The Predator returns to Earth once more in a back to basics approach that proves very much that the hunt is back on….
I can’t start this review without putting my hand up and admitting that I adore Predator 2. Yes, I am that guy!
Before teaser trailers to teaser trailers and 24/7 movies news at the click of a button, the only time a movie fan would get a snippet of information about an upcoming movie is when a trailer was shown at the cinema, one of the main reasons why even now I await excitedly for the previews before the main event.
Having been blown away only three years earlier with that bombastic rumble in the jungle spectacle, seeing my first glimpse of the ridiculous concept of Roger Murtaugh replacing Arnold Schwarzenegger for the sequel, sort of worked in my eyes.
Danny Glover an everyday man taking on the Predator….how can you not be on-board? and I’ve probably re-watched the second film more times than the original, for the simple reason is that I know Arnie delivered one of the greatest 80’s action movies, but someone needs to show a bit of love for a 90s underrated follow up.
Sadly since the LA showdown, the Predator franchise has become a bloated mess, what with its ill-advised two film mash up with the Xenomorph, an actual ALIENS film title inspired approach for a further sequel and not even the exciting return of Shane Black to the fold could save The Predator from becoming the worst entry of them all.
That 2018 addition seemed to put an end to any hope of a great film to match the first two entries and yet now all of a sudden Dan Trachtenberg who had already stunned fans with a delicious follow up to Cloverfield has just delivered the simply titled PREY, a Predator movie that reminds us all in just how cool this concept can be in the right hands.
Let’s put it out here, a negative if you will in that Trachtenberg doesn’t reinvent the wheel here, This is not a bold new take on a familiar concept, a mythology being rewritten for a new generation. This is a return to the stalk and kill alien we all grew to love way back in that central American rainforest who fought and lost (or did it) against a pure 80’s Arnie, a guy in the prime of his action megastar status.
Cleverly this film serves more or less of a prequel, set 300 years before Dutch memorably shook hands with Dillion before they set off for their jungle jaunt.
Here the focus is on a Comanche tribe most notably a young woman named Naru (Amber Midthunder), who want’s to show the male members of her tribe that she is equal in the tracking and hunting stakes, despite being in the shadow of her more popular brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers), who is basically becoming the new young Chief that all will listen too.
Its Naru who first see’s a strange object in the sky and then odd footprints that doesn’t register to anything she has encountered before. No one will listen, even when they find a snake having had its own skin taken off. “Could a lion or bear do that?” she protests, but nothing is done.
Knowing that the audience has been down this path before, Trachtenberg wisely shows this new slimline predator as soon as the plot allows, with the usual noises from the distance making us aware that its there, somewhere, hiding between the trees.
Its refreshing for a film that has contained this creature seven times now, not to sell out and become a homage to what has happened before. There are little hints here and there, tiny glimpses of past glories, but this is not a written love letter to the fanbase, thankfully PREY is here to tell its own tale and for that reason alone it works tremendously in parts.
In many ways right from the start, the whole set-up gets the viewer on-board as we instantly think that if a military trained rescue team were no match for this killing machine, then how can a tribe stripped of all necessary guns and firepower fare when faced to a challenge? Can a simple axe along with an arrow work? Or how about a Tomahawk on a rope?
It takes a good hour before the action kicks in and yet we can’t take our eyes off the lavish world we are in, a beautiful surrounding that belittles its own budget and the fact that Midthunder is so good in the role – Disney would be proud – that she owns every scene, a calling card to Hollywood if there ever was one. If the writers chucked in an 80’s inspired training montage for her then I would have seriously given this the five star treatment – honestly!
And yet when the action arrives, its worth the wait! A staggering bear sequence that is the best the franchise has offered in all its 35 years makes you sit up and realise that PREY means business and you’ll be forgiven for sidestepping the deeper meaning within the plot in who is actually the bad guy or guys are and the subtle gender commentary, if you are in too engrossed in the battle of wits between the two hunters an alien and a Comanche.
If anything, you want more! The climatic finale doesn’t quite live up to the promise in terms of thrills and spill’s as I wanted to feel danger, I wanted to be gripped to my armchair as the frisk narrative build up truly deserved it. We didn’t quite get that, but how can we grumble when no fan watching was expecting this finished article to be so rich in quality and yes, I do agree it should have had a theatrical release, but after the Batgirl news this week, I am just happy we have this film in our lives.
PREY joins Maverick: TOP GUN as being one of the year’s best films, two follow ups inspired by their 80’s original. Whatever next? Don’t be surprised if we see another alien from that decade return from space to bring even more horror to film fans of old and new,
Yes Mac and Me 2 starring Paul Rudd has to be next….surely?