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Arnold Schwarzenegger was unstoppable. He was Conan The Barbarian (1982), he was The Terminator (1984), and you better not give him a Raw Deal (1986). Arnold Schwarzenegger was a superhuman badass that dominated the multiplexes of the eighties. Then Predator (1987) happened. Arnold still ruled the multiplex, but he wasn’t the superman he used to be. In Predator we saw Arnold scared for the first time.

Predator opens as a soldier of fortune adventure yarn with rag-tag team of mercenaries on a mission. Then, in the second act, that all goes to shit when an alien begins hunting our heroes. This pivot between genres coincides with the delivery of a fearful Arnold Schwarzenegger. Director John McTiernan pulls the rug out from under the audience and sets us into a free fall where anything seems possible, even Arnold Schwarzenegger buying the farm.

McTiernan exchanges the pragmatic stylistic machinations of the adventure film for the thrills of a horror film midway through Predator and that is the genius of the film. Across both halves of the film McTiernan works with the broad gestures of comic books and Saturday morning cartoons in order to unify the disparate stylizations under the umbrella of fantasy.

Seeing Predator as a kid when it was still relatively new was traumatic. Not because of the gore or violence, but because Arnold Schwarzenegger became suddenly human. Sure he’s still functioning like a superhero in Predator, but he’s a superman with a human’s mortality and a palpable fear of death. For people of my generation seeing Predator was akin to seeing your dad cry for the first time.

And yet we return to Predator again and again. Partly because Predator is a lot of fun, but also because it invites a reading of a more human masculinity in its humanizing of matinee idol Arnold Schwarzenegger. Predator is a big, loud macho movie but it also reassures us that such posturing is just that, posturing.