Why Predator 2 Is The Most Underrated Movie In The Predator Franchise

I think it goes without saying that the original "Predator" from 1987 is the best film in the entire franchise. How could it not be? It still stands as a subversive take on the testosterone-fueled action movies of the late 1980s, where machoism is slowly torn apart at the hands of something nearly incomprehensible. Combine this with genuinely great action choreography and a badass alien design, and you've got an iconic action-horror mashup that would develop a powerful fanbase.

By all accounts, "Predator" felt like a good stand-alone movie even if it didn't end up doing well at the box office. There was only one Predator creature, an open-and-shut plot, and just enough lore behind the alien to get viewers' imaginations running. When it did become a success, its original framing as a stand-alone proved to be a double-edged sword; even though the story of the Predator was able to be expanded, the story of Dutch Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) seemed to come to a pretty definitive close, so where could they go from there?

Like most sequels, 1990's "Predator 2" went bigger and badder not only with its titular creature but also with its plot and setting. While it was critically maligned for these changes when it was first released, it resulted in arguably one of the most interesting and underrated horror movies of its time period.

More victims, more mutilations

I'm not going to pretend that "Predator 2" isn't supposed to be silly, because it definitely is. The entire premise hinges on a "futuristic" Los Angeles that the Predator, nicknamed the City Hunter for this film, crash lands into. Going from the isolated jungle to the bustling city certainly is a big change, but after all, don't all franchise sequels get bigger as they progress?

And go bigger, "Predator 2" did. Not only was the setting much bigger this time around, but also the scope of the movie increased significantly. Where the first film was just about surviving the jungle, this one had the fate of an entire city at stake. After all, cities have lots of potential trophies to hang up, and the City Hunter did collect a good amount of kills throughout his time in Los Angeles. The way these kills were accomplished was also more brutal and bloody than they were in the 1987 film.

Despite the movie getting derided back in 1990 for these graphic kills and over-the-top setting, it actually makes it stand out from other action and horror movies of the time. Sure, Jason had taken Manhattan a year prior, but the kills he got were relatively tame, and the majority of them didn't actually take place in the city (rather, he mainly killed teenagers on a party boat). The City Hunter was the exact opposite, with all of his kills being committed in the heart of Los Angeles for anyone being unfortunate enough to become a victim. This establishes the Predator species as a genuine threat to humanity at large, not just a specific group of people in an isolated jungle.

That's right, lieutenant. Otherworld lifeforms

One other key aspect of "Predator 2" that makes it stand out is the cast of characters. Outside of The City Hunter, the film largely follows the disillusioned Lieutenant Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover), who still has a desire to help others and repeatedly disobeys orders so he can do so. He, along with a small group of like-minded authorities, end up investigating the gruesome yet connected murders of various drug gangs in the city, which were previously in a turf war against one another.

In all honesty, Harrigan is one of the most compelling protagonists in the entire "Predator" franchise, largely due to Glover's committed but not over-the-top performance. That over-the-topness is reserved for Peter Keyes (Gary Busey), a special agent just a little too obsessed with Predators to the point that any time he talks about them, it sounds a bit creepy. This balance between realistic characters and bizarre ones is part of what makes "Predator 2" so unique within the franchise, whose casts often lean too heavily on either side.

Ultimately, it's balance that makes "Predator 2" work; it is tense and scary in some parts, while goofy and over-the-top in others. While some attempts at humor don't exactly work, every aspect of the movie's plot and action feels appropriately larger-scale and intense, something that can't be said about many other movies like it. "Predator 2" was a risk that might not have paid off at the time, but it certainly has now.