Breathing new life into a long-running, beloved franchise is often seen as a silly task. Not only can it prove difficult to recapture the same magic of circumstances that made the first outing such a success, but building an existing world becomes even more difficult the deeper you delve into it without taking the risk to renew the narrative ground. Good luck, director Dan Trachtenberg and screenwriter Patrick Azon have cracked the formula with this year’s preythat expands the world of Jim and John Thomas‘ predator franchise by not continuing in a linear fashion but going all the way back to the beginning long before the events of the 1987 film ever take place. The result is a suspenseful, gripping action-thriller that challenges us to question deeply the of our leads has actually taken on the role of Predator this time, and who may be at a disadvantage in unfamiliar (and potentially unfriendly) territory.
While prey is something of an origin story for its titular alien – it’s the Predator (Dane DiLiegro) responsibility to oversee the new world he’s been dropped into while earning a place in the front ranks of natural selection at its bloodiest – it only works on the level too, a coming-of-age journey for his heroine to be. Naru, played by the soulful and mesmerizing Amber Middonner, is a young member of a Comanche tribe trying to resist the position her gender has placed her in as a gatherer; Instead, she dreams of becoming a hunter, capturing and capturing game, and defending her tribe against outside dangers, just like her older brother Taabe (Dakota Beaver). She encounters skepticism and opposition not only from the other male hunters, but also from her own mother, who wants her to use whatever weapons she has at her disposal to gather various herbs and plants for various medicinal purposes instead. (Ironically, it is Naru’s knowledge of hunting and Gathering resources that will later give her an edge over some of the men of her tribe, even those who pride themselves on being the best when it comes to taking down prey in their sights.) Despite her critics, however, Taabe always supports only his little sister’s ambitions, and the siblings’ relationship eventually becomes one of the film’s best emotional anchors, rendered through the equally strong performances of Midthunder and Beavers in every scene they share together.
Above all, though, it’s the film’s gripping dynamic that makes Midthunder have to carry this film on her shoulders, and she proves more than adept at being not just our window into this harsh and often cruel world of survival, but one as well Track that is worth rooting for until the credits roll. While it may seem like Naru tops her weight class when attempting to take on the Predator, an alien warrior with more than a few technological superiorities in the weapons department, prey‘s script makes the smart move of taking advantage of Naru’s knowledge. She knows she can’t fight this foe in direct hand-to-hand combat, so she reaches for what she can count on: her familiarity with this land and how to use it the to their advantage when fighting someone bigger, stronger, and better equipped. In this predator Prequel, it’s absolutely a case of brains versus brawn, but the way Naru wields her own underappreciated power leads to some of the most exciting action set pieces in the whole film.
previous predator Movies have put less effort into thinking about the inner motivation for these alien invaders and devoted much more screen time to how many explosions can be packed into a two-hour span. prey, by comparison, feels like the first instance in a long time that actually focuses on the Predator’s philosophy as a character – and there’s a chill that comes from realizing his mindset is uniquely instinct-driven. For the first few days on this new planet, the Predator seems completely focused on figuring out what – or who – might pose the greatest threat to it, and adjusts its hunting strategy accordingly. He is not interested in targeting completely helpless victims or someone who has been hanged with the clear intention of baiting him out of his self-disguised hiding place. Once we know that the Predator is only interested in taking down what it sees as competition, the question becomes: who’s chasing whom at this point?
Beyond a script that allows us to delve deeper into the main antagonist’s moral code, prey is a film that uses every part of its natural environment to create stunning images that are rendered by the cinematographer Jeff Cutter. A fight scene that takes place in a burning forest, the surroundings half obscured by smoke and ash, evokes a horrific sense of apprehension as the Predator’s targets wait with trembling breath for the moment when he leaps down from the skeleton trees and begins will cut them into ribbons. When you combine that with some of the best stunt choreography destined for the big screen, prey manages to fire on all cylinders, not just on a physical level, but constantly reminding us of the larger emotions at play in each scene. In an environment where one wrong move could result in your enemy gaining the upper hand, the stakes literally couldn’t be higher – but they’re also the perfect vehicle for doubling our lead, which she’s capable of, like Naru quite literally fights tooth and nail (and with her trusty dog Sarii at her side, played by a canine actor who seems very happy to be making a movie) to protect her people from the greatest threat they have ever faced.
prey conclusively works by taking the predator Franchise goes back to basics, ditching much of the technology and huge explosions to focus on a character-driven narrative of struggle and triumph. That doesn’t mean this film skimps on action – far from it – but it’s also a testament to how good these stories can be on a smaller scale. Sometimes true power isn’t about how many advanced tools you have in your arsenal; Sometimes it is so important that you know the country you come from and know how to do something the your weapon. The only real downside prey is the streaming format through which it will be released, with the 20th Century film streaming to Hulu later this week. It’s no exaggeration to say that this is a movie that wants to be seen on the biggest screen possible, if only to give a thorough appreciation of one of the best action movies of the year so far, let alone one of the best predator Movies since the first.
prey Coming exclusively to Hulu on Friday, August 5th.