Jhere’s a clear lack of creative necessity in the face of Hollywood’s overwhelming amount of prequels, sequels, remakes, reboots and revisions, all the more by the minute as studio-owned streaming services plunder the catalogs for more ways to exploit known properties. Upcoming TV shows based on Fatal Attraction, Alien, Grease, Mr and Mrs Smith, The Lord of the Rings and Reality Bites and movies based on The Killer, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Crow, White Men Can’t Jump, Road House, Scarface and The Bodyguard are all so commercially inevitable it’s almost hard to be angry, with each new announcement deserving little more than a resigned shrug. It’s a business, not a pleasure.
So, on the rare occasions when this practice offers something that even seems gently aside from the algorithm, as if maybe a human could have invented it rather than a spreadsheet, it’s hard not to give it more credit than it often deserves. Fox AKA Disney AKA Hulu AKA Disney+ in international territories has revived the Predator series for a seventh outing (two Predators, two Alien vs Predators, one Predators and one The Predator make six) but rather than continue in the same well -trampled road, they took a left turn, then went back about 300 years.
For the aptly titled title Prey, 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg (who knows a thing or two about finding a clever way into a sci-fi franchise) places us in the year 1719 and the nation Comanche. A young woman Naru (Amber Midthunder) continues to unsuccessfully try to impress those around her with her warrior skills, despised and belittled by men who refuse to take her ambition seriously. But when Naru notices a new kind of predator, one that can’t just be hunted like a bear or a lion, she finds a way to prove herself and save her people.
It’s a surprisingly fresh new twist, and in a late period of increased Native American representation (primarily on the small screen with Reservation Dogs, Rutherford Falls, and Dark Winds), it’s one of the biggest wins yet. . Although it really shouldn’t be the case, it really seems New to see a genre film of this scale centered around an almost entirely Indigenous cast (the only white characters are obnoxious French invaders, of course). It’s worth applauding not because of the simple fact of what it is and what it means, but because screenwriter Patrick Aison (a TV pro with credits like Jack Ryan and Wayward Pines ), finds a way to make it all perfectly seamless, the setting for an inventive way to impose a new set of restrictions on a story we’ve seen too many times before. The Predator’s high-tech armory (which feels more brutal and expansive than ever before) is even more intimidating when paired with the tribe’s limited resources. It’s an interesting puzzle for a writer, and Aison finds clever ways around it, focusing on stripped-down ingenuity rather than mere weapons (some of Naru’s ideas will be met with an aha voice).
While it’s a treat for those at home, streaming exclusively on the small screen, it’s a bit of a shame that something with such awe-inspiring vistas and intricate, well-choreographed action isn’t seen in theaters, yet. another recent digital first that seems suitable for a less ordinary life (and a life like Father of the Bride, Good Luck to You Leo Grande, and Spiderhead that could have made big money at the box office). The Predator franchise has never been particularly complex and has always suffered from inescapable comparisons to Alien, but the pleasingly self-contained Prey is made with an awareness of the simple pleasures we expect and enjoy and unlike some of the weaker entries it doesn’t. there’s no confused or failed attempt to add much depth or exposition (the often brilliantly silly moment in Alien vs Predator where the Predator explains to Sanaa Lathan’s character that he set a time bomb by doing an explosion sign with his hand is an all-timer). Despite being a prequel, there’s thankfully no attempt to delve into the mythology and origins of the Predator and no suggestion that the world is getting a deeper expansion any time soon.
It works best when it’s the most basic of the B-movie and while it doesn’t quite have the dizzying heights of last year’s meat and potato monster movie Godzilla vs Kong, it easily smashes a low bar. Said smash is enthusiastically made by Midthunder, 25, who rises to the challenge of taking on the predator even if his persona’s rise from uncertain warrior-in-training to action hero at the top of the food chain misses a few beats or, dare I say, a practice edit. That leaves some how-tos in the second act before a rousing finale leaves us in no doubt of her powers.
We didn’t need a Predator prequel (did we ever really need any prequel?) but Prey is a nimble beast, far more nimble than it could have been and even if that’s not quite enough to make us want more of a franchise that already has us too given, that’s enough to justify the return trip.