Predator is one of my favorite films (and Arnie’s best, IMO). With Prey releasing this year, it’s getting roped in with the “woke-ism” (or whatever) conversation as forcing feminism. However, one of the reasons why Predator is exceptional is because it’s a feminist film.
Yup, Arnold Schwarzenegger, during the height of the American action film, made a feminist film.
(FYI, spoilers for both films below.)
Predator and Prey share a theme about brawn versus brains. To win, you need to be smart! Obviously. However, both films go much deeper than that, and it’s why they’re way more interesting than typical action flicks.
The original features archetypal manly men who can man their way through any problem during an era in western culture when raging masculinity was idealized, and the smackdown the Predator delivers to Dutch’s crew is very much the point.
“Look at all of your action heroes,” the Predator says. “See the folly of their brutishness? See how weak they actually are? See the limits of their muscles and machine guns?”
Consider the time. It’s 1987. If you see a movie with Arnie or Sylvester Stallone or Jean Claude Van Damme (who, fun fact, was originally cast as the Predator but quit), you know you’re going to see them go through some stuff, but they’ll win. They always do.
But in the first act of Predator, the biggest guy of the group, the one who carries the mini gun with billions of bullets, gets brutally killed right in front of all of our heroes. Suddenly, anyone can go at any time. This sci-fi action flick has become a horror film.
Prey gives us a mirror image of the original. We’re living through an era in western culture when feminism is generally considered good. Prey gives us a female character in an extreme patriarchic culture that rejects women as warriors.
Further, it doesn’t characterize them for their strength, only their ability to do chores and raise children. In the end, manly men trying to man their way through the problem fail (again), and Naru must use cunning and wit to win.
Everyone expects Dutch to win handily against the alien. However, everyone dies, and Dutch barely makes it. No one expects Naru to win against the alien, but she arguably fairs better than Dutch. Together, the two films say something significant, and they turn the lens on us. That’s something every good story should do.