For anyone that saw the last Predator film, I think I speak for most when I say that expectations for a new instalment were rock bottom. The Predator franchise has had its ups and downs, with most sequels failing to capture what made the original so memorable.
Enter Prey, the latest film in the Predator canon that is the first to not be released in cinemas, instead going straight to Disney + or Hulu in the US. Directed by Dan Trachtenberg of 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) fame, Prey is a back-to-its-roots prequel to the original 1987 film, set 300 years in the past following Naru (Amber Midthunder) a Native American who attempts to prove herself a hunter only to find that she and her tribe are being hunted themselves by the predator on what’s assumed to be its first hunt on earth.
Prey is a simple premise with an intriguing setting perfectly suited for this franchise. Seeing the Predator fight his way through history is definitely the route the series should take going forward, because Prey is everything you want out of a Predator story.
First of all a Predator film should not look this good, especially the 5th in a franchise! It’s a little lacking in colour with a very desaturated look but it complements the film well, mostly being set in dense forest and expansive fields which are beautifully shot along with the wildlife (when they aren’t less-than-convincing CGI!). The film is also really well paced, which honestly can be rare in most recent releases.
At just 90 minutes it does just about as much as it can to set up characters and setting enough for you to care as well as teasing the mystery. Then when the predator starts taking skulls you’re fully invested in the action and especially in the main character Naru, who is brilliantly played by Amber Midthunder as a clever, resourceful protagonist.
Prey proves Dan Trachtenberg to be a really exciting filmmaker in mainstream Hollywood. I loved 10 Cloverfield Lane (even that out-of-nowhere ending) and with Prey he really excels in putting the Predator franchise back on the map. He understands that you don’t necessarily always need to go bigger, instead taking the franchise in a fresh direction with a step back into the past, making for a more unique spin on a tried and tested formula, with smart misdirects, a strong protagonist and brutal action.
The action scenes are brilliant, with a couple scenes being standouts, although occasionally they’re let down by poor CGI. At times it can feel almost like a videogame, but not in a bad way. Certain weapons that characters use feel pulled straight from a God of War game or the way a camera follows Naru as she walks through her village as if in a third-person RPG. These sound like criticisms but in a franchise that, let’s be honest, is as ‘schlocky’ as the Predator, it feels like the right choice.
Overall Prey is a breath of fresh air in what was a drawn-out franchise, providing fans of the extra-terrestrial hunter with new settings and scenarios that prove to be entertaining and worthy of a big-screen, even if the studio didn’t think so. Whether it is as good as the original is up for debate, but it’s by far the best Predator film since and gives fans hope for the series going forward. If Dan Trachtenberg can reinvigorate the Predator, then why not give him the chance to revitalise another dead-in-the-water franchise? (Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Alien, Cloverfield).
Where to watch Prey
In the UK, Prey is available to watch for free to subscribers of Disney+