Trash Talk: "Predator 2" Is The Prequel To "Lethal Weapon"
Popular culture. Sometimes we take it for granted, without even stopping to think about all the things it gives us. We take these gifts and often never fully understand them. Never know what we’re getting, until it’s finally pointed out to us. Thankfully, Trash Talk is here to guide us, and show us everything we’ve been missing all these years.
SEÑOR EDITOR: Welcome to the second installment of Trash Talk, where we shine a bright new light on some of the most cherished works of popular culture. Together with Ninja Ross we go where others don’t dare, and today we will be talking about not one, but two classic franchises... Though is it really two?
NINJA ROSS: Both the Lethal Weapon and Predator franchises are loved by many, and rightly so. While they don’t really have anything immediately obvious in common, they do share one major aspect: Danny Glover. Coincidence? Or careful planning?
SE: That’s right, Ross - Glover is the major one people know about. The more well-versed cinemaphiles will also mention Shane Black (Hawkins from “Predator” and writer of “Lethal Weapon”), but not many people actually delve deeper into this. Not many people realize that Danny Glover is actually playing the same character in “Predator 2” and the “Lethal Weapon” franchise.
Part of why this is a mystery to some, is that “Predator”’s sequel came out three years after the first “Weapon”.
NR: Ridiculous, you may say! But it isn’t ridiculous. There’s a mountain of evidence to suggest that these two franchises are actually a single story with years of planning. Murtaugh is Harrigan. Harrigan is Murtaugh.
SE: To most people who have seen both movies, this doesn’t make any sense. Those people really don’t realize that the Predator/Lethal Weapon franchise utilized the prequel idea well before the Alien franchise did. “Predator 2” is not just a sequel to “Predator”. It is the prequel to “Lethal Weapon”, which in turn is a continuation of Danny Glover’s Mike Harrigan character’s story arc.
NR: We first meet Harrigan during a terrible heatwave in L.A, trying his best to take down Columbian and Jamaican drug cartels. He’s a good cop, someone who does not like the voodoo that they do. But things get worse fast when a Predator shows up and begins spilling blood everywhere, causing even more violence in an already tense town. But then Harrigan KILLS the Predator with a FRISBEE and gets a free antique gun. Not even Schwarzenegger’s Dutch managed that.
The problem is, the L.A.P.D now has murderous aliens to cover up… Where does that leave poor old Harrigan?
SE: Witness protection. In order to sweep all this under a rug, the LA cops have to make Harrigan disappear. But we know how bad most of the LA Police Department is at things. We know this from “Predator 2”, we know this from “Lethal Weapon”, and we know it from N.W.A. The local commissioner’s idea of protecting Harrigan’s identity is “Mike, grow a mustache. We’re gonna have to move you a few blocks away and call you ‘Rog’ from now on.”
NR: As a cruel joke, they even gave him the name Murtaugh, a surname that’s difficult to spell, forcing him to spend time between therapy sessions practicing his new signature.
But this is the first time we get to see what happens to a protagonist from a Predator movie. In the first movie, Dutch jumped on a helicopter and flew away, but it’s easy to cover up an alien fight in the middle of a jungle. But the CONCRETE jungle? Not so easy to explain away.
SE: Indeed. And think of all the dead voodoo mobsters. There’s probably even more gangsters that will be interested in what the hell happened. They MIGHT believe a monster did it, but the cops can’t just leave Harrigan there to try to reason with them.
Also, this is the first time we really get to see how a Predator encounter affects a person. We see that Harrigan/Murtaugh acts much older in “Weapon”. He is a man trying to just live life one day at a time, slowly waiting for his retirement, enjoying the company of the wife and kids that returned to him after many years (they were separated in “Predator 2”, but his heroic deeds and new appreciation for the family life brought them together again). “Murtaugh” just wants to forget about the killings, the skinned bodies, the alien trophy hunters and the horrors he has seen.
It all works well, until he is introduced to his new partner - a hothead with a death wish, the young Martin Riggs.
NR: Back when he was Harrigan, Murtaugh had another hothead partner by the name of Jerry Lambert. Naturally, this is going to bring all kinds of bad memories bubbling to the surface.
Lambert died horribly on a train, his head and spinal column ripped from his body as a trophy. That’s not something you get over after a couple of beers and a cry.
With that in mind, Riggs’ antics are less charming and he’s actually a complete prick who is oblivious to Murtaugh’s PTSD.
SE: Or PPSD, if you will. The Post-Predator Stress Disorder is triggered once again, and I gotta stop for a second to really praise how well Glover (who obviously knew about “Murtaugh’s” previous history) acts this part. I’ve seen a lot of reliving of past traumas in movies like “Rambo”, but Glover is really giving a performance of a lifetime here.
We can see it in his eyes and in the cold sweat that sometimes appears on his face. That blank stare, the nervous “I’m too old for this shit” repeated like a mantra. Whenever Murtaugh is looking at the heat rising from the LA streets, he’s actually frantically looking for the outlines of a Predator in stealth mode.
NR: Imagine living in a town like L.A, where the heat is constantly causing a shimmering effect on the roads. He’d always be on edge.
And the average audience member is just sitting there thinking Murtaugh is just a plain straight man to Riggs’ loveable sad clown. Murtaugh is a complex, haunted character who can probably never sleep at night as it is. I would imagine that when he first reconnected with his family, he’d panic at every noise his kids made. Imagine how hard it was for them, every time he heard one of his kids creeping down the hall, he’d wake up brandishing his gun, drenched in sweat and crying.
SE: That’s also part of why these two movies are connected in such a brilliant way. Without seeing “Predator 2”, people think Murtaugh is freaking out because of his crazy, seemingly Australian sidekick. Hell, that’s probably what Riggs thinks in the first movie, before he gets to know Murtaugh. He’s obsessed with himself. He even goes as far as to eat dog food to appear like such a crazy! loony character. Riggs is so cringeworthy that it actually triggers Murtaugh’s PPSD to the point it almost paralyzes him. He’s seeing all of these antics and he’s not even looking at Riggs anymore - he’s looking for the three red dots that should be appearing on his partner’s forehead any second now.
NR: The Lethal Weapon franchises increases the comedy with each movie, removing the more dramatic elements. While this would usually be a pretty normal thing for sequels, it could also be a stylistic choice. We’re watching Murtaugh slowly lose a grip on reality. Murtaugh begins finding himself in increasingly ridiculous situations, but this could be a way of showing us how he’s giving in to his PPSD, his mind creating these scenarios to help him cope. Lethal Weapon is so much deeper than anyone gives it credit for.
SE: It’s definitely much deeper, and when you watch it as a Predator spin-off, it’s very open to many different interpretations (though not without its missteps - Murtaugh on the toilet while there’s a bomb below him is not doing PTSD portrayal in media any favors).
Of course, even though all the facts are there, there are always some naysayers, sceptics who fail to grasp the obvious and try to come up with lousy arguments against “Weapon” being in the Predator universe.
NR: “But Señor Editor! PREDATOR IS SET IN 1997 WHILE THE FIRST WEAPON MOVIES WERE MADE IN THE 80s. How could Predator possibly be a prequel?!?”
SE: But does the first "Lethal Weapon" movie ever give concrete dates? And even if you can piece it together from other details - movies make mistakes. And movies that were planned for years can have those. And also, “Prometheus”. It’s an “Alien” prequel, but there are things there that don’t quite add up. That’s to add some mystique to it, make people ask questions. It’s what artists do.
NR: And artists are idiots.
SE: That’s right. There is a thin line between a genius and an idiot, but I think we can all agree that it’s a stroke of genius how the “Predator 2” storyline was continued. Once audiences realize that, it adds a whole new layer to the “Lethal Weapon” movies, and movie fans get a much richer, much more complex and enjoyable story.
NR: This weekend, rent Predator 2 and all of the Lethal Weapon movies from your local video store and watch them all in order to really appreciate the subtle complexities these movies have. Don’t put up with generic linear franchises like Lord of the Rings or Hunger Games. Spend your time experiencing art.
SE: Well said. And I hope we enriched the way you experience popular culture once again.
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