The Predator series has had a rather tumultuous history. The first film is one of the classics of 80’s sci-fi horror that stands among titans like Alien (well, 1979) and The Thing. The second movie was…less well received but it had its moments. Then there was the Alien vs Predator films and then the oddness of Predators and Predator: Bloodlines. The latest film, which is the first not to be named after the Predator, wants to revitalise the series. We here at the Robot Republic are here to see if it manages it.
‘Prey’ is an interesting choice for the name of the film, especially as the name has almost as long a history as Predator in media. The first Prey game was a Sci-fi shooter based around a Native-American hero. The second Prey had nothing to do with the first and was instead a sci-fi horror based on perception and solitude. Prey the film is remarkably similar to these projects, at least in regards to the main character.
Prey follows the story of Naru, a young Native-American woman in 1719. Naru has been trained as a healer, but she wishes to be a hunter like her father and her brother. However, Naru will soon discover that even the greatest hunter can become prey. Prey’s plot is pretty simple for the most part and doesn’t offer any more than it needs to. Frankly, the Predator series has never really been known to have anything more than a bear bone plot. That is, there are rarely any deep dives into the human condition and the like. The plot of these films simply exists to get the humans into contact with the Predator and that is all they really need to do.
While there isn’t a huge amount of plot to work with, the actual effects and shots are all great. The vistas of the American landscape and the use of different colours and atmospheres all help keep the action tense when necessary and calm otherwise. Special mention should be made for the use of a burnt forest in one section, especially the use of smoke surrounding the area. These scenic vistas help to stick in the mind of the viewer and allows for some of the more questionable CGI to pass by without too much mention.
The idea of bringing the predator movies to the past is a fantastic one, especially using the more antiquated weaponry of the Native Americans. Most Predator movies devolve into the humans shooting at nothing or mowing down the scenery, but that isn’t so possible here. Instead the humans have to engage the predator and fight it mano e mano. There are muskets eventually, but their use is fairly limited. This also means that, in the brief sections where the Predator is engaged, the action is far more visceral and the humans are given slightly more chance to shine.
Unfortunately, action is the only place where humans have a chance to shine. The acting in general isn’t anything to write home about, at least for most of the cast. However, Amber Midthinger (the actor who plays Naru) does a great job. She manages to convey a lot of emotion while remaining very nuanced and she helps to keep the film grounded. Naru is reminiscent of Ripley from Alien in several ways and her progression from a new hunter to a veteran and her skills in combat feel earned throughout the plot of the film.
Prey’s director, Dan Trachtenberg, has managed to create a film that is reminiscent of the original Predator while also adding its originality, and is arguably one of the best sequels of the series. Prey creates a sense of isolation and the idea of being alone against a greater combatant with only the character’s skills keeping them alive. These are the emotions that make a Predator movie, and Prey has them. Naru’s journey through the American wilderness and her use of her people’s methods and skills are so very similar to Dutch but are just different enough to remain exciting.
However, what you are really here for is the Predator, and there is certainly a lot to see…well, kind of see. This movie alien is large, brutal and ready to hunt everything and anything. Interestingly, it is not only the humans who are using older tech. In each Predator film, we have seen them use new gadgets and tech to complete their hunts and this one is no different. There are still some of the old favourites, however, there are no lasers this time and everything feels older and more brutal. This change helps to make the predator’s hunt feel fairer and helps to fit it into the 1700s while still maintaining that sci-fi feel.
Now, I will be the first to say that no movie is perfect and Prey is no different. There is a disappointing lack of Native American culture on display, there is some and the costumes appear to be correct, but very little else. Arguably the film would have been better subtitled rather than having the characters speaking in English, especially when they occasionally use modern phrases. Also, the final fight leaves some things to be desired. The issue is that the Predator suddenly becomes strangely weaker and loses parts very easily. It doesn’t take much away from the fight in general, but it does make the experience feel slightly cheaper.
Prey is something we haven’t seen in a while, at least not this well done. It is a film that takes on a popular series from the past and pays homage to it while also making its mark. Hopefully, this means a rejuvenation for the series, perhaps in more varied periods. Who wouldn’t want to see the Predator vs the Vikings or Samurai? I know I would!
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