Amber Midthunder Reinvigorates the Predator Franchise

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A savage alien hunter meets its match in a fierce Comanche warrior who refuses to be underestimated. Prey reboots the Predator with an axe-throwing, girl power storyline set three hundred years ago on the American plains frontier. This latest installment, the seventh if you include the abominable Alien vs. Predator films, takes a lower tech approach to entertainment glory. The snarling, dreadlocked baddie still rocks invisible camouflage; but mostly eschews futuristic weaponry for eviscerating implements. Our Indian heroine outsmarts her powerful adversary with cunning, courage, and rage. Prey is a solid sci-fi thriller that brings much needed creativity to a stale franchise.

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In 1719, Naru (Amber Midthunder) bristles at her place in the tribe. The Comanche teen doesn’t want to be relegated to woman’s work. Naru believes she has the skill to be a great hunter. She’s mocked and dismissed by the other young warriors. Her older brother, Taabe (Dakota Beavers), warns her not to be overly ambitious. She might get herself killed or seriously injured. Her mother, Sumu (Stefany Mathias), has trained Naru to recognize useful plants. She should be a healer that gathers crops.

Naru begs to join the hunt for a vicious mountain lion. She notices unfamiliar tracks for a huge beast. The found entrails and skins of deadly animals continue to pique her interest. Something else is stalking the wilderness. An up close and personal encounter with the strange creature horrifies her. Naru cautions the hunting party to be wary. Taabe’s concerns about the cougar prove to be correct. A dejected Naru won’t be sidelined. She knows her brother is in mortal danger. Their enemy is unlike anything in this world.


Dan Trachtenberg Increases the Protaganist’s Awareness

Director/co-writer Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) skillfully increases the protagonist’s awareness. The Comanche have no frames of reference or knowledge of extraterrestrials. Naru literally doesn’t have a clue what’s happening. She has to observe the Predator (Dane DiLiegro) in action to gauge its capabilities. It’s immense size, strength, and cloaking ability can’t be overcome by a straightforward attack. Naru uses arrogance and overconfidence as a weapon. She’s not viewed as a credible threat. The Predator, just like everyone else, misjudges Naru’s tenacity.

Prey bounces back from a somewhat strained first act. Naru’s gender plays heavily in establishing the premise. The patriarchal belittling is poured on thick as she battles against tribal norms. The plot thankfully picks up steam when the blood starts gushing. Naru has to prove that she can survive and outmatch several threats. Despicable French trappers join the slaughter in a welcome subplot. Their efforts to deal with the Predator provides Naru valuable insight.


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Visual Effects in Prey

Prey’s visual effects get better as the film progresses. CGI animals in the beginning look like they were pulled from the Buck Hunter arcade game. Trachtenberg saves his budget for the Predator’s beatdowns. A scene against the French trappers in a shrouded fog is brilliantly done. This sets up an action-packed climax where the Predator finally gets a taste of its own medicine.

The success of the film falls squarely on the shoulders of Midthunder. She’s remarkable in every facet of her character. Naru is nuanced with her family but an absolute bad-a** against the merciless Predator. She has the fortitude to slay a monster. I hope to see her character again in a sequel.

Prey is a production of 20th Century Studios and Davis Entertainment. It will have an exclusive Hulu premiere on August 5th.



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