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PREDATOR 2 – Alan Silvestri

December 3, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Following the enormous critical and commercial success of the movie Predator in 1987, it was only a matter of time before Twentieth Century Fox commissioned a sequel. However, when Arnold Schwarzenegger declined to reprise his role as Dutch, the producers were forced to come up with a new idea, and so instead of focusing on the humans, they switched to focusing on the aliens. Predator 2 is set in 1997 and sees a second predator visiting Earth; however, instead of hiding in the jungles of South America, the alien makes for the urban jungle of Los Angeles, which is caught up in a turf war between rival Colombian and Jamaican drug cartels. LAPD detective Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) is investigating the cartels and trying to stop the carnage, but instead becomes embroiled in a deeper mystery when criminals from both sides of the drug war turn up dead – killed by the Predator, although Harrigan does not know this at the time. Eventually, Harrigan teams up with FBI special agent Peter Keyes (Gary Busey), who is aware of the Predator’s existence, and wants to capture him alive. The film co-stars Rubén Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Peter Hall as the Predator, and was directed by Stephen Hopkins.

What’s interesting about Predator 2 is that, unlike the first film, it starts to investigate the culture of the predators themselves. In the first film they were unknowable aliens; mysterious, inscrutable, terrifying, because we had no idea who they were or what they wanted, other than to kill. Here, however, director Hopkins and screenwriters Jim Thomas and John Thomas give the predator a backstory, a personality, even a sense of honor and morality, which turns them from being simple monsters into something deeper and more complex. Putting Danny Glover’s hotheaded LAPD cop and Gary Busey’s calculating FBI agent into its path leads to some fascinating confrontations that really give the film a sense of there being more than meets the eye; this, combined with the culture clash between the Jamaicans and Colombians, the oppressive Los Angeles heat, and the de-saturated color palette that presents the city in asphyxiating shades of green and yellow, makes Predator 2 a very stylish and interesting movie.

Unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, one member of the original Predator gang who did return for the sequel was composer Alan Silvestri. Predator, along with Back to the Future, was one of the films that launched Silvestri’s career, but by 1990 he was an established Hollywood heavyweight; Predator 2 was his fourth major film score of the year, after Downtown, Back to the Future Part III, and Young Guns II. Considering how well-loved the first Predator score was, conventional wisdom would suggest that Predator 2 would be essentially more of the same, but in reality that’s not the case. The original set of recurring ideas from the first score – the Predator theme and its accompanying rhythm, the Dutch theme and his accompanying rhythm, the last-post style trumpet refrain – do all appear in Predator 2, but they are very much fragmented and under-utilized, and are not as prominent at all. Instead, Silvestri concentrated on a number of new percussive and textural ideas, including some African-style tribal drumming to represent the Jamaican cartel, some abrasively synthetic ideas for the Colombians, and a haunting howling woodwind texture, and maintained an overall emphasis on suspense and horror scoring over thematic writing.

What all this means is that, by and large, Predator 2 feels like an inferior score to the original, although there are still some interesting moments to uncover. The “Main Title” features both the new tribal drumming ideas and the howling woodwind effect prominently, setting the scene. These are surrounded by a number of appropriately Silvestrian orchestral flourishes, in which his string and brass sections come together and progress through chords which are representative of his style, and echo similar stylistics from scores like Back to the Future and Predator, and which have of course continued throughout his career, recently through his Avengers scores and things like Ready Player One and The Witches.

Cues like “First Carnage,” “Truly Dead,” the majority of “This is History,” and “Swinging Rude Boys,” are mostly eerie, textural explorations of a sinister atmosphere. Interestingly, once in a while, Silvestri uses a rattling-bubbling idea similar to the sounds that the Predator’s mandible jaws make, while elsewhere he revisits the frantic tom-tom rhythms from the first score that either preceded the imminent appearance of a Predator, or accompanied the discovery of his handiwork. One other interesting idea to note is the subtle chanted choral idea that emerges just after the 3:30 mark in “Truly Dead,” and which appears to be a specific motif related to this film’s predator antagonist – who, remember, is a different predator from the one in the first film, possibly from a different clan or tribe. The way these vocal textures combine with the tom-toms, the howling woodwind reed, and the more vibrant orchestral parts, render that cue one of the score’s highlights. This idea vocal appears later in the score on several occasions, often in slightly different forms, and is especially prominent in “Swinging Rude Boys”.

“Tunnel Chase” initially features dramatic and bold horn exclamations, before erupting into the first of the score’s main action set pieces, a rampaging march full of thunderous brass blasts, relentless snare drum riffs, a strong string ostinato, rumbling piano lines, and those unmistakable Silvestri xylophones in the percussion. The cue frequently shifts from suspense to action and back again, creating an ominous atmosphere that really underscores Harrigan’s plight. The first appearance of the Dutch theme – used here as a more generic ‘hero theme’ – is welcome. Later cues such as “El Scorpio” build on this action material to excellent effect; there is an especially impressive sequence of brass writing at 1:40 of that cue, which passes a fluttering motif around from horns to trombones with skill and intensity.

The chilly, spacey theme from the first film appears briefly at the beginning of “Danny Gets It,” foreshadowing the terrible discovery made by Rubén Blades’s character regarding the true nature of the predator; the rampaging action material in the score’s second half underscores his awful fate. The subsequent “Rest in Pieces” reprises the forlorn solo brass military theme from the first film, lamenting the detective’s untimely death, and cementing Harrigan’s determination to avenge him. Later, “This Is History” begins with a full statement of the Dutch rhythm from the first score that is very welcome, and then goes through a long period of difficult dissonance before finally concluding on a more orchestral note, with the brass picking up the 2-note choral ‘new Predator’ motif and running with it.

The finale of the score, “Dem Bones,” underscores Harrigan’s terrible revelation about the nature of the predators, the discovery of their hidden spacecraft, and his climactic confrontation with his nemesis – which, in the end, leads to a grudging acceptance and mutual respect between protagonist and antagonist, and a deepening of predator lore. Silvestri uses sinister synth ideas, unsettling percussion textures, a frantic statement of the new choral motif, and banks of raging tom-toms to make his point, and then launches into the almost 9-minute “End Title” which reprises all the score’s main thematic and textural ideas, and includes several especially satisfying full statements of the main themes from the first film.

The original Predator 2 soundtrack was released by Varese Sarabande at the time the film came out, a decent 45-minute album which covered the majority of the score’s highlights but unfortunately suffered from audio issues that rendered some parts of the score almost inaudibly quiet. This issue was corrected in 2014 when Varese and Fox producer Nick Redman released a 2-CD special edition album, which expanded the score’s running time to more than double the original, included several alternate takes and bonus cues, fixed most of the audio problems, and was presented in a handsome package featuring liner notes by Jeff Bond. The album is essentially more of the same, although there are several notably excellent action cues that do not feature on the original album, especially the superb “Subway Predator,” which fans of the score will want to check out. There are also several other major statements of themes from the first film which do not appear on the original album, including a reprise of the main theme in “Feds on the Case” which is really quite excellent.

Although Predator 2 is clearly inferior in almost every respect to the groundbreaking original, I would say that there is still enough meat on the bones to satisfy Silvestri fans and warrant a listen. The new ideas specific to this score – the wild tom-toms and related African percussion ideas, the voiced choral motif and its brass-led variation – are interesting enough in and of themselves, but they cannot hold a candle to the ideas from the first film, and in many ways this score only really shines when Silvestri is either directly referencing or riffing on one or more of the original Predator themes. In addition, while the action material is as dense and powerful as Silvestri’s action always is, it is somewhat overshadowed by the more ambient horror and suspense textures, which tend to dominate the overall score and could easily cause one’s attention to drift through its many extended passages. As such, the original 45-minute release will likely be more than enough for most people to get a reasonably comprehensive idea of what the score is all about (it has always been enough for me); the expanded album is really only for devotees of the film, or Silvestri completists.

Buy the Predator 2 soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • ORIGINAL RELEASE
  • Main Title (2:42)
  • First Carnage (2:35)
  • Tunnel Chase (5:10)
  • Truly Dead (4:58)
  • Danny Gets It (3:19)
  • Rest in Pieces (1:33)
  • El Scorpio (2:41)
  • This Is History (6:26)
  • Swinging Rude Boys (2:38)
  • Dem Bones (4:27)
  • End Title (8:45)
  • EXPANDED SPECIAL EDITION
  • Welcome to the Jungle (2:52)
  • Chat (2:02)
  • Up on the Roof (3:27)
  • First Carnage (2:35)
  • Feds on the Case (0:44)
  • Swinging Rude Boys (5:33)
  • Last Person/Danny Gets It (4:30)
  • Stay Out of My Way (0:31)
  • Mystery Dart (1:32)
  • Truly Dead (5:25)
  • Kid Commando (0:34)
  • Rest in Pieces (1:36)
  • Subway Predator (5:22)
  • Tunnel Chase (5:17)
  • This Is History (7:11)
  • Meat Locker (3:29)
  • Ugly Mother (3:40)
  • Birds (2:33)
  • The Doctor (3:44)
  • Elevator Shaft (1:45)
  • Dem Bones (4:29)
  • More Than One (2:34)
  • Came So Close/End Credits (9:08)
  • Hardcore Logo (1:26) BONUS
  • Dem Bones (Album Version) (4:29) BONUS
  • Danny Gets It (Extended Album Mix) (4:20) BONUS
  • Tunnel Chase (Extended Album Mix) (5:17) BONUS
  • This Is History (Extended Album Mix) (6:40) BONUS
  • Wild Predator Voices (2:11) BONUS

Running Time: 45 minutes 14 seconds (Original)
Running Time: 104 minutes 56 seconds (Expanded)

Varese Sarabande VSD-5302 (1990) – Original
Varese Sarabande VCL-1114-1151 (1990/2014) – Expanded

Music composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri. Orchestrations by James B. Campbell. Recorded and mixed by Dennis Sands. Edited by Kenneth Karman. Score produced by Alan Silvestri. Expanded album produced by and Nick Redman and Robert Townson.

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