The Alien is a marvel of improbably dangerous biology, incorporating a near-perfect deadly design. On the surface the Alien is extremely graceful and agile, able to move across walls and ceilings as easily as the ground, and capable of moving with great stealth. It’s dark colouring allows it to easily blend into the shadows aboard the Nostromo while it hunts the hapless space-truckers, and it has a wide enough arsenal to deal death in a variety of ways – with its claws, or its strange second jaws, able to shoot out from its mouth to pierce and bite a victim. But the deadliest weapon that the Alien possesses is its most scientifically ludicrous; instead of blood, the Alien has a highly potent acid capable of eating through multiple decks of a spaceship.
Not only is this capable of causing catastrophic damage to the human body, it also makes the Alien unassailable by conventional means, for fear of causing bleeding and the acidic blood eating through every deck of the ship and breaching the hull. As such, the Alien is only killed when Ripley manages to blast it into space with a combination of explosive decompression and the escape shuttle’s engines, and may even have survived as it showed it could survive in the vacuum of space for some time.
The Predator, though it isn’t lacking in physical power, is much more lethally-furnished by its technology. Physically the Predator is taller and more muscular than even the strongest human, easily able to fight hand-to-hand with the then-ubermensch Arnold Schwarzenegger, but where it really excels is its advanced combat tools. The Predator’s defining tool is its active camouflage, which allows it to blend seamlessly into any environment and move undetected through the jungle murdering commandos with its blades and the laser cannon it carries on its shoulder. And while the Predator itself is invisible, its prey cannot hope to easily hide, as it is capable of seeing the world in infra-red, though Arnold turns this to his advantage by coating himself in mud to hide his heat signature. He is able to use this to finally defeat the Predator by appealing to its last defining characteristic – its sense of sportsmanship.
By confronting the creature unarmed, Arnold is able to lure it into a trap and mortally wound it, forcing it to attempt to kill both of them with a wrist-mounted bomb. The setting is very important for determining how dangerous each of these aliens are, as the Alien has the advantage of being doubly dangerous onboard a spaceship, but even still the Predator is defeated more easily than the Alien, taken down by Stone Age traps and its own inability to accept defeat.
Finally to this movie review: сhoosing between these films is made more difficult by the differences of emphasis, with Alien trying for a claustrophobic horror and Predator acting more as a classic 80s action movie. But the threat of the Alien is superior for obvious reasons, detailed above, as it is terrifying on top of the innate fear of space travel. The best way to make a tiny metal box surrounded by nothingness more frightening is to toss in a ravenous insectoid that bleeds acid. Credit where credit is due, however, as both Ridley Scott and John McTiernan were relatively inexperienced directors who were able to craft these films into classics, and who both went on to greatness with Blade Runner and Gladiator, (Scott) and Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October (McTiernan). But Scott manages to edge out McTiernan, with Alien simply standing as a better film, creepy to this very day, and spawning one of the best sequels of all time, 1986’s Aliens. But while both films suffered later from bad sequelitis, the originals, even the slightly inferior Predator, remain both watchable and very enjoyable, worthy of any sci-fi movie night, and indispensable to any horror fan.