In 1987’s Predator, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Major Dutch faced one of the fiercest hunters in science fiction, the Yautja. Following the success of this action-packed monster movie that turned the most capable soldiers into prey, an extensive universe spawned, covering the history of these extraterrestrial hunters across thousands of years. While the early movies, comics, and short stories are well received, it is no secret that the latest installation, The Predator, left a lot to be desired. So much so that many feared that we would never get another movie featuring the Yautja. Now, all eyes (infrared or otherwise) fall on director Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) to bring the Predator franchise back to its former glory in the Hulu original, Prey.
Prey is set in 1719, nearly 300 years before the events of the franchise’s first film and features a spotlight on a tribe of Comanche in the Northern Great Plains. At the heart of the film is Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young, intelligent, and skilled warrior looking to make her place known among the tribe’s most talented hunters. While on a hunt for a lion eager to prove herself, Naru uses her keen insight to discover that there may be something much more dangerous than lions and bears near their tribe. When the men of her tribe dismiss her warnings, it quickly falls on Naru to defend her people as the highly advanced alien hunter makes itself known, dismantling her hunting party in a brutal fashion.
In a nutshell, this all you need to know going in. One of the highlights of Prey is its ability to show without telling. Giving the perspective of both our protagonist and the Predator with little to no exposition was a hallmark of what made Predator such a success in the genre. In Prey, the viewer is learning along with Naru about the mysterious creature much in the same way that Dutch and the members of his squad do. The biggest difference is that there is no local to give the ghost stories of hunts past. At the same time, viewers are also seeing the Yautja as we have never seen them before. This low-ranked Yautja, is seemingly hunting on Earth for the first time. Viewers watch from his perspective as it learns the food chain in our animal kingdom, equipped with technology that, while advanced for Earth, is much more primitive than we have seen in past films. In this way, we get a fantastic mirror in Naru and the Predator both learn how to be better and more effective warriors.
While the formula is simple, it does not mean that Prey is not a roller coaster ride of emotions. It is almost too hard to explain the progression without giving too much away. The pacing is near perfect as the 90-minute run time gives viewers everything they need to be bought into the story and wanting more from Amber Midthunder. The film wastes no time establishing the skills that Naru possesses that make her different than the warriors in her tribe, including her supportive brother, Taabe (Dakota Beavers). Naru uses her superior tracking abilities and ingenuity to tackle various obstacles that can’t be overcome with brute strength alone. All the while, Prey adds in plenty of twists and turns that give the viewer extra motivation to root for Naru’s success.
The love that went into making this film is present almost immediately. Prey has a lot to do to erase the errors of past movies in the franchise. In this, I believe they provide an experience that’s potentially better than Predator. It would have been easy to simply retell the stories featuring the Comanche from May Blood Pave My Way Home, or even the timeframe via Predator: 1718 but Prey pushes itself to give us something new. While I was ecstatic about that, I was much more moved by the attention to authenticity for the Comanche people. Prey will first film feature dubbed in a Native language on Hulu upon release. That alone should speak to the level of dedication to get this right. For a more detailed behind-the-scenes of Prey, consider checking Kate Sánchez’s “3 Reasons to Watch Prey” found here. She discusses the conversation with director Dan Trachtenberg, producer Jhane Myers and stars Amber Midthunder (Naru) and Dakota Beavers (Taabe) where they discuss their experience making Prey.
Given Prey’s R rating, you may be wondering how violent the film is, and the answer is very. The kills the Predator is able to pull off are top-notch and some of the best in the franchise. Because of the more primitive tools used by both the Comanche warriors and the Feral Predator, the sequences are able to be much more practical than what viewers get from more recent films in the series. Gone is the overly CGI’ed Yautja that we saw in The Predator. Dane DiLiegro does a fantastic job portraying the physicality of the Yautja, rivaling the performance of Kevin Peter Hall in Predator and Predator 2. The dedication to practical effects gives scenes higher stakes, as many of the actors including Amber Midthunder and Dakota Beavers performed many of their own stunts. Further, while also being an absolute badass with her stunts, Amber Midthunder delivers a performance that has made me a fan for life. Much of the film is places Midthunder on her own with Sarii the dog. Despite this, she is able to convey a wide range of emotions that really had me sucked into every scene.
The Predator franchise has new life thanks to Prey. The film works on a multitude of levels as a perfect prequel, monster movie, sci-fi flick, a badass heroine story, and win for Native representation and portrayals. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to see this on the big screen. It is my hope that with its inevitable success on Hulu, we get a theatrical release that includes the Comanche dub. Prey is that good. It takes what made the first movie great and adds story elements that make it the best installment in the franchise. I hope to have Dan Trachtenberg at the helm for more stories featuring the deadliest hunter in the universe.
Prey is streaming exclusively on Hulu starting August 5th.
The Predator franchise has new life thanks to Prey. The film works on a multitude of levels as a perfect prequel, monster movie, sci-fi flick, a badass heroine story, and win for Native representation and portrayals. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to see this on the big screen.