The Predator series takes a 300 year step back and tells something of an earlier story of the famous hunting alien. I don’t think it would be described as an ‘origin’ story, it just shows that the Predator species have visited Earth much earlier in history than what we’ve seen before.
This time, the Predator arrives on the Northern Great Plains in 1719 to hunt some prey. A young Comanche woman Naru (Amber Midthunder), also sees herself as a skilled hunter, but is dismissed by her family and members of her tribe. She is told hunting should be left to the men and she should be happy in the traditional role of a woman.
But Naru is smart enough to understand there is something unusual and dangerous roaming the area. Eventually, it’s Naru and the Predator hunting each other. Who will be the last one standing?
Prey is certainly a different type of Predator film from what fans have grown accustomed to seeing. Ever since the 1987 original with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Predator has come back again and again – and the sequels/reboots have gotten progressively worse and worse. Predator 2, Predators, The Predator. The Predator even went on to share the screen with the xenomorph aliens. Those collaborations didn’t make anything special happen.
With Prey (it’s nice they finally went with a different title this time, there’s not many variations you can use with the word ‘Predator’), director Dan Trachtenberg set out to make a more unique Predator story – and it has really caught fans attention!
When the first trailer hit many were confused and apprehensive about Prey. A prequel? Commanche Indians? It’s such a low-tech setting. A young warrior girl will fight the Predator? It’s quite a drastic change from the usual testosterone-fueled action core the series has been known for. Did the series go woke with Prey? This might be worrisome.
Well, there’s a cord that Hulu has hit with Prey. The film has gotten A LOT of attention, has given Hulu it’s all-time number one premiere film, ignited a lot of conversation on social media and has gotten a lot fans re-excited for the Predator films, while others are dismissing it and calling it overrated. What has happened?
Sitting down to watch Prey, I didn’t have any big expectations for it. I’m not familiar with all the Predator lore, the adventures in comics or off-shoot stories. Nor was I ever invested in hoping the series continued or got the much needed successful reboot it was in desperate need of. I really enjoy the first Predator with Arnold. From there I wasn’t sold on any new Predator sequel, but they kept coming.
For me, I kind of look at the Predator as something to a kin of the old Universal Horror monsters. They each came out of the gate with their first film and wowed folks. They became something of an iconic movie monster where they would return again and again in sequels that really didn’t do anything new or capture the glory the original films had.
Remember, in those old Universal films a monster series would come to a point where the story would be about some nut who would have the radical idea of creating an unstoppable army of these creatures. That’s when the films were really starting to scrap the bottom of the idea barrel.
It’s amusing to think how a lot of today’s franchises manage to get to the point they end up using that tired monster story cliché. The Predator from 2018 used that premise. And hasn’t the Aliens and Jurassic films gone down that road too?
When a series has reached that level of desperation it’s time to start rethinking things. ‘The Bride of Predator’ isn’t too far behind.
I’ve been so worn out with the continuing series of films from the Terminator, Alien and Predator franchises, that it would be a shock if the newest one was any good. Maybe that’s why Prey is getting so talked about, since it’s actually pretty decent!
It’s a very clear, concise, uncomplicated story – Comanche girl Naru wants to be a warrior and gets her chance to prove it by fighting and defeating a Predator. That’s the synopsis and it’s basically the entire story. It doesn’t get much more intricate than that.
I think that might be where the strengths and weaknesses lay with Prey. On the one hand, there’s the straight shot story of the Predator arriving on Earth, hunting prey on the Great Plains and Naru being the one to utilize her skills to kill it.
But then on the other hand, Naru is our main character – and she really isn’t all that interesting. She has a singular goal of wanting to be a hunter like the males in her tribe. That’s her main characteristic, that’s what we know about her and it doesn’t get any deeper than that.
What’s odd is from the start of the movie it seems like Naru is already a hunter in the tribe. That’s all we see her and her dog Saril (who is quite a lovable sidekick) do. They’re constantly out in the forests hunting.
I guess, she’s out there doing her hunting thing, despite being forbidden by the tribe of doing it? Is she meant to remain at the camp and fulfill a more domestic role, but she just doesn’t? I didn’t understand what her role within the tribe is meant to be other than being a hunter. What is the role she’s resisting of being forced into?
So, Naru seems to carry some resentment towards her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers), who is a respected hunter. When he ends up saving her from a cougar attack he is celebrated. Yet, Naru is the only one who knows this cougar is not the only thing roaming around. Of course, no one believes her that there’s this strange creature on the hunt.
Meanwhile, we watch the Predator familiarize himself with the terrain and encounter wild animals. Cloaked and invisible, we see it kill a rattlesnake and a wolf. All of it is meant to be a slow burn leading up to its eventual reveal.
It’s kind of difficult to have a big unveiling since we’ve seen the Predator in four previous films now, so obviously we know what he’s going to look like. That’s an instant hurdle with sequels. We know what the shark looks like, so by Jaws: The Revenge there’s nothing to surprise us with.
Trachtenberg does a very good job with the film. The film builds up nicely, the scenes of the open landscape are beautiful, the action scenes are well put together and have a nice escalation to them. And when Naru finally gets a look at the Predator it is a memorable scene as it’s fighting a grizzly bear, holding it over its head with its blood pouring down on the cloaked Predator.
There is some wonky CGI going on, mostly with the animals. The over-reliance on CGI effects has become the norm today. And for whatever reason a lot of films choose not to try and mix practical and CGI effects anymore. I don’t understand when old fashioned blood squibs got retired and replaced entirely with CGI.
Maybe they’re too messy and cumbersome to use on set or maybe its budget restrictions, so the filmmakers think they can get away with just using computer effects and it will be convincing enough, but it stands out.
Fans bask in seeing old school gore effects. Predator fans especially are watching for visceral bloody and violent kills. So, why can’t films use them more often? Putting in the effort of incorporating them could make moments in the film much more memorable and become highlights. I can’t remember any specific special effects that jumped out at me in Prey.
I suppose the stand out action scene is when the French trappers come into the story. They know about the Predator and decide to use Naru and her brother as bait to catch it. Of course, it doesn’t go quite the way they planned.
The Predator is stripped down from some of the hi-tech weaponry he’s used in the past. In this prequel he has more rudimentary weapons like the humans. Which is good! With a shoulder laser cannon strapped to his shoulder he could level a Comanche village no problem. So, they had to tone things back just a bit for him in this more antiquated setting.
It’s a fun-filled Predator kill fest as he slices up the traders one after another. We see some of the gadgets he’s come with, so there are decapitations, stabbings and limbs being hacked off. It’s what Predator fans are hoping to see.
For some reason in this scene, the beautiful natural setting suddenly becomes this foggy, grey ‘No Man’s Land’ area. At first I was confused by where exactly they went to. I suppose it’s meant to help the horror and gore that goes down – have it take place in this murky burned out forest, but it’s kind of confusing. Did the trappers burn this area down or were they just trying to emulate that Wonder Woman scene?
Naru is the only one who survives this brutal attack and finally takes on the Predator herself. And with some luck, contrivances and this Predator not exactly being packed with smarts, Naru defeats it. She gains respect from her tribe. Cue the closing credits with a hint of a possible future installments of Prey.
Midthunder is the hero of the film, but I didn’t think Naru is a very compelling character on her own. Other than being determined of being a hunter there is really nothing else to her. There are times she comes off rather unfairly jealous and dismissive towards her brother as well. She’s not a very absorbing hero.
Midthunder is fine in the part and I can see how this will gain her a new fanbase for her heroic role here. She’s effective in the action scenes, even when they get quite unbelievable. She starts bouncing around the screen like a Marvel superhero. She fulfills what’s written, but Naru is rather a flat character. She’s not trying to kill the Predator to protect her tribe or avenge her brother, it’s just to prove she can.
I also felt she wasn’t put in enough danger throughout the film or was getting beaten down and forced to rise up to fight the Predator. She didn’t appear to have as much of a struggle compared to previous heroes fighting the Predator. There is a scene when Naru gets caught in a bear trap and it doesn’t stop her at all. The Predator does the same and it takes major damage.
So, with a few of those complaints and some leaps of logic aside, I did enjoy Prey. It wasn’t great, but an enjoyable B-type of movie. It delivered an entertaining twist on a Predator story. It used the earlier time period effectively to make the usual hunter/prey Predator premise feel a bit more fresh than what we’ve been getting.
Prey looks like it could be the adrenaline shot the series needed. I’m not necessarily curious to see Naru’s story continue, but more Predator arrivals in random places in time proves it could be a fun direction to take future films. Perhaps focus on creating an anthology series of the Predator visiting other times and hunting other prey.
Maybe the series will just embrace ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ aspect of the Predator creature and drop him down in other time periods – Shogun Japan, the Napoleonic Wars, WWI trench warfare, cowboys and Predators! There’s a lot of places they could go.
Hopefully, they don’t squander the goodwill and enthusiasm that Prey has given fans.