Naru, a skilled warrior of the Comanche Nation, fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth. Naru, a skilled warrior of the Comanche Nation, fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth.
Set in the Comanche Nation 300 years ago,
When it comes to any movie franchise there is always the fear that the motto of “less is more” will not be followed to the letter. For every new instalment, there comes the risk of producing something of inferior quality that tarnishes the reputation of its predecessors. The Alien and Predator franchises are amongst the most famous in the sci-fi world but both have been beset with problems. While movie fans continue the age-old debate about whether Alien or Aliens is the superior entry, there doesn’t tend to be much disagreement in the world of Predator. John McTiernan’s 1987 original with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role is one of my Top 10 favourite movies and far eclipses anything that has followed in the franchise. Predator 2 (1990) and Predators (2010) were not bad movies but they didn’t have what the original did, something was missing. I have yet to watch The Predator (2018) but reviews were nor great, while the Alien vs Predator movies have also not been well received. When I first heard of Dan Trachtenberg’s Prey, the latest in the franchise, I had my reservations but wanted to see – 35 years after the first movie – whether we could finally get our hands on a Predator movie to rival Dutch and company in the jungle.
Set in 1719 in the Great Plains, Prey centres around the Comanche tribe, Native Americans that know the lay of the land and survive through many challenges. Our focus is on Naru (Amber Midthunder) who breaks with societal convention and wishes to be a hunter like the men in her tribe, rather than being at home providing care, preparing food and raising children. With her dog, Sarii, in tow, Naru wanders the Great Plains alone, honing her skills and focusing on being a mighty hunter. Problems arise with the unwanted presence of French fur traders that are a threat to the Comanche, but Naru also finds traces of an unseen and mysterious threat somewhere in the wild and she is determined to track it down.
The first notable aspect of Prey is the time and setting. While Alien vs Predator (2004) made reference to Predators in early history, here we have a concrete setting of the early 18th century, nearly three centuries before the events of Predator. My initial worry was that a Predator wandering this time period with advanced technology would be something of a mismatch. While technologically more advanced, Prey does a great job of levelling the playing field between the Predator and both the Comanche and French traders it encounters. Undoubtedly powerful and deadly, this Predator still has its limitations and not all battles come easy for it. While the fight scenes here were great, I wasn’t always enamoured with the effects for the Predator, even finding them inferior to the original at times, which was a shame. The film’s highlight is unquestionably Amber Midthunder’s performance as Naru. Charged with carrying the film for large portions, Midthunder delivers with aplomb. She portrays a young and driven woman, fighting not just a deadly assailant, but the prejudice of her own tribe that would prefer her to stay home and leave the hunting to the men. One of the strengths of the original Predator was its cast, especially Arnie. Here both Midthunder and Dakota Beavers as Naru’s brother, Taabe, excel and offer an interesting dynamic and arc for both characters. Trachtenberg deserves huge credit for his gutsy approach to the franchise; the setting was brave, the depictions of the Comanche are handled well and in Amber Midthunder, we have an actor of great potential. While there are some issues with Prey, it is arguably the best movie in the franchise since the original and such an accolade makes it a winner.
Verdict: A strong addition to the Predator franchise, enhanced by a superb performance from Amber Midthunder.