Prey Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Set roughly around 300 years before McTiernan’s Predator, this prequel takes the franchise back to what made the first flick so special. It’s all about the hunt!
Genre: Action / Horror / Sci-Fi
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Cast: Amber Midthunter, Dakota Beavers, Stormee Kipp, Michelle Thrush, Stormee Kipp, Harlan Blayne Kytwayhat, Bennett Taylor, Julian Black Antelope & Dane DiLiegro.
Run Time: 100 min.
US Release: 05 August 2022 (Hulu)
UK Release: 05 August 2022 (Star on Disney+)
German Release: 05 August 2022 (Star on Disney+)
Dan Trachtenberg’s new picture is finally out on Disney+ here in Europe and Hulu in the US. If you read my old reviews of the Predator movies, back in 2018, leading up to Shane Black’s The Predator, or followed my posts on Instagram these last weeks, you’ll know that I am a huge fan of the franchise! The trailer for Prey took me by surprise, as I had no clue that there was a new instalment in production. However, given how often I have been burned by some of the sequels - Predator 2 and especially Black’s take on the saga - I was somewhat sceptical, especially since the trailers did not convince me.
Well, I am happy to report that in my opinion, this is the best film after John McTiernan’s original! So, sit back, relax and let me explain to you why I feel this way, given that it seems to already be a divisive feature among fans.
A young, female Comanche warrior, from the eighteenth-century, is confronted by an opponent who cannot be of this world. The extraterrestrial is on the hunt, being just as bloodthirsty as its descendants 270 years later. As Naru desperately tries to fend off the intruder to protect her tribe, she soon figures out that the battle will be one of life and death.
The screenplay written by Patrick Aison is a prequel to the first four films in the franchise, bringing the premise back to its smaller, contained story; that of hunting and surviving! Furthermore, Aison’s writing, together with Trachtenberg’s direction, took a completely new approach to the premise, by throwing the alien hunter into a period piece about a Comanche clan, living in the great plains of North America. The time-setting also serves as a reset, as technology is set back, creating a more primal atmosphere.
As with the first Predator, the further the plot progresses, the more the genres of horror and science-fiction start pushing into the foreground, transforming it into a tense, bloody survival thriller. It is made clear from the beginning that the writing-directing team has a fondness for the source material, as they put the effort into constructing a well-thought-out narrative, something they succeeded at, for the larger part.
Now, the film does have some severe pacing issues at times. It either screeches to a near halt during tracking segments or contains ridiculous cuts that jump forward in time, due to the lead getting knocked out, missing some potentially vital plot information.
The dialogue is mainly in English, with a few sentences sprinkled throughout in the native language. I believe that it would have given the story more gravitas, to see the picture completely in the Comanche language, with subtitles. I know there is a “Comanche Version'' available on Hulu / Disney+, however, it is a separate cut that needs to be searched for under “Extras”.
When it comes to the personas and their characterisation, let me start by saying that this is in no way a mindless woke flick, as some people are defining it online. In fact, as far as I understand, most characters are decently portrayed, for the period it plays in!
Amber Midthunter was cast as Naru, the young female Comanche and protagonist of the story. Midthunter is incredibly charismatic and likeable as Naru who, in turn, is a well-written, believable female lead; one that is strong, though not invincible. Naru has been training all her life to become a hunter but she still is developing, thus making mistakes. She stumbles, falls, yet gets back up, learning from her errors. It is easy for the audience to root for her, while also being concerned about her safety.
Dakota Beavers as Taabe plays Narus' older brother who is a skilled hunter inside their Comanche tribe. Taabe is protective of his sister, acknowledging her intelligence and skills as a tracker, though ultimately trying to stop her path to become a hunter, as every hunt comes with a risk. Beavers gave an outstanding performance as a Comanche warrior, including having good chemistry with Amber Midthunter.
Dane DiLiegro, as the Predator /Yautja, gave the creature a good threatening and stalker-ish impression, just how the hunter should be represented! What sets it apart from other Yautias in the series, is that it engages more in hand-to-hand combat, though less in stealth tactics. It is also implied that it is the first Predator to land on Earth.
Finally, I want to talk about the dog Coco, who was one of my favourite characters! The dynamic between Naru and her four-legged friend Sarii, is a close one, especially since the dog is vital to her hunting method. It is easy for audiences to emotionally attach to the canine, thus giving them someone else to cross their fingers for.
The cinematography is very reminiscent of Iñaratu’s Revenant. Making use of the wide area in Calgary, Alberta, where most of the picture was filmed. The wide panoramic shots are a breathtaking view most won't forget. The use of natural light and shadows, added to the realism of the 18th-century setting, while the misty-smoky segments created claustrophobia and terror. It is without a doubt, one of Prey’s strongest features!
The practical effects, masks plus make-up all look fabulous and authentic. The wardrobe is simple but stays true to the period of time it plays in. The facial design of the Yautja reminded more of the larger Predator tribe from Predators, which I wasn’t a real fan of. However, I thought the setback in technology reflects well on a more primitive version of the extraterrestrial, this includes the scary design of its biomechanical bone mask. The computer-generated effects, on the other hand, looked poorly, especially once it came to a scene with a bear.
The sound effects are out of this world! The echoing thuds' that dominate the silence of the wilderness, when Naru is practising her axe throws on tree barks, send chills down once back. The crackling noise of thunder and electricity that disturbs the chirping of the birds, when the Predator ship passes the planet's atmosphere is hauntingly terrifying. This is the best a Predator film ever did sound!
The music composed by Sarah Schachner is a good amalgamation of emotional, Native-American vibes, that tell the story of Naru - mixed with a crescendoing orchestra that foresees the coming threat of the Yautja, as well as the thrill of the hunt.
Verdict: I am happy to see this franchise getting back on track! The screenplay by Patrick Aison, in combination with Dan Trachtenberg’s direction, made for a very contained story, focused on the main premise this franchise was built on! The merger of a dramatic period piece that focuses on a young Comanche woman, trying to find her way among male warriors and a bloody stalker-slasher, was adequately managed. It may contain a few pacing issues, yet it never diminishes the entertainment. The characters are well written and the actors give credible performances. Midthunter as Naru, combined with her dog Sarii, make two likeable characters that grow from mistakes made. The cinematography, as well as sound design, is great but the CGI is a little sketchy. My only complaint, apart from those stated in my review, is that it didn’t come out in theatres. Prey is the second-best movie in the franchise and deserves an 8.0 out of 10.
Crucify me if you must… I do believe that it beats Predator 2 & Predators (which I think is criminally underrated!), in terms of narrative quality & production value! Give it a try if you are a fan of the series, you won't regret it! Thank you for reading!