I recently saw Prey, the latest Predator movie. No Arnold Schwarzenegger or Adrien Brody this time around, though. This movie has a very different protagonist and is set in a different time and place.
For those unfamiliar with the franchise, the Predator movies are about alien trophy hunters, who come to Earth during really hot summers to hunt. In the first movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger leads a team of soldiers through the jungle while a predator tries to hunt them all down. The second movie features a predator attack in Los Angeles. After a decade of nothing, a cross-over with the Alien franchise came out, Alien vs. Predator. That led to the third Predators movie, with Adrien Brody kidnapped to fight in an alien jungle preserve. Then came a fourth, and now there is Prey.
Prey is a prequel, of sorts. It is set in the 18th century, in the United States. The main character is not a US army soldier, for once. This time, the predator takes on a tribe of Comanche, and a young woman named Naru.
I think it was a smart move to try something different. The original Predator movie was clever, because it did not try to have too much lore, or science fiction gimmicks. It’s a action movie about an alien hunter and how a ‘merely’ human soldier takes him down despite his superior science fiction tricks. They rehashed that concept, and tried to add more lore, and tack on other stuff. But there’s enough of that out there.
However, the original movie (and more so, the alien cross-overs) explained that the Predators visited Earth regularly, and even assisted in building the pyramids in ancient Egypt. That left a wide opening to do something different: set movies in different time periods. And science fiction movies have barely explored 18th century US from the view of Native Americans. So, Prey uses a clever setting, and manages to be a fresh movie with cultural significance.
Prey is not a complicated movie. It doesn’t add complex lore about the Predator. It comes, it hunts, it has to die or the hero will. However, the writers moved the depth to Naru’s character arc. Naru was trained as a healer, but she wants to be a hunter and a leader, like her brother.
The story starts with her fighting custom and prejudice to join a hunt for a mountain lion. At every turn those around her mock her, or ignore her, and even her brother doesn’t fully support her. But she is the first to notice something else is out there beside a mountain lion. And she fights that bigger threat, regardless of those around her.
Naru is a very different main character than the testosterone-sweating Arnold in Predator, but she turns out to be just as fierce. And, it should be noted: where the original Predator can be seen as a commentary on Eighties macho action heroes and the Vietnam war, Prey can be seen as social commentary on colonialism and misogyny.
At it’s core, Prey is an action movie, and that is handled well. It manages to combine Naru’s arc for emotional impact with strong action sequences and cool fights. The thing that movies like Prey need to bring across is emotional investment in the main character and the sense of horror and despair of the situation they are in. Prey manages both very well, in my opinion. And with great visual effects.
If you liked Predator, I think you’ll like Prey. If you like action-horror movies in general, this will also fit you.
However, this is not a drama, comedy, or thriller. If you cannot see the appeal of a gory fight between a group of people and an invisible alien, well, this movie is not for you.