Prey (2022) August 10th, 2022
I’ve wanted another rewatchable Predator film since my first exposure to the original classic but each sequel (and I’ve seen them all) has been a repugnant failure on every level. You like Predator 2? Shut up. Predator 2 undermines the foundational badassness of the titular alien hunter by allowing one ‘too old for this shit’ cop to successfully kill one when an elite team of mercs could barely take one out before. Alien Vs. Predator: despite being the best of the shitty sequels, this shitfest gave us such memorable groans as bullet-time face huggers and the will-they-won’t-they romance between a human woman and a splayed-face alien killer firmly cementing it as lower-than-schlock garbage. Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem is aptly titled because anyone who survived a viewing wishes they were dead by the end. Boom roasted, go fuck yourself. Predators: mix pedophiles, rapists, and the Yakuza into the Battle Royale/The Most Dangerous Game survival island motif and you’ve got a movie for edgelords by edgelords. Fuck you, give me my money back. The Predator jumped on the ‘autism is a superpower’ bandwagon previously seen in the Power Rangers movie and ended up just as watchable. It’s a murderers row of movies that should’ve been put out of our misery so by comparison, Prey is a masterpiece.
Set in the Great Plains of the early 1700s, Prey is the story of a young Comanche woman striving to become a great hunter and leader of her tribe just like her older brother. She struggles against patriarchy and bad luck before finding herself on the wrong end of a Predator. Utilizing her skills as a hunter and a healthy dose of intelligence and strategy, Naru defeats the Predator and is honored by her tribe as a great hunter.
As a generic adventure film Prey is tops, but it shines in its representation. Prey perfectly rides the line of representation by positioning its female antagonist against believable examples of oppressive patriarchy and colonialism. Her ability as a hunter is doubted by everyone in her tribe, not just the men. That doubt is explored subtly, she’s permitted to attempt the trial to become a great hunter but no one is surprised when she fails. Her relationship with her brother forms the strong foundation on which Prey’s plot rests but even he shows signs of prejudice against her. This subtlety feels authentic and relatable. I don’t recall a moment where the message is spoken bluntly or even directly, it’s simply the norm for everyone to dismiss her aspirations and assume she’ll outgrow them and settle into the submissive woman role.
Later French trappers overshadow the Predator as the film’s antagonists as personifications of imperialist colonialism who ravage the land for profit with little regard for the ecosystem they’re ruining or the species they’re exterminating. Meanwhile a PREDATOR is stalking the landscape. What? All this depth and historic awareness packed into a little movie that was unceremoniously dumped on Hulu one random weekend? Prey deserved better.
Sometimes Prey‘s schlock roots show during a CGI bear fight and even the final confrontation with the Predator, but that’s easy to brush aside because the rest is superb. As someone who’s been repeatedly disappointed by this franchise let me speak with the authority my misery grants. Prey is the second best film in a shallow franchise desperate for depth.
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