We know the Predator is bleeding and we can kill it. We know that since Arnold Schwarzenegger shot down one of the alien hunters. Yet instead of leaning more into gritty action fare, every movie since has opted for .
Prequel movie Prey, which came toon Friday (and outside the United States), departs from much of that by turning the clock back to 1719 and pitting Native American warrior Naru (Amber Midthunder) against one of these alien creatures. It’s the kind of stripped-down approach these films craved, with director Dan Trachtenberg (who previously helmed 10 Cloverfield Lane) creating an excellent modern take on the original.
We spend the early part of the film experiencing the rugged, wild nature of the Northern Great Plains with the quietly intense Naru. The beautiful cinematography and hypnotic score make it easy to get lost in her world as she hones her skills as a hunter, emerges from some tight scrapes, and explores with her lovely canine sidekick Sarii – their bond is absolutely lovely.
The Solitary Predator is used sparingly as it works in parallel, imposing itself as the apex hunter. Retro versions of his other tech are fun to see, though his signature cloaking device still feels like a cheat.
Their stories converge in a visceral streak that will forever be etched in every fan’s memory, and the film grabs you by the throat from this point on as Trachtenberg goes all out on the action and the gore.
However, the final battle is shrouded in the shadows of night, making it hard to discern what’s going on as predator and prey unleash an arsenal of gadgets. It makes sense as a contrast to the brightness and clarity of other action scenes, but may require multiple viewings for you to analyze all the details.
Prey works because its protagonist isn’t the kind of brawny, flamboyant action hero these films are known for, or part of a forgettable ensemble in some vague sci-fi quest. Instead, Naru is an intelligent and observant human being, and his sometimes strained relationship with his brother and other members of the Comanche Nation tribe gives the film emotional resonance. (There’s no tension with his dog though. He’s perfect.)
They’re still a tough bunch, however, wielding their bows and spears with tactical precision and moving through the forest like a special forces squad. This kind of imagery can be cliché in modern environments, but it’s incredibly visually appealing here.
We also get a satisfying escalation of the dangers they face, as their beautiful surroundings are teeming with deadly natural threats and foreign poachers (whose French dialogue is not translated with subtitles, artfully giving us the impression that are alien invaders too). It grounds the film well and builds up to the Predator rather than throwing us straight into the depths of sci-fi.
It’s also extremely cool that the film was produced by Jhane Myers, a member of the Comanche Nation, and most of the actors are Native American or First Nations Canadian, suggesting an admirable commitment to authenticity. You can also watch with a Comanche dub and subtitles for full cultural immersion, but they weren’t available on the preview.
It’s easily the best Predator movie we’ve had since the original, with a well-developed protagonist (and his excellent dog), a rich cultural base, and clever use of an iconic movie monster. More sci-fi movies should take this kind of grounded approach, and now this franchise should pit its alien hunters against humans in beautifully realized historical settings.
For now, stick around and give Prey a watch.
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