A Thrilling ‘Prey’ Breathes Fresh Life into the Predator Franchise
5/5 very good dogs.
It’s not easy to revive a 35-year old franchise, especially one that has been as rehashed and well worn as the Predator series. Since the success of 1987’s high-octane, high testosterone Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, various directors have tried hand at a compelling sequel that measures up to the original, and most have fallen short. Until now. Director Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) reinvents the Predator movie by stripping away the bombast and machismo, and doubling down on simple storytelling for a film that rivals the original.
Prey functions as a prequel, setting the story in Comanche Nation in 1719. The film also delivers the franchise’s first female protagonist in Naru (Amber Midthunder), a fierce young Indigenous woman desperate to prove herself as a worthy hunter. Despite support from her older brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers), himself a celebrated hunter, Naru is committed to showing the tribe and her family that she has the skills. And she gets the opportunity of a lifetime when a Predator (Dane Diliegro) lands in the Northern Great Plains in search of a worthy hunt.
Naru heads into the wilderness, joined by her loyal dog, to track and hunt the Predator. Along the way she faces the doubt of her peers, French hunters, and the natural threats of the wilderness. Prey takes its time to establish a mood, thanks to gorgeous cinematography and a beautiful score. It’s a simple story that slowly ratchets up the tension before the tribe finally faces off against the Predator. Midthunder turns in a star-making performances as Naru, bringing strength and depth to the young hunter.
Trachtenberg whittles the mythos of the Predator down to its bare essentials: an indefatigable hunter and the prey who is hunting him in return. The film doesn’t need extensive CGI or massive explosions to be thrilling, and the fight sequences remain kinetic and inventive without the need for machine guns or weapons of mass destruction. And what’s more, the film artfully weaves in a message about colonialism and invasion that offers deeper meaning to what is a relatively shallow franchise.
With a cast made up almost entirely of Indigenous actors, Prey is a landmark moment of representation that goes beyond the surface level thanks to Native Comanche and Blackfeet American Indian producer Jhane Meyers. The film makes history as the first studio movie that audiences can watch entirely in Comanche, as it was spoken during the time period (the film will have an English version as well).
If there’s any criticism to be had for Prey, it is that it deserves to be seen on the big screen, and should have gotten a theatrical release. In the meantime, a large screen TV and a Hulu subscription will have to do.
Prey premieres on August 5 on Hulu.
(featured image: David Bukach/20th Century Studios)
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