Prey, the newest entry in the long running Predator franchise, takes the alien hunter three hundred years into the past. It strips away the excess to craft a bare bones story with the brutality and the heart of the 1987 original. Sure, we don’t get the endlessly quotable, gurgled commands of Arnie shouting “Get to da choppa!” but Prey more than makes up for that with thrilling action sequences and a solid protagonist in Naru (Amber Midthunder). My biggest complaint about this movie? That I didn’t get to experience its awesomeness on the big screen of a movie theater with a bucket of butter soaked popcorn.
Naru is a young and fierce Comanche warrior in 1719. She’s determined to prove that she has the skills and the abilities to be a hunter for her tribe, a role that is typically reserved for the men. She trains alone, honing her skills to become lethal with a tomahawk and bow. When a strange new creature begins stalking prey in the surrounding forest, Naru is determined to hunt and kill it. Little does she know that the strange new creature is a highly skilled alien species with an advanced arsenal and a thirst for blood. Soon, the line between predator and prey become blurred and a vicious fight for survival ensues.
Predator is a film franchise rich with lore and backstory. There’s been comics, toys, spinoffs and video games. The Predator species, formally titled Yautja, have been cemented in pop culture since cinema going audiences first witnessed their commanding screen presence and savagery unfold on screen in the 80’s. Yet, each of the ensuing sequels have failed to recapture the magic of the original. Until Prey. Prey works so well as a Predator film due to its understanding of the species and director Dan Trachtenberg’s ability to craft suspense.
By taking the hunt three hundred years into the past, and returning the setting to a forest environment, Prey is elevated to a primal level of intensity that fans have been craving. The Predator’s iconic mask is replaced with one carved of bone, and his shoulder mounted plasmacaster is gone. His technology is still advanced far beyond anything earth has seen, but slightly more primitive than we’d see in the present day setting.
Of course, the humans that the Predator hunts are more primitive as well. The Camanche tribe are armed with bladed weapons. They have tomahawks, bows and arrows; a far cry from the explosives and automatic weapons carried by the commandoes of the original. But Naru’s greatest weapon is her determination and her knowledge and understanding of the land.
Predator is undoubtedly one of the manliest films of all time. Sweat soaked muscles and testosterone fill every inch of the screen throughout the entirety of its nearly two hour runtime. And we love it for that; but Prey counters this, in a way. Focusing on a female protagonist battling against the gender restraints of her tribe, allows the story to be explored through a different lens. Much like Ripley in Alien, Naru evolves throughout the film.
We see her become the warrior. She’s a character worthy of revisiting in future stories. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely, seeing as each film within the franchise has shifted to focus on new characters. However, a direct follow up to Prey that continues Naru’s journey and the evolution of the Camanche tribe as they battle against another Predator (or multiple predators) would be a dream come true.
The future of the Predator franchise is unclear, but Prey gives fans hope. Maybe we’ll go even further into the past on the next outing. After all, Predator 2 featured the skull of a Tyrannosaurus Rex mounted as a trophy inside the space ship of the Yautja; a clear indication that Predators have been hunting on earth for millions of years. And who wouldn’t want to see a clan of predators hunting dinosaurs in all of the visual splendor that would entail? Whatever happens next, we can only hope that Dan Trachtenberg is involved, preferably as director. As a filmmaker, his ability to weave tension is a necessary tool.
Prey is the film that Predator fans wanted. It’s the film that they deserved. And with two cuts of the film releasing to HULU this week, viewers can choose to watch the film in English, or in the Comanche language with all of the actors returning to re-record their lines. This is a movie that many may be skeptical of. Fans have been spurned in the past by placing high hopes in the franchise and have become jaded. But, Prey will be a welcomed surprise and maybe, just maybe… will restore their faith in the franchise. 8.5/10
Remember, if it bleeds… we can kill it!