New from Peter Spedale on Be Movie See Movie: Movie Review: Prey

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Having never been anything close to ask bulky and good looking as Arnold Schwarzenegger or Carl Weathers, I can’t say I was super excited to see a Predator reboot. But in the age of movie IP, I suppose it was inevitable. However, if we’re gonna reboot/readapt everything, makes sense to start with IP that doesn’t have a perfect movie, like the Predator franchise right? Like Pete’s Dragon, Prey can proudly shine like a heat seeking beacon to the adaptation committees of various studios: a great example of how to reboot something and make something fresh and special in the process.

Long before Dutch, Vietnam, and the Green Berets, Prey goes back to 1719 on the Great Plains of North America, where the Comanche tribe reside. Hoping to become great hunters for the tribe are two of Aruka’s (Michelle Thrush) children. Taabe (Dakota Beavers), her son, is already well on his way to becoming the war chieftan, successfully hunting/defending the tribe from dangers. Her daughter Naru (Amber Midthunder) desperately wants to be like Taabe, but is younger and that has fewer chances because of her upbringing in the tribe. While Naru hoped to defend the tribe from like a wildcat or a bear, she sees a “sign” that here time has come. What she actually sees, however, is a Predator unlike anything anyone has seen before.

A better comp for Prey is actually Mad Max: Fury Road. Fury Road has Max, a car, and the desert, and then rebuilt the story from there. Prey has an even simpler job: the whole pitch basically is “…and there’s a Predator there.” So writer Patrick Aison has carte blanche to write whatever story he wants. He picks a great one, going all the way back to Native American times, and focusing on an oft trivialized part of America’s past. Aison does a terrific job of not being overly preachy with his story. It’s all there: women’s place in the world, savagery of white explorers, etc, but it remains unspoken, or smartly disguised, keeping the audience focused on the story at hand. However, when Naru keeps proving she’s a little bit better than all the adversaries around her, your fist pumps a little harder at every small victory and get a little more bummed out at every little defeat.

The 1719 setting also strips away political machinations, contemporary prejudice, and standard movie biases. We now have a tale of basic human survival: be the hunter, or be the hunted. Aison’s tale at first comes off very simple, with a basic animal hierarchy we all understand. But underneath the “rules” Naru is finding all these quicker, smarter, unusual ways to get the job done faster like say, training a dog to help her track. While being at the top of the food chain is great, that also means everything out in the world is after your spot, and ready to challenge the alpha at a moments notice, while she can slip underneath the radar and get further ahead without direct conflict, which she can’t win against the superior Predator. Naru’s rewriting of hunting rules makes Prey much more rich, interesting, and ultimately more satisfying than any of the other more “punch first, ask questions later” Predator films.

Just drop a Predator in. What a stroke of genius Prey had. I wish more creature franchises tried this idea to at least stir the pot. The French Revolution…with an Alien? Jeepers Creepers….it’s Ghandi’s nonviolent Indian revolution! And how could we ever forget Jesus and the Eight Legged Freaks.

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