Midthunder brings welcome change to Predator series

Midthunder brings welcome change to Predator series

Naru (Amber Midthunder) faces the alien predator in “Prey,” a Hulu original movie and prequel to the “Predator” franchise.

Jeff Mellinger Screen Shots(Sept. 8, 2022) — There has never been a bad film in the Predator solo series. However, there has never truly been a great one – until “Prey.”

Throughout the series, many people have fought the Predator. Macho commandos, macho cops and macho warriors lost many among their ranks, but ultimately overcame their antagonist. Of course, 90% of those involved were men.

When we think of the Alien films, the first thing we think of is Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). A woman is the face of the franchise. Yet with the Predator franchise, there have been no women of note. Thankfully, “Prey” fixes that problem.

After a few memorable turns on TV shows, Amber Midthunder makes her major film debut as Naru, an 18th century Comanche. Belittled by her male tribesman, including her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers), Naru is determined to prove she can hunt and do everything they can do.

Naru and her trusty dog Sarii attempt a lion hunt with the boys. Her plan is solid, but her mind is elsewhere after spotting something else – something big. No one believes her, of course, so she must steel herself and prepare to contend with this threat on her own. Armed with only her throwing axe, she goes on a hunt for the giant menace.

Less is more

Having seen all the films in the series, I know pretty well what the Predator can typically do. However, this is a Predator of the past, so it does not have all the technology of its descendants. One of the coolest things about “Prey” is that the filmmakers go to great lengths to show that not only must the humans have to make do with what they have, but the Predator must also.

As no human is armed with much more than a musket, the fight scenes are more tense than in any Predator film. One fight involves the dastardly French, who send waves of men after the Predator. It is a thing to behold. I wish I had been able to see it on the big screen.

I am not sure why this was released on Hulu only and not in theaters. Critically, it is the most well-received film of the series; the studio may be kicking itself that it did not attempt to reap a late summer coup at the box office.

Nevertheless, even if you’re not a fan of the franchise, “Prey” is as excellent an action/adventure film as you’re likely to find on any streaming service. A-

3-D fun with original ‘Jaws’

“Jaws 3-D” (1983) is, by all rights, one of the worst movies ever made. It was created solely to cash in on the franchise appeal and the 3-D gimmick of the time. Had that movie been re-released in the theater this month, someone would have been fired. Thankfully, it is the original 1975 “Jaws” that is now in glorious 3-D.

If directors use 3-D cameras to make their film, the effects are far better than post-film conversion to 3-D. The 3-D craze of the 21st century died out when producers finally realized people did not want to see every movie in 3-D, especially when they were converted after filming.

3-D technology of 2022 is vastly improved, making it worth considering converting a classic such as “Jaws.”

Any shot with a large depth of field looks amazing in 3-D. Capt. Quint (Robert Shaw) at the stern of his boat with the rolling waves in the background feels like it could have been filmed in 2022. Shots of people frolicking in the water create the sense we are sitting on the beach watching them. (Especially since the A/C was out in my theater.)

The big shark himself still looks great. As real as the shark effects were in 1975, it is amazing how, decades later, films use mostly terrible CGI sharks instead.

The visuals are not as sharp as they should be, and the night scenes are overly dark. This may be an issue with 3-D conversion of a 47-year-old movie, but these are minor complaints.

The re-release seems timely as it prominently features a political leader refusing to do something in the name of protecting his citizens from an unseen menace. What a shock when more people die because someone in charge did nothing.

As I had not seen the film in a couple decades, I forgot how suspenseful it is. Director Steven Spielberg oversaw the 3-D conversion, and the effects definitely add to the tension. I cannot wait to see “E.T.” in 3-D this fall. Film: A; 3-D: A-

Taking the ‘Bullet’

Bryan Tyree Henry and Brad Pitt star in the action film “Bullet Train.”

Even though it is a Brad Pitt film, I was not going to see “Bullet Train.” August is well known as dumping ground for movies that studios have no faith in. However, once I heard about $3 movie day, I figured a cheap ticket to a night ride on “Bullet Train” would be a gas. I was not wrong.

If you are a fan of Pitt at his goofiest (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “True Romance”), “Bullet Train” is right up your alley. He plays a happy-go-lucky assassin who claims to have no luck at all. When he boards a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto on a mission to steal a briefcase, he immediately realizes the deck is stacked against him.

Other assassins are on board, and a Japanese yakuza boss is involved in one way or another with all of them. The plot is ludicrous; no fewer than three times did a huge contrivance keep the story going.

With so many capable actors, a lot of the dialogue falls flat. They should have taken a few more whacks at the script, too. They also could have cut about 20 minutes out of an unnecessarily long film.

There are several laugh-out-loud moments, and Pitt is charming as usual. The fight scenes are well choreographed; I would expect nothing less from director David Leitch (“Deadpool 2”). The film plays like a mash-up of “Deadpool 2” meets “Speed,” with major cameos from both films as well.

You might not find the film in theaters again for that price, but a $3 on-demand rental is worth it. B-

Jeff Mellinger

Jeff Mellinger is a screen writer and film buff. He holds a BA in Film Studies and an MFA in film production. He lives in Concord.