It’s not easy to bring a 35-year-old franchise back to life, especially if it’s been as revamped and worn out as the Predator series. Since the success of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s high-octane, high-testosterone vehicle in 1987, various directors have tried their hand at a compelling sequel to live up to the original, and most have failed. So far. Director Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) reinvents the Predator movie by stripping out the bombast and machismo, and doubling down on the straightforward storytelling for a movie that rivals the original.
Prey works as a prequel, setting the story in Comanche Nation in 1719. The film also introduces the franchise’s first female protagonist to Naru (Amber Midthunder), a fierce young Native woman desperate to prove herself as a worthy hunter . Despite the support of her older brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers), himself a famous hunter, Naru pledges to show the tribe and her family that she has the skills. And she gets the opportunity of a lifetime when a predator (Dane Diliegro) comes to the Northern Great Plains in search of a worthy hunt.
Naru heads into the desert, joined by her trusty dog, to track down and hunt the Predator. Along the way, she faces doubt from her peers, French hunters, and the natural threats of the wilderness. Prey takes its time to establish a mood, thanks to gorgeous cinematography and a beautiful score. It’s a simple story that slowly builds tension before the tribe finally confronts the Predator. Midthunder turns into a star performance as Naru, bringing strength and depth to the young hunter.
Trachtenberg reduces the myth of the Predator to its essentials: an indefatigable hunter and the prey that hunts him in return. The movie doesn’t need extensive CGI or massive explosions to be thrilling, and the fight sequences stay kinetic and inventive without the need for machine guns or weapons of mass destruction. And what’s more, the film cleverly weaves together a message about colonialism and invasion that offers deeper meaning to what is a relatively shallow franchise.
With a cast comprised almost entirely of Indigenous actors, Prey is a historic moment of representation that goes beyond the surface level thanks to Native Comanche and Blackfeet American Indian producer Jhane Meyers. The film goes down in history as the first studio film that audiences can watch entirely in Comanche, as it was spoken at the time (the film will also have an English version).
If there are any criticisms to be made for Prey, is that it deserves to be seen on the big screen, and should have gotten a theatrical release. In the meantime, a big-screen TV and a Hulu subscription should do the trick.
Prey premieres August 5 on Hulu.
(featured image: David Bukach/20th Century Studios)
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