I’m going to be up front with you before I talk about Prey. For me, there is a clear winner in the “Alien vs. Predator” war that rages on for so many people. Predator was the first movie I bought myself on DVD. I remember it distinctly because my mom made me get this weird orange rimmed dvd shield to put over it so it wouldn’t scratch. I spent so much time before that playing Alien Vs Predator: Last of His Clan on my Gameboy. Since then, I’ve played any game with the Yautja (The species typically referred to as the Predator) that I could find. So was I bound to enjoy Prey as much as I did? Yes. Does that make it any less of a great return to form for the series? No.
Prey follows a skilled Comanche warrior names Naru (Amber Midthunder) who protects her tribe from a highly evolved alien predator that hunts humans for sport, fighting against wilderness, dangerous colonizers and this mysterious creature to keep her people safe. The big thing though is that her people don’t believe she can do it. Typically the men are the hunters which is something the film states. We see her struggle with her assigned role and how she pushes to break free of that in order to show she can do so much more than they believe.
It’s an interesting parallel to that of the original film Predator. Amber Midthunder is an absolute bad ass in the film so don’t take this comparison to be one that is making her out to be anything less. In Predator, our main POV is Arnold Schwarzenegger; who you may know as an absolute brick shit house of muscle, and as one of the biggest action movie stars of all time. His fight against the Predator is filled with sweaty muscle bound men with guns, mud, and steel. Despite the technology the alien possesses, Arnold himself still poses a threat. Amber isn’t that.
Midthunder’s character Naru is smart, agile, and headstrong. She knows her worth and will do what she needs to in order for the world around her to see it. One of the themes of the film is that the Yautju isn’t going to hunt you if you don’t pose a threat. It’s an interesting concept explored and exploited by her. She doesn’t have the heavy artillery because it’s the 1700’s but she doesn’t need it. I think that’s why this film is so interesting because she’s more of a predator herself than Arnold is. While the original film is a group of paramilitary bros fighting guerrillas in South America, this is more about a group protecting their own land. They have something at stake more than just their own lives. All of that makes Naru a more compelling main character which really makes this film land as the first solid sequel in the series.
What I am trying to say is that Amber Midthunder could take Arnold Schwarzenegger in a fight. She fought the Predator better and deserves to be the new action star the world deserves.
*Note: I’m not the right reviewer to go into the colonialism themes of the film but the alien isn’t the only villain of the film.
There are so many shots in the film that I had to do rewinds on because I wanted to watch them again. Dan Trachtenberg is a brilliant director with an eye for horror. I am not debating if this is a horror film or a sci-fi action flick, it’s both. There is something truly horrifying about human’s not being the top of the food chain and having to fight to survive which Trachtenberg captures extremely well in Prey. Jeff Cutter returns as cinematographer after working with Trachtenberg on 10 Cloverfield Lane which is clear in some of the more horror-centric scenes.
Taking the stakes back down to having one Yautja again rather than multiple as many of the previous films have done gives the creature a feeling of power again. There is more fear to be had with one lone hunter stalking a large number of people because if you know it possesses the means to take down all of that alone, you fear what more could do. When you have multiple on screen, you lose that fear because it becomes more of an action film like Predators and The Predator. While Predators isn’t a bad installment in the franchise, it has a very different feeling to it than the original did. It becomes much less about the act of survival and more about the spectacle of surviving. Prey focusing on a group without anywhere near the technological prowess that the Yautja has makes this so much more of a horror film for me as I fear what the alien can do.
Something that appeals to me about the Predator over the Alien is that it’s not looking to cause widespread destruction, it’s just looking to hunt. I can’t blame the Xenomorphs for their actions, they’re just looking to breed and survive. The Yautja, though, are just looking to hunt and collect trophies to prove their worth in their social structure. It’s such an interesting but simple premise that this film returns to rather than humans creating some stupid ultimate predator in a science lab. Prey is just about one silly little alien looking to do their silly little hunt. The design of this Yautja has a much more natural design about it. While we have only seen a few helmets on screen, this one goes above any we have seen before to show that each of the aliens has their own unique identity and look to them. While their role is simple, that of the humans surviving is so much more. It’s a dynamic that I think makes Prey a hit in my heart in an instant.
Prey explores as they title says, prey. What does someone do when all their life they’ve believed they were the highest form of predator on Earth only to become prey? The only big complaint I have about the film is that it was released on streaming rather than in theatres. It’s a big movie that deserved to be on the big screen.
While I am used to the Yautja being a character I seek out to play on small screens in games like Mortal Kombat, I think this story deserved it’s time on the big screen for everyone to see. Having it released on a streaming service feels like a disservice to a film like that. With that said, it’s still worth taking the night to watch it. Just listen for any clicking in your home, those Yautja are sneaky little guys.