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Prey Review

August 5, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
PREY Image Credit: 20th Century Studios
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Prey Review  

Directed By: Dan Trachtenberg
Written By: Patrick Aison
Runtime: 109 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated R for strong bloody violence.

Amber Midthunder – Naru
Dakota Beavers – Taabe
Harlan Blayne Kytwayhat – Itsee
Julian Black Antelope – Chief Kehetu
Stefany Mathias – Sumu
Samuel Marty – Puhi
Mike Paterson – Big Beard
Troy Mundle – Spyglass
Nelson Leis – Waxed Mustache
Dane DiLiegro – The Predator

The Predator film franchise gives it another go with a new vision from 10 Cloverfield Lane filmmaker Dan Trachtenberg. After the franchise hit absolute rock bottom several years ago, Trachtenberg takes the film series in a more back-to-basics direction. Prey opts for a grittier, standalone approach that works to the film’s benefit.

Set in the Comanche Nation 300 years ago, Prey follows a young Comanche woman, Naru (Midthunder), who seeks recognition as a hunter among her tribe. Naru is already a skilled tracker and healer, but she lacks experience as a hunter. Still, Naru seeks to take her tribe’s rite of passage for its hunters, a “Ku̵htaamia,” where a hunter must hunt something that is also hunting them. Unfortunately, the land nearing Naru’s tribe has become the hunting ground of an interstellar visitor, a Predator.

At first, Naru thinks the arrival of the Predator could be some type of omen, but she soon notices signs that something is amiss in their territory. A creature is on the hunt, and the monster might soon make Naru and her people its new targets. Naru must put all her knowledge and skills to the test to stop this creature and protect her people.

What works about Prey is that Trachtenberg dumps a lot of the nonsense that bogged down more recent franchise installments. The movie is a quick and dirty experience about a highly advanced, strong, cunning interstellar hunter that wants to hunt prime targets. The Predator is a dilettante hunter that wants to hunt dangerous game. It does not want DNA to evolve. The creature wants to hunt, and it wants trophies to celebrate its kills. Trachtenberg wisely brings the creature back to its roots without worrying about sequel-baiting or setting up future installments.

The film’s period setting offers a nice change of pace. There are no luxurious, modern amenities or high-tech weaponry to assist in hindering the Predator. The creature needs to be outsmarted and out-witted. The only high-tech weaponry comes from the Predator.

Trachtenberg achieves some nice verisimilitude in establishing Naru and her tribe’s home in the Comanche Nation during the early 1700s. This is enhanced by cinematographer Jeff Cutter’s impressive cinematography that builds off the setting’s natural, earthy beauty. The camerawork imbues Prey with a more natural overall look that pairs well with the film’s premise of an interstellar Warrior against an aspiring Comanche warrior. Trachtenberg’s direction and Cutter’s camerawork provide an immersive look at another time and place, offering a strong level of immersion.

While the Predator’s arrival happens early in the story, the creature’s encounter with humans is a slow burn. This allows the first confrontation with the monster to truly simmer. It establishes Naru’s strengths, that of her knowledge and ingenuity even among her tribe, and her central weakness, her lack of experience as a hunter.

The story is generally Naru’s journey toward finding her strength as a hunter. Amber Midthunder acquits herself well as a Comanche tribeswoman who wants to prove herself to her peers, and especially her brother, Taabe (Beavers). She also has a cute relationship with her pet dog, Sarii. What helps with her battle against the Predator is establishing that while the Predator outmatches Naru with its arsenal and strength, Naru has the home field advantage. The Predator does not know the territory and terrain as well as Naru.

The earlier parts of the film do well in establishing Naru’s inexperience as a hunter, despite her tracking skills and self-determination. She does make mistakes and learns as she goes. These scenes help make Naru’s fight against the creature more believable and ultimately satisfying.

While the setting and cinematography for Prey are filmed exceptionally well, a few elements appear rather lacking. The film uses quite a bit of CG animation and CG creature effects. Many wild animals in the film are rendered in CG, and the animals look artificial. The film has some beautiful, natural sets and landscape shots, but the noticeably CG animal sequences tend to break that immersion Trachtenberg builds throughout the experience.

The Predator creature is different from any of the past takes, which is fine in principle. However, the creature is also achieved onscreen using a heavy amount of CG rendering. Once fully revealed, the creature looks decent, but it still lacks the pure terror and iconography of the Stan Winston original, portrayed by Kevin Peter Hall. This particular version of the monster also appears more vulnerable than previous iterations. However, it is not clear if Prey depicts the Predators’ first encounter with the human race or not. The first film implied that Predator creatures had previously been to Earth and hunted humans for many years. So, there is a possibility that the Predators were less knowledgeable about human capabilities during the time period depicted here. The possibility also exists that the creature in Prey could hail from a completely different tribe or set of Predators.

Prey is not an earth-shattering take on the Predator series. There is little in the way of innovation, but it does at least provide a more traditional, primal take on a Predator encounter. After all the past failures, Prey might prove that the future of the Predator film franchise is in the past. More anthology-type stories that are loosely connected, standalone stories, such as Prey, might do the Predator series a world of good.

Prey debuts as a Hulu Original in the US on August 5. It’s also available in Latin America as a Star+ Original and all other territories as a Star Original on Disney+.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Prey is a solid action-thriller take on the Predator series. Dan Trachtenberg provides good direction with immersive cinematography work by Jeff Cutter. Prey is a stronger, more back-to-basics take on the Predator creature that serves the franchise well. Despite that, there are some drawbacks to the film's rather underwhelming CGI and visual effects. The Predator does not look as threatening and iconic as it used to. Regardless, Prey is an entertaining, quick, raw, bloody, and dirty action-thriller.