Film Review: Prey
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
David Entertainment and Lawrence Gordon Productions
Streaming on Hulu 08.05
The 1987 sci-fi action thriller Predator was the kind of influential and instantly iconic movie that left no doubt the property was going to be mined for all it was worth. 35 years later, with the release of Prey, the new prequel coming directly to Hulu, the word “worth” is finally applicable again.
Prey takes place in the Comanche Nation in 1717 and follows Naru (Amber Midthunder, The Ice Road), a young woman who longs to be a fierce and capable hunter, like her brother, Taabe (Dakota Beavers), though she is always told to hang back and is encouraged to focus on other duties. One day while she is out hunting alone, Naru sees something in the sky. She believes that it is the firebird, the sign that it’s time for her great hunt—in which she must prove herself by hunting something that is also hunting her in return. She’s not wrong about the last part, though the adversary she is about to go toe to toe with is nothing like what she expected—a mysterious and otherworldly creature like nothing ever seen before, unless, of course, you live 300 years in the future and have seen all four previous films. The hunt is on, and the stakes are high as the fate of Naru’s entire camp is on her shoulders.
Director Dan Trachtenburg already proved himself as a master of suspense with 10 Cloverfield Lane, the best film of that series. Prey is his chance to show that it was no fluke, and both Trantenburg and Naru come through with flying colors, establishing their badass supremacy and that they both know exactly how to handle this Predator on a level that stacks up quite favorably with action icon John McTeirnan (Predator, Die Hard) and Arnold Schwartzenegger himself.
Prey is smart and entertaining, with gorgeous cinematography by Jeff Cutter (Orphan). The period setting is highly appealing, and Trachtenburg handles the language issue shrewdly by introducing French trappers who speak French when then are speaking French and English when trying to speak Comanche, establishing a clear point of view that may not have been as strong as if the film had actually been made in Comanche with subtitles, yet works remarkably well. It gives the film a feel that owes as much to The Last of the Mohicans as it does to Predator, though in terms of story structure and tone, it adheres more closely to the formula of the latter than any of the previous sequels. The biggest difference is that Naru is a far-more compelling character than Dutch Schaefer ever was, and Prey has a much lower toxic masculinity quotient, a factor that has made the original Predator lose some of its appeal over the years.
Midthunder is an exciting presence who has the potential to be a big star, having already given an outstanding performance this summer in The Wheel and with the Netflix live action version Avatar: The Last Airbender yet to come. Beavers is memorable as Taabe, and the brother-sister relationship is believable and at times touching. Dane DiLiegro, a former NCAA basketball player, does a nice job filling the large shoes of Kevin Peter Hall as the Predator, bringing a formidable sense of power to the role.
Prey is ultimately just a sci-fi action movie, albeit one with a historical and feminist twist, though that’s not a complaint. For the first time in 35 years, the Predator franchise has given us a movie that knows exactly what it wants to be and delivers on its promising potential. It’s also quite accessible if you haven’t seen any of the other films. Whether you’re a long time fan or a newbie, Prey is a seriously tasty popcorn movie, and it earns a resoundingly enthusiastic recommendation from this hunter. As Arnold would say, “Get to da Hulu!” –Patrick Gibbs