Every Main Character In Prey Ranked Worst To Best

It was well into the 21st century before 20th Century Studios made another great Predator film. With the help of Hulu, they finally did it by going back in time. "Prey" follows Naru, a young Comanche girl, through the Great Plains circa 1719. She wants to be a hunter just like her brother but faces the ultimate initiation when she runs into the Predator and becomes its prey. 

"Predator" from 1987 is arguably the scariest movie ever set in broad daylight, but it didn't start that way. After weeks of shooting in a sweltering Mexican jungle, the monster costume finally showed up, and everyone was underwhelmed. "Probably a couple weeks before we needed the Predator, a box comes. And we open it up, and it looks like a giant red rubber chicken," recalled an assistant director. The production had to be halted for a redesign of the monster we now know and fear. Future martial arts movie icon Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally inside this suit, but he dropped the costly monster mask and broke it. He was also too short and wouldn't stop throwing kicks. "Look, the Predator is not a kickboxer!" the exasperated director repeatedly warned. 

Somehow, out of this mess, a horror masterpiece was spawned — as well as an endless series of sub-par sequels. Sure, the Adrien Brody-led "Predators" was kind of fun, but "Prey" is the first film to capture the tense hunter-and-hunted spirit of the original, and that's largely thanks to a small but solid array of new characters, ranked here from worst to best.

6. Big Beard

Big Beard (Mike Peterson) doesn't have a proper name because he's not really a character. He's sort of a cartoon villain. If "Predator" has one big flaw, it's that it treats the white characters as one-dimensionally as Hollywood used to treat natives. Old Hollywood Westerns often used indigenous people as cannon fodder, but the best films in the genre, like John Ford's "The Searchers" from 1956, grappled with anti-native racism. The irrational bigotry of John Wayne's Ethan Edwards is the obstacle he must overcome. "Prey" falters by offering nothing but contempt for Europeans, so when they die, who cares? Yawn.

"Prey" centers on the native story, and that really works. It's beautifully shot with stunning vistas of Calgary, Canada, standing in for the Great Plains where the Comanche once roamed. When Naru finds steel bear traps, we know a European horde can't be far away. The French frontiersman are then revealed as filthy, hideous, and unshaven, like Big Beard. He's a grotesque man of great girth who captures Naru and her brother for bait to lure the alien creature.

Big Beard represents the European incursion into native land. He's not the only visitor, but unlike the Predator who is redeemed by his warrior code and unmatched skill, the French trappers are clumsy and disgusting. Eventually, the balding and bulbous-nosed cretin Big Beard is dispatched with sadistic cruelty. Movies need villains, but "Prey" was reaching storytelling sublimity before this thinly sketched slimeball arrives.

5. Aruka

Michelle Thrush plays Aruka, the greying, traditional mother of Naru. She's always tending to one domestic chore or another, like making medicine while ensconced in her teepee. None of her duties take her too far from the Comanche camp. She represents the traditional feminine role in her tribe that the rebellious Naru is rejecting. Aruka wants her daughter to leave the hunting to her strapping and quite skilled older brother, but this advice is unheeded. Thrush's Aruka, though, isn't some dowdy downer, simply stifling her daughter's dreams. She's passing on tribal wisdom. None of it is condemnatory, and there's an unmistakably proud glint in her eye as Naru blooms in her chosen role.

Of Cree descent, the Canadian actor is native herself and has a long list of credits representing different First Nations tribes on such shows as "Tribal" and "Hell on Wheels." There's not much dialogue in this action-oriented script, but Thrush has a dignified air that establishes both the Comanche home and the tribe's proud legacy for which the heroine Naru is fighting.

4. Sarii the dog

Sarii the dog is Naru's faithful companion and a great example of why humans domesticated these loyal creatures. Sarii intervenes when an enormous grizzly is bearing down on Naru. The dog distracts the bear and lets it chase her instead. She's similarly helpful when facing this new Predator, but mostly Sarii is a tracker. She picks up the scent but is so well trained she never freaks out and gives Naru's position away. Now, think of your own lazy and lumbering dog who loses its mind every time a car drives by. Maybe it's not just us humans who have lost some survival skills.

Sarii is played by Coco, and she's not even a trained Hollywood dog. She's an American dingo, a smart breed but a "hot mess" on set, according to her "Prey" co-star Amber Midthunder. "She was not a movie dog, she was adopted to be in this movie, and she just happened to be very high-energy. And then it would be time to do stuff ... sometimes she'd do it, sometimes she wouldn't. But obviously, it all ended up fine, because she was great, and everybody loves her."

Director Dan Director Trachtenberg had a lot on the line and admitted it was "always nail-biting on set" whether or not Coco would hit her mark, but he ended up expanding her part anyway. "It was very exciting, lots of cheers would happen when we finally got a great take with Coco."

3. The Predator

As mentioned, the original actor inside the Predator suit was the relatively diminutive and unnecessarily high-kicking Jean-Claude Van Damme. He would go on to do great things in Hollywood, but he didn't have the stature for the role. He was replaced in the 1987 original with the late Kevin Peter Hall, who stood a staggering seven-foot-two and a half. The fact Hall dwarfed the rather imposing seven-time Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger is part of what made "The Predator" so scary.

Hall played the Predator twice, but in "Prey" we get the six-foot-nine Dane DiLiegro inside the legendary monster suit. DiLiegro is a former college basketball player, who at 31 has played lots of monsters, including Ba'al, a fertility demon, in "American Horror Stories."

Hall brings a noticeable athleticism to this apex predator, but "Prey" also benefits from some excellent creature updates (technically, regressions). Since this is a prequel set two hundred years before the original, the Predator race, though still radically advanced, was doing things slightly differently in 1719. Gone is the elaborate space helmet past Predators have worn. It's replaced with a white face mask that better allows us to see the creature's horrifying mandibles when it does that squatting rage-growl thing. Gone also is that shoulder-mounted laser gun. In its place is a similar infrared-guided arrow system. All the gadgets are pared down in subtle ways that make sense and tell us this creature's civilization is changing over time, too.

2. Taabe

Dakota Beavers gives a standout performance in his acting debut as Naru's older and more established hunter-warrior brother, Taabe. When he and Naru track down a lion that nearly killed one of their friends, Taabe marches back into camp with the beast's head. He takes credit for the kill — possibly to protect his sister. She is injured on the adventure, and Taabe has to carry her unconscious body home. It gives him real doubts about her ability, but eventually, he admits he only got the better of this angry lion by using her plan and that it was Naru's spear that struck the killing blow. Taabe represents the middle ground between Naru's desire to become a hunter and their disapproving mother, Aruka.

Taabe is strong and skilled and battles the Predator in one of the most thrilling one-on-one showdowns in the franchise's history. The 22-year-old first-time actor and Arizona native is an accomplished musician but had no time to play on the set. Instead, Beavers insisted on handling his own action scenes. "I told [stunt coordinator] Steve McMichael I wanted to do all the riding and the stunts, and he let me," Dakota told Slashfilm. His derring-do even included some high-flying wire work. "So all the riding, all the fighting on there is me, and Dane [DiLiegro], he's in the suit, so we're actually both together, duking it out there, right there in the moment."

1. Naru

Amber Midthunder makes a serious star turn in "Prey" as Naru, a budding Comanche warrior-hunter with a serious nose for tracking. Midthunder's most notable previous role was probably her small part in the standout neo-Western "Hell or High Water" alongside Chris Pine. She was 19 at the time, but in "Prey," released six years later, she still comes off as the teen daughter of a respected elder woman of her tribe, Aruka.

Aruka is a traditionalist and wants her incorrigible daughter to conform. However, Naru is determined to hunt with the boys. She's slight of frame but has a strategic and inventive mind. She attaches a rope to her signature hatchet, turning the weapon into a deadly sort of boomerang. She can bury it in a tree, retrieve it instantly, and throw it again. Her problem-solving skills and ability to deal with new technology come in very handy when facing off against a killer from a radically advanced alien civilization.

Midthunter carries "Prey," and the strength of the film is the script that lets her do it. There's very little cross-cutting. The camera stays with this compelling protagonist on her often lonely battle for survival. And like the original, the opening act has no monster, just a methodical and suspenseful buildup that makes you care. The first two acts are the strongest sections, as Naru, just like Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) eventually will, cleverly navigates a hostile wilderness where a Predator is lurking.