Prey and the Way Forward for a Franchise

Earlier this year, Prey was released. The fifth movie in the Predator franchise, it received near universal acclaim (93% on RT), and probably would have been a box office juggernaut if it was released in theaters. It is, by all accounts, a really good movie. But I think it’s also something else. I think this could be how the Predator comes back from the dead.

Most hardcore Predator fans will tell you that since that first Arnie outing in 1987, the franchise has been on life-support. Sequels failed to reach the high-water mark set by the first movie, and it has slowly devolved into a parody of itself. Even the Alien vs Predator crossovers only served to highlight just how far two once great action and sci-fi franchises had fallen (there’s no hope for Alien. They should have called it after the second movie). But with Prey, 20th Century Studios have a blueprint that can guide this once-great franchise back to its rightful place.

One thing that the Predator franchise has going for it is that it’s an anthology. Prior movies don’t have to inform the next. Each movie can be an entirely self-contained universe of characters, events, and motivations. The only piece of connective tissue between the movies is the Predator, and its eternal hunt for the perfect hunt. That is one of the things that makes Prey so good to watch. As a guy who’s barely seen the Predator movies, I never feel lost. I never feel like I had to have seen 35 years of movies to understand character motivations. In a world of cinematic universes, there is still a beauty, and utility, to a movie in its own world.

Harnessing this Power of Anthology™, Predator movies should be stories of human history. The movies should show the Predator in different points in human history, from Feudal Japan (I did steal this idea from a TikTok), to Medieval Europe, to pre-colonial Central and South America, etc. The Predator interacting with (read: viciously murdering) different types of people, along with a hopefully faithful recreation of those diverse cultures can honestly only be a good thing. The attention to detail in Prey, from the casting of majority Native Americans to the historical accuracy and everything in-between, all helps to ground that movie in that time period, as well as provide the base for an emotionally fulfilling story.

Speaking of the story, none of this works without a really good story to tie it all together. Without that, then the gimmicks will be just that, gimmicks. Hollow shells that try (and fail) to recapture the magic of the franchise. Dan Trachtenberg and Patrick Aison crafted a brilliant tale in Prey. It is, at its heart, a coming-of-age story. A story about a girl who strives to prove her village wrong about her. It just so happens to be a horror movie with an extraterrestrial hunting machine. If the story isn’t rock solid, then none of the rest of it matters in the slightest.

Prey is a wonderful movie for a great number of reasons. One of the lesser acknowledged reasons might be that it has shown the studio how to save a dying franchise.

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