“Varus, Varus, give me back my legions!” cries the aged emperor Augustus after the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in AD 9, where up to 20,000 Roman soldiers were slaughtered in the Germanic wilderness. Little does the emperor know, it is not the failure of his general Varus that has led to the destruction of his legions, but a rampaging extraterrestrial hunter.
Prey is an excellent Predator film. It’s probably the best since the 1987 original. It’s stylish, treats the Comanche tribe with respect and eloquence (there should definitely be more Native American representation like this in modern media, and fewer Vikings, please), and has a badass protagonist who wages war with a Predator—who, by the way, punches a bear so hard in the face that its neck breaks.
Of all its many positives, I loved the reference to the Thunderbird, a gigantic and powerful creature of Native American legend, as the Predator’s ship streaks across the starry sky of the American southwest. This alone opens up future Predator films to explore other cultures, historical events, and the fascinating stories, legends, and tragedies that have befallen many peoples across the world and throughout history. Prey had Native Americans both on screen and behind the camera, providing a platform to share their story in a way that appeals to a mass audience.
Predator’s core concept is the perfect vehicle to explore historical settings and events. Here you have a chaotic evil force that is only there to hunt—it has no political affiliation, and takes no sides. It allows for people on both sides of the conflict to join forces against an external force, much like the trapper who can speak Comanche helping Naru while she is in the French camp. This alien creature exposes the best and worst in people. As viewers we also want to watch the Predator do Predator things. It's a win-win situation.
I went first to the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest because the murky woods of Roman-era Germany would make the perfect horror setting for a Predator film. It’s also a story of oppression, conquest, and subjugation, something that Prey explored brilliantly with the parallels between the French trappers, the Comanche tribe, and the Predator itself. I also want to see a Germanic berserker slice their axe straight through a Predator’s head.
For context, Teutoburg Forest was one of the worst military defeats the Roman Empire ever suffered. Varus, the general who led three legions into battle, was renowned as a harsh leader who taxed the Germanic peoples heavily. He was cruel and arrogant. It is the ideal underdog story that could echo Prey in so many ways, including exploring the Pagan stories and mythologies of the united Cherusci tribes under Arminius, the leader who led the ambush in the woods which saw all three Roman legions completely wiped out.
The series’ horror comes from individual stories, however, and watching the Predator slice through 10,000 soldiers is hardly going to make for a psychological thriller. You’d have to split the retreating soldiers into smaller groups. Many of these Roman soldiers would have been auxiliaries, and their caravan included hundreds of regular citizens, craftspeople, and support for the wider army. These are the stories that are often overlooked in historical dramas, and the blueprint Prey has laid out would be the perfect way to explore them. I can already hear the infamous Predator clicking echoing through a foggy forest where there is no immediate escape for those nearby.
I’ve seen lots of other ideas thrown about since the film’s release, including the American invasion of the Pacific Islands (the story of Ramree Island, where both American and Japanese soldiers faced the horrors of a murky swamp and its crocodile inhabitants), the Conquistadors in South America, the trenches of Verdun, Medieval Japan, Ancient Egypt, the Crusades, Ancient China, and on and on and on. The potential is enormous.
Prey, however, was at its best when it explored the Native American culture deeply rather than using it as a cool backdrop. Any future film would have to do justice to its setting, and the people who lived these stories. The film was praised for its entire dub in the Comanche language, a brilliant touch that sets it apart from other films set during this time period. Without the story of Naru, her brother, and her family, Prey would have just been another horror action film.
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