The best Predator movie in years
The original Predator was one of the finest action movies of the 80’s and it is still highly regarded by many people today. The sequels? Not so much. Predator 2 was a bit of a disappointment after the Arnold Schwarzenegger original and the movies that followed failed to match the power of the testosterone-fuelled hit that started it all.
So, what about Prey? This prequel movie bypassed theatres and went straight to streaming, which is rather strange considering the popularity of the franchise. Is this indicative of the movie’s overall quality? Thankfully, no. While Prey isn’t quite as good as Predator, it’s still a decent watch and is arguably better than the sequels that followed on from the 1987 movie.
Prey takes place in 1719, centuries before Arnie and his military rescue team came face-to-face with the technologically advanced alien. This time, it’s up to Comanche tribe member Naru (Amber Midthunder) to take on the extra-terrestrial invader but her chances of survival are even slimmer than they were for the group in the original movie who were stronger than her in both firepower and muscle strength.
Thankfully, Naru is an able warrior, despite being smaller in stature than the Predator she finds herself up against. The male members of her community aren’t convinced of this but they soon realise their error in judgement when she proves to be smarter and more skilled than any of them in combat against this strange new threat. As the movie runs its course, the tribe starts to dwindle in size as the Predator takes each person out with ruthless efficiency, and it’s eventually left to Naru and her faithful dog Sarii to take down this fearsome foe.
In the first half of the movie, there is very little Predator vs hunter action. Instead, we are introduced to Naru and the patriarchal structure of her community and are drawn into her struggle to prove her worth outside of domestic servitude. When the Predator does arrive on the scene, it’s a while before it takes on any human foes as bears, wolves, and other forms of wildlife are the first to encounter the alien and its specialist set of skills.
Despite the lack of any real combat, these initial scenes are integral to the story as they showcase both Naru’s plight and the Predator’s quest to find the dominant species on the planet. We learn more about Naru and her battle to fight for equality (a fight that has never really gone away) and we discover more about the Predator’s abilities as it hunts its prey for sport rather than for survival purposes.
The alien vs human combat, when it does eventually come, is raw and brutal, as the indigenous people of the land take on the being that is quite unlike anything they have encountered before. They are as underpowered as you might expect, which is partly the cause of their downfall, but as they have trained themselves to fight on regardless, despite the power of the enemy, they aren’t prepared to back down.
Director Dan Trachtenburg (10 Cloverfield Lane) handles these scenes of action well, without the need for slow-mo or other directorial flourishes to ramp up the levels of excitement. Combat is swift and well-constructed, even though the outcome of most fights is never really in question, as it soon becomes clear that rushing in for the kill isn’t the right answer.
Naru realises this and as any good hunter does, starts to spend more time observing the Predator and its movements before making a plan of attack. In this age of superhero movies and Taken-knockoffs where the heroes spend more time punching their way to victory instead of using their brains, Naru’s decision to slow down and chart her enemy’s weaknesses before going on the attack is quite refreshing.
Sadly, the movie has a relatively short run-time, which wouldn’t be a problem if the movie had featured more scenes of human vs Predator action. But as a good portion of the movie is spent exploring the dynamics of Naru’s tribe and their interactions with the land around them, there isn’t enough time for the full-blooded alien encounters that I wanted. If the run-time had been extended by 30 minutes or so, the movie may have been better balanced.
Still, this is my only nit-pick as this is still a decent movie. The Predator is as intimidating as it ever was and remains an unnerving presence due to its ability to remain invisible while stalking its prey. Naru’s story is an interesting one as she fights not only to save her tribe but to also prove her worth to her community. And the confrontations that do take place between the Predator and its various adversaries are suitably bloody and heart-pounding.
So, while this isn’t quite the movie that I hoped for, it is far more intelligent and thought-provoking than the sequels that have come before. And as the closing credits suggest a further encounter between Naru and the Predator race, it might be that a sequel could provide the extended scenes of combat that are sometimes lacking in Prey.
Read More: Prey Ending Explained
Verdict - 7/10