Prey is the latest film in the Predator series, and it might just be as good as the original. No, seriously. The franchise has been notoriously hit and miss since the 1978 sci-fi action film hit the big screen, with no lead living up to the enormous, muscular boots that Arnie left behind. Prey changes that.
Instead of following a group of grizzed US Army veterans with their flamethrowers, machine guns, and the might of all their military technology, Prey is set in the early 18th century, and the Predator’s opponents are Native American hunters. They have much more primitive weapons – bows and arrows and throwing axes – than Arnie & co., but just as much skill and ingenuity. There are great performances all around, but the simple premise of putting a Predator in a different time period is incredibly effective in revitalising a tired series. However, it’s been done before, and by a video game with the exact same name.
“You’re wrong!” I hear you shout. “You’re wrong, Ben Sledge, features editor at The Gamer [sic] and I’ll tell you just how wrong you are in the most abusive manner I possibly can!” There’s a fervent glee in dishing out abuse on the internet, but stand down, dear reader, for I am actually right.
You see, I’m not talking about cult hit Prey (2017) developed by Arkane Austin and published by Bethesda Softworks. No, I’m talking about Prey (2006), developed by Human Head Studios, which Bethesda bought the rights to and Arkane turned into a different beast in all but name. For ease of comprehension, going forward I’m going to refer to the games as Prey and Prey (Arkane). I guess I’ll refer to the film as Prey The Movie or something. Not confusing at all. We really need new names for things.
Unlike Prey (Arkane) – which was, again, inspired by the 2006 game in title alone – Prey saw a family of Native Americans abducted by an alien spaceship, and you (Domasi ‘Tommy’ Tawodi) must fight your way out. There’s also a bunch of stuff about separating your spirit from your body to pass through doors and come back to life and stuff, but the basic premise is strangely similar to the 2022 Predator film of the same name. There are differences, Tommy is Cherokee whereas Naru is Comanche, the game is set in the modern day rather than the 18th century, and Tommy fights hundreds of aliens on their own spaceship rather than battling one xenos hunter on Earth. But for a film with the exact same title as a game released 18 years prior, there are a surprising number of parallels.
Pitting a Native American character against extraterrestrials is not so unique that I’m accusing the film of plagiarism or anything like that. Tommy and Naru both using the alien’s own weapons against them is also the natural course of such a coming together. But the fact they have the same title puts the weird cherry on the cake.
I’m sure it’s one of those weird coincidences, and it’s entirely likely that the filmmakers weren’t even aware of the 00s game (which appears more inspired by Alien than Predator anyway), but a quick Google of their potential title would have likely yielded a result that was unerringly similar to their prospective film. Besides, at this point that search probably only shows results for Arkane’s decidedly non-Native American game of the same title, although that might not have been the case when the film was pitched to producers back in 2016, before Arkane’s sci-fi shooter was released.
I’ve not played it, but Prey looks like a pretty good game for something that came out in 2006. It had portals before Portal – yes, shoot-throughy, teleporty, return-journey-y portals – and a variety of alien tech to take chunks out of your otherworldly enemies with. Judging only by the time it was released, it maybe doesn’t have the authentic depiction of Native American life or nuanced interrogation of masculinity and hunter/prey dynamics that the film does, but if you liked the film, surely it’s worth a shot? If it’s awful, you can always watch the movie again, fully dubbed in Comanche this time around.
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