The action centers around Comanche warriors Naru (Amber Midthunder) and her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers). Raised on the Great Plains, Naru is a skilled hunter but isn’t allowed to participate with the men. Her expertise is put to the test when strange things happen in her camp.
“There’s something out there,” Naru says. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“I’m not frightened by a bear,” snorts Taabe.
“It’s not a bear,” she replies.
Turns out it’s a Predator, a highly evolved alien hunter who resembles an outer-space crustacean and announces his presence with a series of unnerving clicks and throaty gurgles. Equipped with the power of invisibility and technically advanced weapons, the Predator attacks a group of colonizing French fur trappers and then Naru’s family.
The odds seem stacked against Naru in the resulting showdown, but, as she says, “It knows how to hunt. But I know how to survive.”
It’s been tough to be a Predator fan in recent years. The alien bullies have featured in several not-so-great flicks, including 2018’s suburban terror entry, “The Predator.” That one included lines like, “They’re large, they’re fast and ‘bleeping’ you up is their idea of tourism.” It’s a really bad movie that makes “Sharknado” look like “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
I’m happy to report “Prey” is a return to form. Directed by Dan “10 Cloverfield Lane“ Trachtenberg from a script by Patrick Aison, this is a stripped-down sci fi action movie with a strong hero and tension to spare. The story is a bare-bones tale of survival, but given an interesting twist.
As an Indigenous woman Naru is a determined central figure, one battling for her place in the tribe as well as for the survival of the only way of life she has ever known. Midthunder is terrific, making Naru jump off the screen with a minimum of dialogue. It’s a performance that delivers the required action, while still allowing a fully-formed character to emerge.
“Prey” takes the “Predator” franchise in a different direction while still maintaining the bloodthirsty scenes that fans crave. The image of an invisible Predator made visible by bear blood and guts is a standout.
“Prey” is a period piece, that delivers solid action, but just as importantly, doesn’t treat its Indigenous characters as secondary to the story. A primarily Indigenous cast transcends stereotypes to create varied, interesting and complex characters in a genre that has not always been inclusive or respectful.