Released thirty-five years after John McTiernan’s “Predator” “Prey” by Dan Trachtenberg arrives as a most welcome gift.
I pray to the cinema gods every year in the hope that Hollywood will produce stronger and more interesting films, be they serious fare, comedy, or action, all I would like is quality productions with vision put into screenplay and design.
Written by Patrick Aison and director Trachtenberg, the fifth “Predator” film (no, we do not include the “Alien vs. Predator” franchises) is a well-constructed and original take on the classic alien hunters.
It’s 1719 and Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young member of the Comanche Nation, desires to be a hunter and warrior.
The Comanche did not want women fighters, those cooked, washed and weaved while the men hunted. Naru knows she is as good a hunter as any of the men in her tribe and is frustrated that she is not allowed to prove herself.
Finding her way to a hunt led by her brother Taabe (Dakota Beaver), Naru discovers that something else is out there. When she warns her tribe no one believes her.
Seeing fire in the skies and movement in the tress around her, Naru finally gets a full view of the Predator when it destroys a bear that was close to eating her. Although the CGI bear is too phony in a few shots, the scene works, giving the audience some edge-of-your-seat thrills.
As the tribe finds skinned Buffalo, they (and we) learn that the predator is far from the only monster out there. The danger is increased as French trappers have come to the land to kill Buffalo and destroy the Native American way of life.
Will the predator lay waste to these men? Have you ever seen a movie? In one of the film’s best payoffs, the alien does indeed slaughter the trappers in a terrific sequence full of blood and severed limbs that is as clever as it is exhilarating.
It saddens me that viewers have been robbed of a big screen release, as this is one that demands the theater experience.
Cinematographer Jeff Cutter beautifully captures the Canadian locations (standing in for the Northern Great Plains of the time). The opening passages portray the serenity of the Comanches living their purest life as nature breathes around them. The sunlit prairies and greens of the lands are intoxicating.
Cutter’s camera becomes harsher once the predator enters the picture. Dark clouds and mist covered forests trap the audience in a cloak of danger. As when the white man fist entered the sacred lands, the lives of the Indigenous people are in grave danger.
Composer Sarah Schachner uses her combination of synthesizers and orchestral cues infused with Native American tones to give life to the action sequences while keeping the film’s time and place alive. Schachner’s score is laid out with skill and pulses with power, striking sharply like the Comanche’s arrows.
If the film has an issue, it can be found in its use of the English language. All the Comanche speak English. This is done for American audiences, as the ever dumbing down of Hollywood films has made them lazy. The issue becomes how powerful much of the dialogue could have been if spoken in the Comanche tongue.
Amber Midthunder is great as Naru and has some wonderful lines. It is her full-on modern twentysomething accent that prevents them from hitting properly. That said, the actress and her fellow cast members do fine jobs with their roles.
To the filmmakers I argue, The French invaders are allowed to speak the language of their homeland, why not the Comanche?
Interestingly, Hulu announced they will be releasing a version of the film dubbed over in the Comanche language. It is refreshing to see a mainstream Hollywood film (especially a genre picture) show positive representation of Native American groups and identities. I hope future productions that focus on Native Americans will allow their language to be heard, as it has been robbed from them for too long.
Dan Trachtenberg and Patrick Aison have created an exciting entry into the “Predator” film world that takes the series back to basics. The idea of going into the past is inspired and exciting.
This series has been rejuvenated and it is time for screenwriters and filmmakers to meet the challenge. If there are to be more “Predator” films, let’s see them battle knights, samurais, Vikings, etc.
While this film is being billed as the first time the predators came to Earth, let us forget about that in future films, as the possibilities are endless.
“Prey” is a fantastic roller-coaster ride of an action picture and, for my money, the best “Predator” film since the original.