With the previous Predator movie being an absolutely absurd mess, what could possibly be done with the franchise? A change in location could do. Maybe even a change of time periods. The result is a Predator film that gets back to basics but feels original in its own unique way.
It is the early 1700s in America and a Commanche tribe is trying to survive. There’s always a tiger on the prowl or French fur traders looming about. The hunters of the tribe keep these forces at bay. Aiming to become one of those hunters is Naru (Amber Midthunder). She’s an expert in medicine but is now practicing her skills with weapons.
Unsure how to feel about Naru’s thirst for the hunt is her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers). She can sense a warrior spirit in her sister but doesn’t want to go against the tribe. Despite Naru’s many attempts to prove herself, she is mostly shot down. All that changes, however, when a Predator visits their neck of the woods.
The Predator arriving on Earth is beautifully built up as a brutal killing machine. We get brief glimpses of him concealed in his cloak. He slowly works his way up in kills by starting with smaller animals and working his way up to humans. And, oh, how that brutal showdown between humans and aliens was such a richly gruesome hunt.
The design of the Predator has been revised yet remains hidden in the shadows for most of the movie. A mystery builds up so perfectly that the reveal of the Predator’s new mask and larger jaw extension is so satisfying. All the Predator hallmark weapons are on display, from the bladed gauntlets to the three-beam targeting system for deadly arrows. The shield manages to be impressive as well for the decapitations it can deliver.
Of course, a Predator movie is only as powerful as the opponent facing off against the high-tech beast. We get to spend a lot of time with Naru and root for her to not only prove herself to her tribe but slaughter an alien. Her cleverness established early makes her the most cunning warrior for the job.
I also loved how determined Naru is among those who undermine her. She never takes an opportunity to gloat about her tactics or watch with glee when her fellow hunters are killed. Midthunder is astoundingly powerful in this role, whether standing up to fur trappers or facing down the vicious hunter from another world.
Prey is a film that keeps true to the source of Predator but more in spirit than a direct duplication. Yes, there is the familiar line of “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” Yes, there’s a similar scenario where only one hunter is left alive. And yet it all feels so fresh because of the alternative dynamic.
There’s a driving sense of hope throughout that it may be possible for Naru to beat this Predator with enough insight, cleverness, and maybe even some teamwork. There are real stakes here where Naru’s victory is about more than just proving herself. She’s fighting for more than her own development but to be a hunter who looks out for others. All of her development makes for one of the most inspiring Predator stories, which is saying something for a film series very much akin to a slasher.
Prey is straightforward yet incredibly satisfying as a gritty and gutsy reworking of Predator with so much oozing green greatness throughout. I could go on but I’d probably just gush about my favorite scenes of hunting ingenuity and graphic violence. Just a damn good sci-fi action movie and one of the few Predator retreads that feels like there’s some life left in this franchise.