Prey is the best film of all the Predator franchise’s five movies.
Naru (Amber Midthunder) is part of the Comanche Nation in the Great Plains in 1719. Naru is a born hunter who is dealing with gender expectations. Her tribe, which is male dominated, dismisses her desire to be a hunter and she is shuffled off to gather instead of hunt. That does not stop her from honing her hunting and tracking skills. One day, Naru sees lightning in the clouds and takes this as a sign that she’s ready for her hunting trial.
The lightning in the clouds, as we know it, is the arrival of the Predator – or as fans know the species as: Yautja. This is the first ever Predator to visit Earth and they are learning the ecosystem and hierarchy of species to hunt – because as the trailer tells us about humans and Predators: We hunt to live, it lives to hunt.
There is a pattern to Predator movies that seems to follow the original Star Trek films. With Star Trek, every other film (the even ones) are good movies. With Predator it seems that every other film, but this time the odd ones, are good movies. The first Predator is a classic and a true movie of its time. The third one, Predators, I enjoyed immensely because how it creatively changed the formula of a Predator movie. Prey is the fifth film and is great for how it imaginatively changes things up and tells an original Predator story within the Predator movie template.
Yes, Prey follows the formula of the first film: A Predator arrives on Earth, humans must figure out what’s going on and when they do figure things out, they need to determine how to defeat the Predator.
The essence of all Predator movies – maybe not the fourth – is how humans use their ingenuity and creativity to defeat a foe that has immensely more advanced and powerful weaponry. Here in Prey, the gap between human and Predator weaponry is huge – the humans are basically fighting with sticks and arrows. Predator films are underdog movies in which humans must rely on their smarts to win a fight that is overwhelmingly not in their favor and that’s what makes them so appealing to me. And no, I do not count the Alien vs. Predator movies as real Predator movies.
The whole cast of Prey is fantastic. Amber Midthunder, whom I last saw in Legion, is a true star. She makes us empathetic to Naru’s desire and wishes to become a hunter against all odds. She is able to make the audience understand that Naru does not want to have the life that was assigned to her because of her gender, that she is destined to be more and in order to accomplish that, she must use not only her hunting skills but also her intellect and creativity. And to top that all off, she is a true badass in the action sequences.
Dakota Beavers is similarly great in his role as Taabe, Naru’s older brother who is the best hunter of the tribe and the next inline to be chief of the tribe. He is empathetic to Naru’s aspirations to become a hunter and guides her along as a brother would.
The Predator in Prey is a tweaked design that I thought was terrifying. It is smaller in size, it does not wear much armor and it possesses technology that is less mature compared to the Predators that we have seen previously. And this all makes sense given that this movie happens 300 years before the events of the first film. While it has brought similar weapons, they are primitive compared to what we have seen before – though the weapons are still as brutally deadly. The skull helmet that this Predator wears is strange yet terrifying. And this Predator is more nimble and agile than any of the others that we have seen onscreen. The raw speed that it exhibited while chasing some characters through a grassy field was astonishing. And it has to be said, the clicking sound that the Predator makes: Fear inducing.
My one complaint, and this is minor, is that if the Predator is so proud to be such a great hunter, the use of his invisibility cloak is a very cowardly thing to do. C’mon Yautja, that’s like playing a videogame on Easy Mode.
The movie is a slow burn, but when it gets into gear, it is brutal in the action that is presented on screen – earning every bit of the R-rating that it got. There are quite a few exhilarating action sequences throughout the movie that are spaced perfectly with quiet moments that lull us into a false sense of security. This builds suspense and makes the action sequences even more tense and powerful.
Jeff Cutter’s cinematography is gorgeous and left me with moments of beauty that remained in my mind even after the credits finished rolling. This is where I think Disney did the movie and us the audience a disservice by not giving Prey a theatrical release. Cutter’s visuals are breathtaking and I feel they would have had even more impact had they been projected onto a large screen for audiences to experience. I hope that Disney comes to their senses and finds a way to get this movie into theaters, even if for a limited run. I know I would pay to see Prey on the big screen.
The score by Sarah Schachner is brilliant and works so well with the movie as it ebbs and flows between quiet moments, sheer terror and intoxicating action – and as I am listening to it now while writing this review, works well even outside of the movie. At times, the score has an unsettling sound to it that makes the images on screen even more chilling. Kudos to Schachner for such a great score – there are cues in the score that are reminiscent of Schachner’s score for 2019’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
“If it bleeds, we can kill it.” There are many small callbacks to the previous movies which are well integrated and there to delight those of us who have seen all the movies.
Prey is a riveting and engrossing movie that revitalizes the Predator franchise by giving us a streamlined and focused movie about hunters hunting each other. This atmospheric movie perfectly captures the terror, fear and ferocity of the first Predator movie – and improves on it by grounding the characters and action in reality.
I highly recommend Prey. Having seen previous Predator movies is not necessary to enjoy Prey.
Watched at home, streamed on Hulu.
The paintings during the opening parts of the end credits hint at future movies in the franchise.