They hunt to live. It lives to hunt.
Prey is a 2022 science fiction action horror film directed by Dan Trachtenberg, written by Patrick Aison, produced by 20th Century Studios, Davis Entertainment, and Lawrence Gordon Productions, and distributed by Hulu and Disney+. It stars Amber Midthunder and Dakota Beavers. This is the fifth film in the Predator franchise, but it acts as the first chronologically. It was preceded by The Predator.
"If it bleeds, we can kill it." - Taabe
A young Comanche warrior tries to prove to her family that she can be a hunter. When a mysterious alien creature begins slaughtering other members of the tribe, Naru takes it upon herself to hunt and kill the predator.
My Expectations Going In
I like the Predator movies, but I don't love them. even the first one I find to be an entertaining piece of 80s cheese, but I don't really find it to be the classic that everyone says it is. I heard about Prey and didn't think much of it. I saw the trailer and didn't think much of it. Then, over the last few days, reviews have been generally positive, so I was intrigued. I didn't think I was going to love it, but I was interested to see what all the fuss was about, so I checked it out.
Prey gives the Predator franchise the much-needed jolt that a lot of dead franchises have been getting over the past few years.
This reboot-prequel works as a totally different direction for the franchise. Sure, the Predator franchise has tried different things in the past, with Predator 2 being set in the city and Predators being set on the actual planet that the Predators live on. Prey decides to go much smaller scale and focus in on the psychology of being a hunter. It delivers the brutal action and nauseating kills that the Predator movies are known for while adding a totally new element by focusing in on this Native American tribe.
Speaking of that, the film uses the backdrop of a Predator movie to give us some awesome looks into the old Native American culture. The main characters of this film are Comanche people, and they obviously have a very different lifestyle than we are used to today. It's set in 1719, so this is an early tribe. It's super cool to watch their lifestyle, whether it's how they use medicine or how they escape certain situations or how they use weapons and fight. I loved watching this new world that I was exposed to, and it blended deftly with the usual Predator formula.
The film also has, for my money, the best action in the Predator franchise...by far. They barely use guns. These are melee, hand-to-hand, brutal fights that do not shy away from showing you blood, guts, spines, brains...anything. They also don't look choreographed. These fights are messy. They aren't clean, because these characters are not professionally trained assassins or soldiers. You feel dirty after watching one of these fight scenes. It's great.
Prey also has some of the best tension since the first Predator film. It gives you two main characters that you truly do care about, so when they are in danger or when the Predator is lurking around, you feel the dread start to settle in. There are shots of empty space that are reminiscent of the first film, which is a good thing. The director knows how to make scenes feel uneasy because of the Predator's power set, which is just intelligent filmmaking.
What makes this movie so cool is that it isn't a group of people being hunted by a mysterious alien creature. This film is about a human hunter versus an alien hunter. This native tribe is being hunted by the Predator, but they are also trying to hunt it. They try to understand how it works and what its weaknesses are. They treat it like any other wild animal, albeit a much more complex and dangerous wild animal. That was a cool element to throw into a franchise that is worn out on new ideas.
Finally, this film is absolutely a period piece. From the costumes to the outdoors to the weapons they use and language they speak, this film really throws you into the time period. I never thought I'd call a Predator movie a period piece, but Prey makes the time period a part of the story, and that was really awesome.
The first act of Prey is admittedly slower than you'd expect. It builds out the character arc for Naru, but it takes its sweet time doing it, and it gets to a point where it's just repeating the same beats over and over. For a film that's an hour and a half long, it spends the first half hour just showing us Naru hunting and juxtaposing that with the Predator hunting as well. It pays off later in the third act, but the first act is definitely a bit of a slog. However, it does pick up from after there.
The film also establishes a set of rules about the Predator (which, if you've seen the other movies, you already know about), but those rules end up being very loose. It kind of breaks its own rules in the third act to have satisfying payoff. I really liked what they did in the final battle, but there was a nagging question in the back of my mind, because it felt like they had to break their own rules for the story and sequence to play out as it does.
The movie also has its fair share of laziness. There's a few exposition dumps that are just done as characters basically telling the audience information they need to know. It feels like the script needed to have one more editing session before it was entirely finished. This is still a really good movie, there are just some obvious kinks that they could've easily worked out before crossing the finish line.
Final Thoughts and Score
Prey is a masterful reboot of the Predator franchise that uses great characters, performances, action, and Native American culture to bolster a series that was floating dead in the water.
I will go Savory here. Age range is 14+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad)
Fun Factor: 8.5/10
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg
Rated R for strong bloody violence, frightening images, thematic elements
Released on August 5, 2022
1 hour and 39 minutes
Amber Midthunder as Naru
Dakota Beavers as Taabe
Michelle Thrush as Aruka
Stormee Kipp as Wasape
Julian Black Antelope as Chief Kehetu
Bennett Taylor as Raphael Adolini
Dane DiLiegro as The Predator