Title: Prey (Disney+/Hulu 2022)
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Writer: Patrick Aison
Stars: Amber Midthunder, Dane DiLiegro, Harlan Blayne Kytwayhat, Dakota Beavers
Tell me, what is left to say about the Predator franchise? Quite a lot, as it turns out, as the latest entry into the series turns out to be the best one since the original 80s action flick.
Prey takes us away from the jungles and big cities. It goes 300 years back to the world of the native American Commanche Nation, where the young Naru (nah-doo) struggles to find her place in the tribe. Amber Midthunder plays Naru, and like most of the cast, she is Native American – a fitting choice for a movie that seeks to combine the traditional mythologies of the Commanche Nation with the cinematic lore of the Predator franchise.
Naru lives in the shadow of her older brother and the other great warriors of the tribe, wanting nothing more than to prove that she can be one of them. When the Predator’s ship cuts through the skies, she takes it as a sign that the great Firebird is with her and that she can prove herself by “hunting that which hunts the hunter”. Her big brother Itsee (played by Harlan Blayne Kytwayhat) supports and tries to protect her. Their relationship feels believable and authentic.
Her chances to prove herself come when one of the tribespeople is taken by a big cat, and the warriors go hunting for it. At the same time as this happens, the Predator (or Yautja, if you speak nerd) has landed and started searching for what is the most dangerous prey in the land. This Predator (played by Dane DiLiegreo) is more primitive than those we have seen before, with the technology not as polished as in previous movies. Compared to other films in the franchise, Prey is more a show-don’t-tell, without the overly long expositions about what the alien creature is.
Prey also treats us to the best special effects in the series, especially when it comes to the Predator’s cloaking. The entire movie was filmed outdoors in Calgary, using only natural light for the exterior shots. Director Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane, The Boys, Black Mirror) and the production team must have been hunting light harder than Schwarzenegger hunted the original Predator back in the 80s. It truly pays off, though – the landscape and the colors help make this a much more grounded and authentic experience than the usual Hollywood feature movie. Greatly supported by the costume and make-up, of course.
The main drawback of an otherwise excellent movie is its tendency to over-explain what we see from scenes that can feel too long. I do not say this often, but Prey could easily have been trimmed somewhat down, with some scenes shortened, with the trust given to the audience to make up their own minds about what they see on screen. It would have made a better film overall.
Director Dan Trachtenberg is skilled at telling new and original stories set in established cinematic universes, and Prey is no exception. I also suspect that in this movie, producer Jhane Myers, a member of the Comanche Nation, has been equally important as a cultural ambassador to the production. This movie would not have been possible without what seems like genuine insight into the franchise and the first nation culture depicted in the movie.
Prey comes to Disney+ and Hulu, depending on region, on August 5th.