As I alluded to next week, Prey is an excellent movie. Set in the early 1700s, it follows a group of Comanche warriors as they fight back against the alien Predator. It very much keeps with the spirit of the original Predator, in that it’s more of a thriller movie than an action movie wherein a team battles a relentless foe, ultimately prevailing not through brawn but with wits. Like the original, it ratchets up the tension in every scene, keeping you on the edge of your seat throughout.
There’s a lot more that this movie has going for it. It’s magnificently directed, with every piece of its puzzle —the camerawork, sound design, performances, to name a few— all fitting together perfectly in service of its goal. It also does a great job with the Predator, having him be a terrific villain, the sort where the only thing you love more than watching him kick ass is watching someone finally kick his ass. You know what the plot is going into this movie and Prey isn’t out to rewrite the book here, just to tell a really good story.
On top of all of that, the cast is predominately Indigenous American. This is incredibly rare, not just in science-fiction but in movies period. A glance at the Wikipedia category for Native American films by genre list only 18 pages (of which three are Dances With Wolves, The Last of The Mohicans, and The Indian In The Cupboard, movies which are centered on a white character’s experience). Granted, this list is by no means exhaustive —and glosses over a lot of smaller independent movies— but it pales in comparison to the list of movies about Native Americans. There’s a long history of media featuring Native people as the mysterious Other, a monolithic group of people sometimes savage, sometimes noble, most always an antagonistic force. It’s not their story.
But Prey is.
Here, the Comanche are the main characters and are afforded the depth and characterization usually reserved for white characters. It’s firmly their story, with this monster from space being the other. Plus, this isn’t a story about historical pain and angst, the lens through which a lot of stories about Indigenous people and minorities are told. This isn’t a movie where one Beholds The Suffering of The American Indian, this is one where they get to be the badass heroes in a sci-fi thriller.
In Prey, the hero of the story can be a young Comanche woman. She gets to be the one to go toe-to-toe with a Predator (and, spoiler, win). Just as Ms. Marvel shows a Pakistani-American teen as a superhero and Rogue One has Asians as Rebel heroes, Prey demands space for another group of people. Too often it feels like Indigenous Americans get left out of the conversation of popular culture, but there are signs it’s starting to change. Last year we had Reservation Dogs with a bunch of Indigenous teens as the heroes of a coming-of-age dramedy, now we’ve got Prey. These stories are important because they take the people usually maligned and sidelined and let them be the heroes of their narratives. They get to be the main character and, in doing so, change the status quo of who gets to be the main character.
And look, at the end of it all, I want more stories about more people. If they’re like Prey, man, that’s all gravy.