by Daniel Lucas
This month we’re watching a new release, as well as a classic film on Disney+. First, we have PREY, a sequel to Predator – will it tick all the boxes for being a great action film? We’ve also reminisced with Flubber, celebrating its 25th anniversary, is there more to this film than Robin Williams?
PREY – 2022
Dan Trachtenberg’s Prey is a fine example of what action should be in the 21st Century, and how prequels and sequels of action films should be handled. Released to Disney+ in July of 2022, it follows Naru, played by Amber Midthunder, against the Predator on the Great Plains in 1719. Unlike past Predator films, there are no muscle-bound, mud-smeared soldiers wielding rocket launchers and screaming about helicopters, only some hunters, fur traders, dead buffalo, and an alien.
Naru is a skilled Comanche hunter who seeks to prove herself as a warrior, and spurred on by the appearance of a Thunderbird (a creature from Native American myth, not a puppet on strings) she sets out to do just that. However, she finds a series of obstacles in her way in typical ‘proving your worth’ fashion, including a lion, a bear, the French, and a Predator.
The film is good, it’s as simple as that, with engrossing action, fine sound design and cinematography, and excellent special effects. When it comes to action films, the performances are never top priority, and yet Midthunder makes a compelling lead who rides the line between action hero and horror ‘final girl.’ Trachtenberg’s direction is competent and crisp, and the small slice of the Native American world we see feels thorough and concise. Despite what appears to be an authentic take on the setting, however, the Comanche speak almost entirely in English (though not wholly) with rather jarring American accents, and have lines with all the gravitas of an episode of Modern Family, which can take you in and out of the film constantly.
But the modern accents and simplistic lines take little away from what is an all around well-made and enjoyable watch, that unlike most action add-ons doesn’t feel like a slog. I recommend this to anyone who thinks ‘they don’t make good action anymore.’ Prey gets a 7/10.
FLUBBER – 1997
Turning 25 this November and directed by Les Mayfield, Flubber follows Philip Brainard, played by Robin Williams, inventor of a new material which may save his college and his relationship. Flubber’s not like most family films of its time, or most Robin Williams films, because unlike those, it isn’t much. It’s the type of film small children watch on holiday.
Philip Brainard is a forgetful mad scientist, who is desperate to invent a new source of energy to save Medfield College (for which his fiancé Sara is president) from closure. But when his experiments create a substance he calls flubber, he forgets his third wedding day. Brainard uses his genius, and flubber, to try and win Sara back, and save Medfield College.
As films go, Flubber is flimsy, with a plot of little impact, characters of little importance and a misleading promise that the little green mascot would be at the centre of the film. In fact, the characterful and mischievous Flubber that we meet vanishes for a long time, and is replaced with a tub of flubber-infused cream, which then fuels the film’s antics. However, whilst the poster might be misleading where little gooey green things are concerned, the promise of Robin Williams is thankfully true. He brings spades of charisma and carries the film on his back, and joined by Danny Elfman’s musical whimsy, it makes for a sweet watch. The visual effects stand up well for 1997, and the performances, direction and sound design are all fine, but easily forgotten, save for Williams.
Flubber’s plot is basically Mrs Doubtfire (Robin Williams doing the strangest thing he can to avoid couple’s therapy) just with a coat of ‘mad scientist’ paint over top. It’s hardly the best work of anyone involved, except maybe the effects team, but that doesn’t mean the kids won’t watch it a thousand times in a weekend. Flubber gets 5/10.