After 35 years and six increasingly mediocre movies, the “Predator” franchise has long since exhausted its ideas and probably its audience. Nevertheless here comes Dan Trachtenberg’s “Prey,” a sort-of prequel and an attempted CPR of a monster who still sports the familiar dreadlocks, but whose flaring oral cavity is mostly denied the lingering, fleshy close-ups we have come to love. Maybe this time the studio suits balked at said orifice’s blatant invocation of a vagina dentata.
At any rate, this Predator (played with gusto by the former professional basketball player Dane DiLiegro) remains, for a frustrating length of time, a diaphanous blur. Dropped out of a spaceship in the Northern Great Plains in 1719, the beast proceeds to research the local wildlife. Taking note of the bloody remains, Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young Comanche woman, and her brother (Dakota Beavers) determine to track the perpetrator. Fatherless and fearless, Naru wants nothing more than to become a respected warrior. Let the other women do the gathering; Naru is all about the hunting.
Yet despite a female-empowerment theme and an adversary fairly bristling with fancy weaponry, “Prey” never builds a head of steam. Jeff Cutter’s gorgeously verdant landscapes glide languidly past, and Midthunder (whose fine performances have too often been buried in forgettable projects) is gutsy and game. But pitting Naru against a series of pop-up threats — an enraged bear, deadly quicksand, skeevy French fur trappers — is barely a plot. Even if you include the seven-foot space alien.
Boasting a cast drawn almost entirely from Native American and First Nations actors, “Prey” is painstakingly attentive to the authenticity of its Indigenous setting. Similar attention to the script would not have gone amiss.
Rated R for flesh-eating rats, rapacious Frenchmen and a thingy from outer space. Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes. Watch on Hulu.