Prey Review


PLOT: Naru, a member of the Comanche tribe, is ready to become a warrior, but must ultimately prove herself when she faces off against a fierce alien hunter on its first visit to earth.

REVIEW: The Predator series has had a rough run for a big chunk of its existence.The misguided and mythology-heavy Alien vs. Predator movies took much of the mystique out of character and put the hunter in more than a few awful and goofy positions. Nimród Antal’s Predators was on the right path by semi-returning to the original’s formula but forgot the horror that went along with it, giving us a bland and forgettable entry with subpar action and a waste of Adrien Brody.

When Shane Black returned as director and co-writer for The Predator, most, including me, assumed we’d be getting the quality and intensity of the 1987 original. I think the one thing the splintered internet fan base can agree upon is that The Predator was not the return to form we were hoping it would be. Instead, it went for the aesthetic and tone of an R-rated Marvel movie for reasons I have yet to decipher. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Prey. Since this series has had a sad case of diminishing returns, and with an exclusive launch on Hulu, I figured this would be a hard swing and a miss.

Not to be the eternal pessimist here, but after a while, you just got to read the signs and bet accordingly. And you know what? I was wrong. I’m glad to say that Prey understood the assignment and wisely went back to basics, giving us a small, personal story that leans heavily into the suspense and horror that has eluded the series since the ’90s. Stripping things way down from the previous high-octane action film, The PredatorPrey makes a wise choice to go intimate. Besides a few random tribe members, the only major characters are Naru, played by Amber Midthunder, and her brother, Taabe, played by Dakota Beavers. 

As the mentoring and formidable warrior, Beavers plays Taabe with a sense of humility, yet when it’s time to act and defend his people, he stands tall and jumps right into the action. Being Beavers first acting role, he comes off as a natural hunter and fighter, giving the character a strong sense of legitimacy. But this is Amber Midthunder’s movie, and damn if she doesn’t prove herself a capable and commanding lead, causing me to raise my drink on more than one occasion.

Something that the trailers frame incorrectly is Naru’s purpose and journey. She wants to be a warrior, and that’s not far out of the realm of possibility in her tribe. Instead of something as ridiculous as “fighting the patriarchy,” It’s more down to how ready she is in the moment. Has her training level reached the necessary competency to kill what needs to be killed? Prey isn’t a story of an already over-powerful warrior that the men won’t allow joining the ranks, but the journey of a woman ready to step up and take on the challenge.  

Watching Naur try and fail yet get back up and keep on punching is a great character arc and one worth exploring. It’s the speech from Balboa boiled down over ninety minutes. Amber Midthunder owns it as Naru, resilient yet, vulnerable. And the character never feels less feminine, like it’s a generic gender swap but one that is fully fleshed out, living in the the 1700s. Prey isn’t breaking any new ground, but director Dan Trachtenberg and writer Patrick Aison take their time developing Naru, her role in the tribe, and her ultimate goal as a warrior. 

Going back to the first two entries, the hunter in Prey is less of the focus than it was in Predators or The Predator and more of a background threat. It takes a lot of restraint not just to toss the famous hunter in every other scene, but Trachtenberg and Aison took lessons from the original movie and kept the Predator rightfully in the shadows. I feel the Predator works best when treated like the shark from Jaws. Ever present but rarely in sight. In true monster fashion, things become an absolute bloodbath when it does show up. Regarding the character of the Predator, it’s hard to challenge Kevin Peter Hall, whose iconic presence made the character we all know and love with parts one and two, but Dane DiLiegro does a fine job making it his own. He plays it fast and aggressive, making his interpretation far more feral, like a vengeful wolf. 

On the downside, Prey’s biggest weakness is its budget and, specifically, the CGI. I get that we don’t have the same money and freedom we did in the ’80s and ’90s, but the CGI animals, blood, and even the Predator effects sometimes look wonky and rough around the edges. Another thing that didn’t work for me was the comically evil French fur trappers. I get the reason behind their inclusion and will admit that the battle between them is violent, wild, and beautifully shot, but they come off incredibly over-the-top. I get it; the Europeans are not the good guys, but this ends up coming off like a hilarious overcorrection or even fan fiction at a certain point. 

Is Prey the best since the original? No. I’m sorry, but Predator 2 is the perfect sequel that was able to go bigger and crazier without losing the horror or the mystique. And once you introduce the cocaine-loving El Scorpio, you just can’t compete. And to no one’s surprise, it is not better than the original either. But Prey fits nicely into its own niche category and is a refreshing entry and one that sets up a winning formula for the foreseeable future. Think Apocalypto meets Predator, and you get Prey, a solid addition to a series that has needed a win for longer than I can remember.

Prey will stream exclusively as a Hulu Original on August 5, 2022.

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Originally published at www.joblo.com

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