The Predator franchise finally finds its feet with this bloody fun film
By Diana Beechener
In 1719, the lands of the Comanche Nation are getting crowded. French fur trappers are slaughtering whole herds of buffalo, giant mountain lions are stalking people because buffalo are scarce, and a murderous alien has picked this section of land as its new hunting ground.
The alien, at least, is only visiting. This species has a tradition: it’s been dropped off in the wilderness to kill the most dangerous creatures it can find, while ignoring all things that don’t prove a threat, thus proving itself the superior hunter. It doesn’t take long for this alien to recognize that humans are a far more worthy adversary than wolves and mountain lions.
Because the alien has cloaking abilities, it goes unnoticed while stalking its new prey.
At least, it thought it was unnoticed.
Young Naru (Amber Midthunder: The Wheel) is trying to prove herself as a Comanche tracker and warrior. Though skilled with herbal medicines, she wants to take after her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers in his debut) as one of the most respected warriors in the tribe. Though everyone but Taabe dismisses this dream, Naru remains steadfast that she has the skills. She has noticed something otherworldly leaving tracks around their camp.
Now if only someone would believe her before the carnage starts…
Let’s be frank, the last few entries in the Predator franchise were so toothless the titular Predator would ignore them as non-threatening. Prey brings the franchise back to the bloody basics that made the original film so popular, making this the first entry in decades that’s had some bite. Director Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) rights the franchise through an interesting story and some visceral action. It’s everything you want in a Predator movie: gruesome kills and characters you hope survive their encounters. The only thing missing is cheesy ‘80s action one-liners, but those are probably best reserved for the revelry of testosterone and baby-oiled biceps that was the original film.
Prey also steps away from the original film with a redesign of the Predator character. The hulking alien is still terrifying, don’t worry, but the movie gives his tech a period-appropriate makeover. Instead of firing lasers, this Predator is using targeted arrows and a lower-tech cloaking device. The downgrade in technology doesn’t slow the hunter down, however. Trachtenberg has several gore-stuffed action sequences of the Predator fighting everything from a group of humans to a bear. If you’re squeamish, this is not a film for you.
The other upside of Prey is that the story of a Comanche tribe taking on an alien isn’t treated as a gimmick. The cast and crew took pains to craft an authentic locale and storyline. One of the film’s producers, Jhane Myers, is a member of the Comanche Nation. The filmmakers worked closely with Comanche cultural and language consultants so that the film accurately portrays the tribe’s life. Though the film is in English, the cast returned to record a Comanche dub of the film—the first Comanche dub of a commercial film in history—which will be available on Hulu.
Beyond the gore and the cool new setting, the film has some lovely beats between Naru and her family. She’s a flawed, but determined protagonist, and it’s nice to see a supportive brother in Taabe. Both actors are relative newcomers to film and manage to carry their scenes beautifully, even when they’re facing off with a 7-foot alien.
If you’re new to the franchise, consider starting here, then revisiting the original and its sequel (all on Hulu). The other Predator films as well as the odious Alien vs. Predator franchise are also available, but trust me when I tell you to stop while you’re ahead.
If you’re a fan of the Predator films, this is easily the best in the franchise since the 1990 sequel. Though the sense of humor is somewhat muted, the thrills and dynamic action are here in spades. So, pop some popcorn, steel yourself for the fighting, and enjoy some solid character-driven action.
And if you yell GET TO THE CHOPPA a few times, I won’t tell…
Prey is on Hulu Aug. 5.
Good Action * R * 99 mins.