“Predator” is one of the action classics of the 1980s. After three sequels and two spin-offs, there is now a prequel about the bloodthirsty alien for the first time. “Prey” is set 270 years before the original cult film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
LONDON – “What the hell are you?” scolded the weary Arnold Schwarzenegger, aka Dutch, as he faced the extraterrestrial being for a showdown in the Central American jungle. In John McTiernan’s 1987 sci-fi action thriller “Predator,” Arnie ended up being the sole survivor of a group of muscle-bound Vietnam veterans. A young indigenous girl fights against the Predator in the new edition “Prey” produced for streaming.
The year 1717 in what is now southern USA. Young Comanche warrior Naru watches as something glowing falls from the sky. Shortly thereafter, mysterious killings of animals begin to pile up. Naru eventually observes a brutal, terrifying figure that can turn invisible. The old film cliché: neither her brother nor the other male warriors want to believe Naru. By the time they see the Predator with their own eyes, it’s already too late for most.
“Prey” only picks up speed in the second half
“Prey” – the seventh film about the alien hunter if you count the “Alien vs. Predator” spin-offs – has quite a few good moments, such as when the Predator lands on earth for the first time. But it takes far too long for things to get really exciting. And the first really exciting and maybe best scene of the film is thanks to a bear – “The Revenant” says hello. Only the second half of the film picks up speed a bit.
Unfortunately, director Dan Trachtenberg (“10 Cloverfield Lane”) didn’t manage to create a consistently gripping thriller, for many reasons. With the exception of the main actress Amber Midthunder, the characters, who are mainly played by indigenous actors, act too woodenly, which is also due to the uninspired screenplay. In the 1987 cult film, Arnie, “Rocky” star Carl Weathers and ex-wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura made everyone laugh with their pithy sayings and macho demeanor. In “Prey” the dialogues are banal, clichéd and absolutely humorless.
The visuals of the film are almost too clean and sterile
The number of Predator victims should have remained about the same. But where Arnie used to look increasingly worn out in the Central American rainforest, Midthunder as Naru still looks fresh out of the mask even after various fights. The war paint fits perfectly. All in all, despite the beautiful landscapes in the North American prairies, the film’s optics are too clean and too sterile to create an oppressive atmosphere.
The biggest problem, however, is that the Predator prequel almost ridicules its central character. Anyone who remembers the bitter battles that Schwarzenegger – and others like Danny Glover (“Predator 2”) and Adrien Brody (“Predators”) – deliver with the Predator will be amazed at how incapable the technically well-equipped alien is in combat works with Naru. The young warrior seems superior to him. And when she’s not, some coincidence saves her.
Measured against the other, partly meager “Predator” sequels, “Prey” isn’t too much of a disappointment. Despite the meager tension, the 100 minutes are somewhat entertaining. In the end, “Prey,” available now on Disney+, is an average streaming film that will likely be quickly forgotten. A visit to the cinema would actually not have been worth it. dpa