Spend the money to see “Prey” on the biggest screen you can. The expansive landscapes of Alberta look beautiful, there is a tonne of monster mayhem and action, and Sarah Schachner’s stirring score demands to be played loudest speakers possible. So why would Disney release a film from the well-liked “Predator” franchise in the middle of the summer on Hulu?
What better way to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the original “Predator,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, than with a prequel that is superior to all of its sequels? Promoting this connection would have been a breeze for the marketing department. Why then does this movie, like the previous Disney+ feature “Turning Red,” go straight to streaming without a concurrent theatre release?
Was it because the sci-fi action film directed by Dan Trachtenberg only featured the Predator as a key star? Was it because this is a period piece and the screenplay by Patrick Aison takes place in 1719? Or was it because the lead character is a woman and her family members are Native Americans, both of which go against the grain for movies like this?
I suppose I should be grateful that “Prey” is available to see everywhere, including on services to which I do not subscribe, given the recent cancellations of movies that were set to be released soon. This is not to argue that streaming services are awful; rather, it’s just that I always get antsy when I promote movies that require a subscription. Additionally, this merits a theatrical debut.
But I digress. According to its advertising, “Prey” tells the narrative of the first Predator alien to visit Earth. This one is equipped with slightly vintage versions of the weaponry used in the original movie by the late actor Kevin Peter Hall. The Predator operates in the same way, though; it is a hunter and seeks prized prey.
This makes Naru (Amber Midthunder), a teenage warrior who aspires to hunt like the men in her tribe, especially her brother Taabe, a type of kindred spirit for the creature (Dakota Beavers). The guys make fun of Naru, saying that hunting is something that only men should do, but we see that she can hold her own in a fight.
She is three times more observant than the others and twice as tough as she appears to be. The first person to discover a new creature on their property is Naru. Maybe it’s connected to that fiery streak of fire she earlier spotted in the sky.
Taabe hardly tolerates Naru’s company as they search for a lion that has been skulking around. In their first scenes, Midthunder and Beavers almost instantly establish an amicable sibling connection. Once the true threat materializes, their link increases our concerns. Naru finds a snake that has been skinned and some unusual prints.
She informs Taabe, “Something scared off that lion,” but he is not amused by her assertion that it is a “monster from childhood fantasies.” As it advances up the animal food chain, the Predator pulls out the spine of a brazen wolf to teach it a lesson about selling woof tickets. When it mercilessly slaughters the bear that was pursuing her and her obedient mutt, Naru finally sees it.
One wonders that “Prey” hadn’t given us a decent glimpse of the Predator previously because the scene with the bear is so well constructed. An explosion of blood reveals the invisible Predator as it yanks the bear from its pursuit and lifts it up for the kill. When Naru notices this, she flees like the dickens.
So follows a string of deftly written pursuit scenes, during which our nemesis eviscerates its victims in both well-known and novel ways. Another reference is made to one of the best lines from the first movie: “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” It does bleed, and at one point Naru uses the bright green blood as war paint.
A swarm of unkempt French fur trappers adds another aspect of danger (as well as new fuel for viewers hungry for Predator-based slaughter).
When Naru discovers a field of skinned buffalo, she prays over them because she believes the monster is responsible for creating them. She soon understands that man, that other horrible predator, is to blame. The trappers are much eviler than the Predator, despite the fact that they concur with Naru that there is something supernatural out there. So when they begin to be splattered, we are not sad.
Even if there are no “choppas” for anyone to reach in 1719, “Prey” is a respectable replacement for Ah-original. nuld’s Naru is deserving of being included on the list of resilient characters who can stand up to the Predator. She handles all of her enemies with equal parts intelligence and brute force, eliminating them with gory efficiency.
Even though nature might be a brutal foe, she is prepared for it. They are the protagonists of the plot, and their town hums with a sense of kinship, so the movie paints a portrayal of her Comanche nation without otherizing them. The movie is primarily in English, but it doesn’t threaten our ability to suspend disbelief (a complete Comanche language version was supposedly also shot concurrently).
Fans of “Predator” won’t be let down by “Prey,” despite the usual cry from immature guys who haven’t even watched the film but are already dismissing it as “too woke.” It’s a thrilling, entertaining, and surprisingly touching emotional amusement park experience. I couldn’t help but smile as Naru finally let out the war cry she had been denied before. It’s too bad I couldn’t do it in front of a crowd of enthusiastic spectators.