such one shouldn't expect the glitz and polish of a modern release when it comes to this film's appearance on 4K.
For those who absolutely loathed the Ultimate Hunter Edition, you'll be pleased to know the film grain is back! From the first shot of the helicopters carrying Dutch's crew to the operations base, grain is readily apparent, if a bit on the thick side. I wouldn't call this overly distracting, but it's impossible to miss. As such, depending on the shot, lighting, and which camera was used, grain fluctuates from being even and inconspicuous to being a bit noisier - but always film-like. I got to see a near-pristine 35mm archival print in the early 2000s and this appearance is pretty accurate to how I remembered that screening.
On the plus side of things, details are exceptional. In the opening briefing scene where Schwarzenegger's stubble once looked patchy with bad grease paint, you can now practically count the individual hairs. Close-ups and middle shots look the best throughout the film across various filming conditions. Wide shots still look notably softer - especially the shots of Dutch falling over waterfalls. But these are baked in issues that simply can't be helped. As a whole, however, we're seeing so many more details in costuming, jungle sets, the compound raid, and even the Predator himself gets a little extra clarity allowing you to appreciate the work Stan Winston and his crew did on the facial details.
Graded with HDR10, the film's colors, black levels, and contrast all enjoy notable improvements over past 1080p releases. Right away you can see primary improvement with Dutch's red shirt, but the real first wow moment comes when the team was in their helicopter transports bathed in the red stealth light. Previously, that image always looked flat with little to no color gradience or shadow separation -- it looked like one big smear of red -- but now there are actual tones to the coloring allowing for some great shadows, nice inky blacks, and a sense of three-dimensional depth. Similarly to the fluctuating grain thickness, scene by scene you're going to be able to see and appreciate the WCG effects. Predator Vision gets some great primary pop as blues and reds really shine. Previous crush problems have also been abated or removed entirely. Daylight scenes look absolutely incredible and the compound raid is beautiful (those explosions!), while night shots or scenes shot day-for-night are not as immediately impressive. The green glowing Predator blood also enjoys a nice extra luminance - especially later in the movie.
As a whole, this Predator 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is a vast improvement over any previous home video release - but it has unfortunate issues that simply can't be fixed, only mitigated. This was always going to be a problematic release but I have to hand it to Fox for doing a decent job. It's not perfect, but fans will be pleased to know it's much better than what's come before.
Also, for streaming enthusiasts: While Predator is now available on iTunes and other streaming services in 4K UHD, this set only includes an *HD Digital Copy* (cuz Fox). We haven't gotten to check out the 4K streaming version, but the HD Digital Copy does not appear to use the same DNR-slathered master provided for the Ultimate Hunter Edition release from 2010. It actually looks like it might be of the same vintage as the 2008 Blu-ray -- it isn't quite as sharp as this master and displays some instances of speckling that aren't apparent in this 4K UHD release -- but at least there isn't any DNR…so there's that.
Unfortunately, Predator doesn't get to enjoy a new object-based audio mix for this release. Fox instead held to the previous 3.5/5 star English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. While an Atmos or DTS:X mix would have been fun, this track is still a nice setup with some great sound work. Gunfire and explosions still give your channels a workout. Check out our coverage for the Ultimate Hunter Edition or the Predator 3D review for more information.
Unfortunately, no new bonus features were made available for this release. Missed opportunity. According to legend, there are a number of great scenes that were apparently filmed but didn't make the final cut out there that I would love to see -- Billy fighting the Predator -- but maybe in 4 years when this film hits its 35th Anniversary, we'll get some more bonus material. The only bonus features that are on the 4K UHD disc itself are the John McTiernan Audio Commentary and the Text Commentary Track. Everything else is found on the included Blu-ray.
I love Predator - I always have. Even when I was deathly afraid of it and my mother hid our VHS tape so I wouldn't get scared anymore, I still loved it. I damn near wore that tape out. As soon as disc-based media took off I've scrambled to get every release hoping that each subsequent release would give me the best possible presentation. Obviously, there have been some bumps along that road but 20th Century Fox clearly aims to right past wrongs with this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release. Avoiding the DNR travesty of past releases, the new scan offers up improved details and a judicious application of HDR10, giving the image an extra layer of pop and punch easily making it the best home video presentation to date - with some baked in issues that simply can't completely be fixed, only mitigated. Unfortunately, the included Blu-ray doesn't benefit from a new image transfer, but it hosts all of the previously available bonus features making it a nice inclusion to the set. This is a solid release and an easy one to call Recommended - especially if you're not a fan of the sequels.