“Predator 2” is often unfairly maligned as one of the franchise’s worst entries.
Fans and critics seemed to dislike it for being perhaps too over the top, too corny, and too violent but it’s these exact reasons that make it undeniably fun to watch.
Danny Glover is an appropriate “I’m too old for this shit” action hero in this sequel and is a worthy adversary to the Predator. We get Bill Paxton as the film’s comic relief while completing his “Get killed by a Terminator, Alien, and Predator” Hollywood Bingo card. And Gary Busey hams it up to 11 as he always does as Special Agent Peter Keyes on the hunt for the alien before getting hilariously killed off himself. All this while the Predator causes mayhem across 1990 Los Angeles killing gangbangers and cops left and right.
One thing this misunderstood sequel does do, that most fans liked and have wildly speculated on for years, comes in the film’s final scene after Glover’s character manages to kill the Predator only to discover the ship is full of more of them. Instead of collecting him as their new trophy however, they spare his life since he clearly proved himself to be worthy prey after killing one of their own.
The Predator Chieftain(??) tosses him a token of respect in the form of an old musket pistol with the year “1715” engraved on it clearly showing they have been coming to Earth for a while. As Glover manages to escape the ship just as it takes off he’s confronted by one of Keyes men who is infuriated with him for letting their long sought after alien specimen fly away. Glover, tired and 100 percent done with it all, simply states “Don’t worry, asshole. You’ll get another chance…”
It’s a fun sendoff to the sequel that got plenty of fans, even the ones who were not super fond of the film, speculating on just how long the Predators had been hunting on Earth. Fans started imagining Predator going toe-toe with humanity’s greatest warriors and it has spawned tons of great (and bad) fan art, fan fictions, and fan films depicting the hulking alien matching wits with Samurai, Spartans, Knights and many more.
For many, they thought this might spawn a cool prequel from this setup but unfortunately Predator 2’s modest box office results and middling critic reviews would keep the Alien Trophy Hunter off the big screen for 14 years before returning for the even more maligned “Alien vs Predator” crossover in 2004.
Finally, after a few more failed Predator reboots (I actually like “Predators”) 2022 finally fulfilled the promise of Predator 2’s big teaser by giving us a prequel set in Colonial North America simply called “Prey.”
In short, it’s very good.
“Prey” takes place in 1719 along the Great Plains following a Comanche woman named Naru. Naru has spent her life being trained to be a healer, to which she is very good at, but her true passion lies in hunting as she practices her Tomahawk throws between herb gathering each day despite the protests of her brother and mother. One day after a failed attempt at a hunt she witnesses a strange object flying through the sky that she believes to be the mythical Thunderbird of her people and a sign that she needs to prove herself. What it turns out to be however is the Predator’s ship entering the atmosphere. Naru slowly discovers from there the existence of the strange alien lifeform after she and her fellow tribesmen track a cougar and decides to take it upon herself to hunt the creature to avoid it causing any more death to those it hunts and to prove herself worthy of being called a hunter instead of prey.
The first thing one will notice immediately watching “Prey” from the beginning is how much it doesn’t try to copy or overly emulate its sequel predecessors. Though I enjoyed “Predators” for copying that blueprint right up to recreating its entire original soundtrack, “Prey” takes the refreshing opposite approach as the film feels very much like a coming of age action story with Native American characters that just happens to have a science fiction element in the form of Hollywood’s most famous alien trophy hunter.
The film easily stands on its own because of it, even when the Predator is offscreen. The plot keeps you focused on Naru’s journey with a script that is modest and simple in its dialog, complete with some dry attempts at humor and some good banter between the native members of the cast. Previous new entries into the franchise tended to focus a bit too heavily on expanding the “lore” so to speak and gave us characters that were largely flat action hero caricatures in between it. While actress Amber Midthunder’s Naru is a type of heroine we are familiar with, she undeniably carries the emotional, moody core of the story and never distracts from the film’s aesthetics and the suspense of the action.
The film is very delightful to look at though. Watching it will likely make more than a few viewers interested in seeing the Great Plains themselves and the last pockets of nature left in North America. The cinematography is often stunning depicting this, which is unfortunate since this film so far at least has only been released to the small screen of Hulu. It is nonetheless a very pretty movie to watch when there isn’t blood and gore on screen, which is just as delightful in its own way, and the original soundtrack by Sarah Schachner truly brings it all together with a mix of indigenous tunes, orchestral beats, as well as some modern sounds to highlight the SciFi element to this story.
This is still a Predator film at the end of the day though and on that level it more than succeeds as well. The alien gets a nice new more primal look with its skull mask and an almost demonic-like skin tone and looks great as it kills, maims, and gores out its victims over the film’s hour and a half runtime. The final fight between it and Naru especially is a major highlight of the movie and pays homage to the original while also again standing on its own as a unique and refreshing action finale for the franchise.
The action is consistently fun and suspenseful throughout its runtime giving us some fun new action set pieces for the Predator to cause mayhem around while showcasing the unique fighting prowess of the Comanche people. Not to mention you also get to see it waste a bunch of French colonialists as well which is always cool and based.
If I have one critique of the movie though is that I wish it leaned harder into the Native American/Comanche side of the story.
Though I am certainly no expert when it comes to this subject, the story of a Comanche woman overcoming traditional gender roles to defeat a monster, to me at least, felt a tad overly simplistic and not terribly distinguishable from other stories like it. When the trailer for this film dropped, I was hoping for a story that dug a bit more into Comanche culture and perhaps would show audiences something new they didn’t know about the people. Instead, we get a story that I feel could easily be transplanted to a number of different setups and backgrounds. You may chalk that up to I guess a universal struggle that women have to go through in most cultures (and again I am no expert on the Comanche) but it feels like this plot could’ve been told almost exactly as is with a young female squire in England or a girl seeking to become a shinobi in Japan or something to that nature cause the story beats are so familiar.
From what I understand director Dan Trachtenberg did use input from Comanche experts and indigenous actors on the script, but I do feel an opportunity to tell a story that was much more unique to Native American culture was missed here. I’m not asking for more tribal drums, or an excessive additional amount of native war paint over the film’s script, and to be fair, it is still a Predator film at the end of the day, but it still feels like a more personal Comanche story could’ve been told here.
Again though, I am no expert, and I may be (probably) 100 percent wrong here and though plenty of Native American tribes did have progressive views on gender and gender roles, the Comanche did not as far as I understand and thus this story may be reflective of such an experience by a native woman such as Naru back then anyway.
But this is a very minor nitpick by a film critic who lives on stolen land and who probably doesn’t have a great idea of what a perfect Comanche vs Predator movie would look like anyway, so you can absolutely disregard everything I said in these last three paragraphs.
At the end of the day, this is a fun as hell movie that clearly treats its largely First Nation cast members and their culture with A LOT more respect than the typical Hollywood film usually gives them, especially one with a large science fiction action franchise attached to it. The film is a great example of how reboots can actually be great if done with sincerity and not for a cynical quick Hollywood cash grab (like this film’s predecessors) and make no mistake this is a great reboot even with my minor and probably ignorant misgivings.
It’s a shame that the largely bad Predator follow-ups kept this off the big screen but hopefully with enough positive word of mouth reviews we may get “Prey” or at least its sequels on there in the near future.
In the words of Danny Glover once again, “Don’t worry, asshole. You’ll get another chance…”
4 out of 5