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Prey © 20th Century Studios.

I really did not want to watch this movie. But my partner wanted to watch, so we put it on, and I watched. I'm just so burnt out of all the constant sequels, prequels, reboots, and remakes of 30 and 40-year old nostalgia franchises -- not to mention the impending proliferation of nostalgia reboots of 20-year old franchises from the early 2000's. The endless onslaught of terrible Alien, Terminator, and Predator movies has just been exhausting. At least when older movie IPs like Friday The 13th or Nightmare On Elm Street were making more sequels than one can count on a single hand, the producers knew that those movies were B-grade schlock, and treated them as such. Now, these studios think that releasing a new Predator movie every few years should be treated with the same anticipation and reverence as the release of The Phantom Menace, as if it's all some huge, monumental deal that deserves all of our attention. And much like The Phantom Menace, it always seems to turn out to be incoherent garbage.

So imagine my surprise when Prey actually turned out to be good.

The structure is similar to the original Predator movie. A group of warriors goes out into the jungle to hunt an enemy, only to be systematically hunted and killed from the shadows by the Predator. Except this time, instead of being a bunch of beefy, roided-out macho marines with machine guns, our heroes are 18th-century Comanche with bows and arrows and tomahawks.

Despite trying to follow the outline of the original Predator, Prey doesn't work particularly well as a horror movie. The aforementioned glut of Predator and Alien vs Predator movies has completely desensitized people like me to being able to see either the predator or xenomorph as a frightening movie monster. At this point, they are both borderline jokes.

Prey - Naru hiding from Predator
Prey © 20th Century Studios
Predator is too prolific to be taken seriously as a serious horror monster.

So the first half of Prey is spent with period character drama about a young and clever Comanche woman trying to prove herself as a tracker and hunter so that she isn't stuck in a life of gathering and cooking. She fails her initiation to hunt a lion that has attacked fellow tribesmen, much to the mirth of the male hunters who accompany her. But she, being an observant and skilled tracker, recognizes that there's something off about this particular lion hunt. Something bigger and more dangerous is out there, and if they don't find out what it is, it might also threaten the tribe. The others dismiss her mystery threat as "just a bear". Eventually, the predator reveals itself, makes mince-meat out of the other Comanche hunters and also a small army of French fur trappers, and our protagonist is left to defeat the monster with only her wits and knowledge of the land.

And yea, it's good. The characters are believable and likeable. The story about how breaking gender stereotypes allows women to provide unique insight into a situation or problem is well-conceived and uplifting. Most of the action is good, except maybe some un-convincing CGI animals. The historical setting does add an extra bit of tension. Even though the predator isn't as frightening and threatening as it used to be, setting the movie 300 years ago with characters who have to defeat the predator with literal sticks and stones (as opposed to machine guns) ups the threat a little bit.

I wouldn't be surprised if the success of this movie triggers a new wave of nostalgia monster franchises making period pieces to try to make their monsters scary or threatening again. Terminator vs The Myans? Alien vs The Roman Legion? It sounds stupid, and probably will be stupid, but that's how Hollywood works. One company or IP does something new and clever, and every other company or IP thinks it's entitled to a piece of that novelty pie.

Prey - historic setting
Prey © 20th Century Studios
The historic setting elevates the threat of Predator, but I wish the entire movie had been in Comanche.

20th Century Fox went to the trouble of casting native actors in the Comanche roles, but the producers of Prey were apparently not confident enough in their product to film the entire movie in the Comanche language. There is supposedly a Comanche-dubbed version on Hulu, but dubbing just isn't the same. I don't want to watch a dubbed movie. After the success of films like Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes and War For The Planet Of The Apes, which both extensively used sign language instead of spoken dialogue, I would have thought that 20th Century Fox (of all studios) would be more willing to take the risk of filming the entire movie in the characters' native language. For me, that really would have helped the movie to transcend being simply a "good" adaptation of the Predator IP, and possibly turned the movie into a "great" film in its own right.

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