Prey: important information
– Fifth Predator movie in the sci-fi action horror franchise
– Set almost 300 years before the 1987 Predator movie
– Directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane)
– Written by Patrick Aison (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan)
– Featuring Amber Midthunder as Naru, a Comanche warrior
– Release on Hulu in the US and Disney Plus in other territories
The 80s were a turning point for the sci-fi genre. Hugely popular movie series, such as Alien and The Terminator, were made during this time and while these franchises struggled to stay relevant in the modern era, the duo delivered sequels – Aliens and Terminator 2 – that were arguably superior to their predecessors.
The Predator franchise can’t claim that either. The first film in the Jim and John Thomas-created series — the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger film — may have wowed audiences with its tense moments, strong and simple characterization, and over-the-top set pieces upon its initial release. . However, multiple sequels have failed to deliver a worthy sequel to the testosterone fueled sci-fi action original, leaving the Predator film series waning in the eyes of many.
So the arrival of a new Predator movie – Prey – is sure to be greeted with as much intrigue as it is trepidation. Is there really a need for another Predator movie and if so, is it worth watching?
The answer to those questions is a resounding yes. Prey is a thrilling, horrifying and deeply resonating film that finally wakes the dormant Predator franchise from its decades-long slumber. It doesn’t reinvent the series’ narrative formula, but armed with a captivating protagonist, enjoyable audience moments, and an authentic portrayal of Native American traditions and cultures, Prey is the best Predator film since the original.
The hunt begins
Set in 1719, Prey plays Amber Midthunder (The Ice Road, Legion) as Naru, a member of a Comanche Nation tribe who longs to be taken seriously as a skilled and fierce warrior.
Determined to prove her worth, Naru goes on a hunt for an unidentifiable creature that lives on the Northern Great Plains, a vast tract of land spanning Canada and the US. However, Naru soon discovers that the prey she’s chasing is a bloodthirsty alien, armed with all sorts of advanced weaponry, hunting for sport and glory – and it’s got Naru, her Comanche brethren, and other inhabitants of the Great Plain in its sights. Cue Naru fights for her survival amid the many obstacles that come her way – including Predator – in a thematic coming-of-age story.
So, narratively speaking, Prey doesn’t deviate from the tried-and-true plot formula of the Predator series – that is, a Predator arrives on Earth to hunt humans who, though outgunned and outsmarted at first, eventually managed to kill the Yautja warrior to defeat.
As basic as that 2022 blueprint may sound, however, the simplicity of Prey’s story makes it effective. The plot is concise and cohesive in its approach; preceding strange story beats to tell a story that mainly focuses on its two lead roles – Midthunder’s Naru and the titular Predator, played by basketball player turned actor Dane DiLiegro (American Horror Story) – and their respective character arcs.
For DiLiegro’s Predator, that means an ever-threatening and ominous threat to Naru and his company. In contrast, Naru’s journey from a daring but naive wannabe warrior to a full-fledged, inventive fighter is the classic “hero journey” arc typical of such films.
Thanks to the brevity of the plot, Prey also leaves an amazingly strange quirk for the Predator franchise – that is, the quartet of films prior to Prey all clock in at 107 minutes. With its relatively lively 97 minutes running time, Prey deftly progresses through its tight narrative, striking a satisfying balance between its quieter, tender moments and those of the action-packed, thrilling variety. It even forgoes an obvious horror trope that once you realize what it is you’ll be thankful for its exclusion.
That’s not to say Prey’s story is perfect. Viewers hoping for a subversive or wholly original plot may be disappointed that Prey is a re-imagining of what happened before, albeit a story set in a different time period and location. There’s even a scene where several creatures prey on each other – for a movie called Prey, one starring a creature called a Predator, it’s brazen but dazzling on the nose.
The delayed reveal of the Predator – we don’t get a good idea of it until halfway through the movie – is also somewhat frustrating. Sure, given the Predator’s updated look (more on that later), director Dan Rechtenberg and writer Patrick Aison probably wanted the reveal to be a key moment in the film. However, fans of franchises already know what Predators look like and behave like, so delaying this reveal until the second half of the film feels like a minor misstep.
Some of the film’s English-language dialogue is also contextually questionable. A few of those cases are due to Prey’s occasional exposition of heavy story beats, which seem unnecessary for a film as straight forward as this one. But with Prey also available in full in Comanche – historically the very first Hollywood movie to do so – this particular sore point may not be as noticeable in the alternatively dubbed format.
Honoring the past for a better future
The inclusion of Comanche language is also not a symbolic gesture by Prey.
The entire film captures Comanche traditions and cultures in stunningly authentic detail, while Midthunder’s casting of a Native American actor in the lead role is testament to Prey’s faithful portrayal of the Comanche community.
The decision to hire almost exclusively Native American and First Nation talent in front of and behind the screen is a testament to the filmmakers’ desire to faithfully represent the Indigenous people and their way of life. From native actors, including Dakota Beavers and Stormee Kipp, to Comanche consultant Juanita Pahdopony and executive producer Jhane Myers, Prey is committed to portraying Comanche society as truthfully as possible.
In an industry that has done shockingly little to provide true equality for Native Americans — they’ve been routinely portrayed as violent, primitive barbarians in Hollywood productions — Prey feels like a really important step in the right direction.
Given the magnitude of the sprawling landscape shots and Naru’s personal journey, parallels will certainly be drawn with the movie The Revenant, starring Leonardo Di Caprio. Though Prey seems to be better able to accurately depict Comanche society and heritage than The Revenant’s illustration of Pawnee and Arikaran Nations.
Such care and attention extends to the history of the Predator franchise as well. Since Prey is set nearly 300 years before the events of the 1987 original, the alien species in Prey are not as technologically advanced as they are in other parts. There’s no plasma cannon here – something just as nice replaces it, though – nor is it equipped with the iconic headgear that Predators are known for.
Indeed, Prey’s version of the Predator is more wild and gladiator compared to previous iterations, but to call it primitive would be doing a disservice. Prey’s version of the Yautja still packs a powerful arsenal of weapons, classic facial features, and those iconic sounds that Predator fans will instantly recognize. With a self-proclaimed Predator fanatic in Trachtenberg at the helm, it was clearly important to do justice to the Predator projects that preceded it.
Other tributes are dotted with Prey’s story, but special mention must go to the fight sequences. They’re especially worthy tributes to what’s come before, with the final showdown between Naru and the Predator being an obvious tribute to the original film. Without giving too much away, it’s a series that seemingly rounds out the franchise; one handled with dexterity of touch, plenty of tension, and two determined warriors smashing each other with hammer and pincers with satisfying effect. With a few Easter eggs scattered throughout, and the ending teasing a possible sequel – or, whisper it softly, a new movie series in the franchise itself – Predator fans will be thrilled with what Prey delivers from action and reference perspectives.
Prey is the most entertaining and exciting Predator movie since the first installment of the franchise. The unique setting in the past, the emotional plot and the authentic portrayal of indigenous peoples breathe new life into a series that has lost its way, but it is also a film that does not lose sight of what came before it.
Narratively, it doesn’t shift the franchise in any new direction, and it’s likely some will criticize Prey for playing it too safe or venting to nostalgic fans who’ve been deprived of a really good Predator sequel for so long. It’s a bit of a shame that the film is forgoing a theatrical release to launch exclusively on streaming services – Hulu in the US and Disney Plus in the rest of the world – because it’s a film designed to be seen on the big screen.
However, given the movies that preceded Prey, there’s little competition to suggest that this isn’t the best Predator movie since Schwarzenegger’s Alan “Dutch” Schaefer begged us to “Get to da choppa.” It’s unashamedly violent, surprisingly gripping and simplistically effective. Sometimes that’s all you need from a movie.
The hunt for a valuable Predator sequel is over – and the name is Prey.
Prey launches on hulu in the US, and Disney Plus in non-US territories, on Friday, August 5.