Prey (aka Skull / Predator 5) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
As the fifth Predator movie, Prey feels like a fresh dose of new blood for this aged sci-fi franchise. The past Predator movies have all felt like they were stumbling around in the dark, only finding originality in altercations of adding more of the titular monster (Predators) or changing the tone to one of comedy (2018’s The Predator). This film is so completely different in that it changes the setting and focus, where the Predator becomes more of a mysterious alien force, and the fight for survival is more compelling than the weapons the alien has in his arsenal this time.
Prey is set in 1719 amid the Great Plains, centering on a Comanche tribe. Among the tribe is Naru (Amber Midthunder), a woman who has been trained as a healer but really wants to be a warrior. Proving herself in both these professions, she aims to accompany her brother on the hunts for food through the forests. With the limited perceptions of women, Naru isn’t given much of a chance, as her first mission ends in accident and failure. Feeling disgraced, she seeks out another means of proving herself. Maybe defeating an alien from the stars will prove she’s a real Commanche warrior.
She’ll get that chance when the Predator creature arrives on Earth, aiming to hunt down all this planet has wildlife. Armed with camouflage, energy weapons, and blades, this vicious alien goes about slaughtering everything he comes into contact with. So when the Comanche warriors encounter this alien hunter with his advanced tech, it’ll take more than bows, arrows, and hatchets to take down this threat. Smarts are required, and Naru happens to have plenty. But she won’t be able to fight the Predator alone, as she’ll need some help from her reluctant tribesman. She’ll find even less help with the enslaving French voyageurs roaming the woods.
Amber Midthunder’s performance is brilliant in this brutal tale of survival. I loved her not just as a badass warrior but as someone trying to stress the value of unity when it comes to defeating a common foe. Her struggles of convincing others to work with her may come too late for the cocky men that believe the warrior spirit or powerful weapons of the era will be enough to prove themselves. They won’t, and it’s only by placing trust in Naru that they come closer to defeating this Predator at his own game.
Even though the representation of the Comanche tribe is uniquely portrayed (including an option Comanche-only audio track), the other big draw is the action of facing down the Predator. There’s a whole lot of violence in the film as the Predator guts bears decapitate humans and stalk them with great terror through the woods. The film also isn’t devoid of dark humor. There’s a beautifully absurd moment when one of the gun-wielding French is given a chance to fire at the Predator at point-blank range. Of course, he won’t win against the Predator’s advanced armor, but you have to laugh when the ricochet ends up killing the gunmen.
Prey is one of the best Predator movies in a long time and exactly what the franchise needed. It’s brutal and bloody while also finding something more to explore than more Predator lore and weapons. As cliche as it may sound, this picture gets the franchise back to its roots where it’s not about throwing more Predators at the screen or pitting them against the Xenomorphs from Alien. It’s about the scrappy nature of humans trying to defeat a seemingly invincible outsider force, leading to an exciting finale where that Predator kill is so damn good.