Prey Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Disney + | Hulu
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg
Written by Patrick Aison
2022, 99 minutes, Rated R
Released on 5th August 2022
Amber Midthunder as Naru
Dane DiLiegro as The Predator
Dakota Beavers as Taabe
Harlan Blayne Kytwayhat as Itsee
After years of great sequels (Predator 2), heart-in-the-right-place sequels (Predators), mixed-bag sequels (Alien vs Predator), too-dark-to-see-quels (whatever was happening in Alien vs Predator: Requiem) and war-crime-levels-of-bad sequels (The Predator), an action sci-fi classic gets back to basics with Prey. You see what they did there.
The new title is representative of the franchise’s renewed spirit. No more gimmicks; no more crossovers; nobody even says “get to the choppah” or calls the thing ugly. With a refreshing lack of irony, Prey drops in on an early visit to planet Earth by a roaming Predator. Landing in the Comanche Nation of 1719, our vagina-faced monster quickly gets to work doing what Predators do best: hunting.
Struggling to be taken seriously by the men of her tribe, only warrior Naru (Amber Midthunder) is aware of the beast’s existence. As she attempts to stop her brother and fellow tribesmen from blindly wandering into its path (they think it's a big cat), Naru is drawn into a deadly confrontation with the creature.
Director Dan Trachtenberg and writer Patrick Aison have plenty of tricks up their sleeve, but Prey is essentially a stripped-back return to the franchise’s roots. What the film remembers is that Predator was a man-on-a-mission Arnold Schwarzenegger movie… which happened to have a grossly overpowered alien thrown in at around the halfway point. Predator 2? A sweaty inner city cop movie… which happened to have a grossly overpowered alien thrown in. In Prey, we have a coming-of-age period piece… which happens to have a grossly overpowered alien thrown in. Like the first two entries in the series, Prey would work just as well without the vagina-faced alien.
But this Predator movie does have a Predator in it – and a terrifyingly competent one, at that. After years of being a punching bag for Xenomorphs and stupid hybrid Predators, the beast gets to be scary again. With Dane DiLiegro as the Predator, Trachtenberg delivers the best action sequences since the first film, their Predator stalking, slashing, stomping and skewering everything it deems to be fair game. Cleverly utilizing its gadgets and cloaking mechanism in ways the franchise has never seen before, this is no mere retread of previous films. Even the setting - centuries before Schwarzenegger and his team ever encountered the thing – allows for a vastly different, less evolved kind of Predator. We wouldn't fancy even Arnold's chances against this one.
Naru, however, gets a convenient suit of plot armour from the Predator’s casually sexist refusal to take her seriously. The film's themes are timely without being on-the-nose and make Naru’s journey a compelling one. Midthunder is terrific as the young warrior, plausibly holding her own against both the Predator and the legions of (human) men who underestimate and underutilize her skills.
Where Prey does sporadically disappoint is in its expository dialogue and some of the paths it takes to get Naru up to speed on Predator lore. After a brutal battle through the woodlands of the Comanche Nation, there’s a sense of anticlimax to the final scenes, and an unexpected – yet distracting – similarity to a tie-in comic from 1996.
Regardless, this is the best Predator since either 1987 or 1990, depending on one’s preference (I will always go to bat for Stephen Hopkins’s sequel). A striking return to form.
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