Prey (2022) — II: Dominance and Glory

*SPOILERS*

Prey adds onto the universe of the franchise in a way that is sincere and compelling. Loved Predator; loved this movie more.

Building on the excellent habit of establishing the environment from the original Predator, Prey takes it a step further and composes gorgeous outdoor shots. Letting us know that our characters are an extension of the natural world. Where everything fits in a food chain.

Is he wearing the skull of an enemy, retro-fitted into a high tech mask?

Yautja Hunting Culture

If you are a civilization with a culture hinging around the glory of sport hunting, then it makes sense that you’d be less concerned with the local socio-political structures and supply chain infrastructure of your next target planet, which is what you would focus on if you were trying to conquer. Instead you would frame the structures of your target planet around their food chains. So you camouflage and observe, you find all of the apex predators in these food chains — you stalk your prey.

From there you begin with a true apex predator with its own hunting territory like a wolf, before working up to something challenging like a grizzly bear. You fight it with your bare hands before slashing it open, power snatching it over your head and BATHING IN ITS BLOOD. If a species has developed higher intelligence and tool usage, you then move on to them.

Fucking badass

“But wait, yo, it’s not a fair fight! Them using camouflage tech and sci-fi shoulder cannons isn’t fair!”

Sure. But it’s not supposed to be fair. They’re a space-fairing civilization hunting humans, who still haven’t even left their own planetary system. You know how bored rich people whose fathers didn’t hug them hunt lions and endangered species for the thrill? These aliens do something similar — glory instead of thrill. They want to challenge and push themselves by engaging with our most dangerous apex predators, but ultimately using their superior tech isn’t off limits to use. Underscoring that the relationship is not between two combative equals. It’s between a predator and its prey. You have to earn the right for them to see you as an equal.

Comanche Hunting Culture

As someone who’s never even read a book about historic Comanche culture, I’m only going to be speaking about its portrayal in this film. Prey frames Comanche culture around their local food chains as well, having a rite of passage, kuhtaamia, where you kill a local apex predator, thereby becoming one yourself. The same way they note to themselves that they’re in the lion’s territory, they want other predators to know when they’re stepping into human terrority. Comanche culture as depicted here might share this with Yautja culture.

There’s another group of hunters depicted as well, though — the French fur trappers. Naru realizes that they’re the ones that flayed the buffalo, unlike how the Yautja flays its slain enemies. This serves to illustrate a difference. The Yautja flaying for its ethos of glory contrasts with the trappers flaying for their ethos of monetary gain, which is probably why the Yautja doesn’t bother giving them honorable deaths. Normally it wouldn’t attack someone that is no longer a threat but we in fact see it kill the Comanche-French translator despite his having been maimed. The Yautja doesn’t care about your ethnic or cultural group. He simply has no respect for specific hunting ethos’. Meanwhile the Comanche and Yautja appear to share an ethos.

Likewise I absolutely loved the scene where the other Comanche hunters first encounter the Yautja, a terrifying vision of dominance that Naru could only describe as the thunderbird god when his flaming invisible ship clouds up the sky upon descent. They see this invincible god standing in front of them with weapons they have no idea how to describe and what’s their instinct? Action. On sight. These hunters believe they are apex predators deep down in their bones. You step into their territory, right in front of them, thinking they’re going to run — weapons free boys.

I can’t help but think of the similarities between this ethos and the predominant theme of kaiju movies, especially Godzilla. Why does Godzilla attack humanity? Because she’s the alpha. This is also the same reason she defends humanity from other kaijus. There’s this theme of a natural order that we are too small to influence where the dominant forces fight because there cannot be two alphas. Whereas in Predator, there are no kaijus. We can be respected hunters at the top of the food chain, but we must earn that right.


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