The Predator failed to excite audiences. Fox tries to keep that franchise alive once more with Prey. But is this film any better? Read on to find out…
A young Comanche girl named Naru (Amber Midthunder) wishes to hunt for her tribe. But she faces resistance from all her peers– none of whom believe she has the necessary skills to survive. Naru finally gets a chance to prove herself when she tags along with an expedition to recover a missing Comanche warrior. She soon discovers that a predator beyond her imagination lurks within the woods, and that she must quickly hone her skills, lest she become its prey.
Time for an admission: I’ve never watched Predator (any of them), so I came into Prey essentially blind. I’ve got no biases towards this franchise and view Prey strictly on its own merits as a film.
The first element of Prey which stood out to me was its sparing use of dialogue. Much of this film can be understood on a visual level, which I believe to be the benchmark for good cinema. Film is, after-all, a visual medium first and foremost. So the fact that Prey‘s visuals carry it is indicative of Dan Trachtenberg’s well-crafted direction.
Cinematographer Jeff Cutter’s shot compositions of sprawling fields, hills, and forests proved mesmerizing. The environments (and the dangers which hid within) were almost characters in themselves! The wilderness felt isolating and vast, adding to Prey‘s general tension.
I’m afraid Prey is a largely predictable affair. I guessed nearly every plot point before the end of Act 1. And I’m sure you will too.
But I also didn’t mind Prey‘s predictability because its execution was still good. Sometimes it’s alright to forgive a movie its flaws so long as it does its primary job: entertain. Just don’t expect any surprises in Prey.
Prey still succeeded where most modern movies fail, in that Naru’s skillset gradually improved through practice. We often see this annoying trope where protagonists succeed on pure natural talent and never face meaningful challenge. I anticipated Prey to be another one of those narratives, and was pleasantly surprised to find it avoided that trap.
That said: I wish Naru faced even MORE challenges. She overcame certain threats too easily for my tastes– enough that it broke my suspension of disbelief. Threats were hard on her, but not hard enough that I feared for her safety.
Amber Midthunder gives a solid performance in the leading role. But she couldn’t make me connect with Naru enough to care. Though that’s more on the writing than Midthunder’s acting.
Prey’s new Predator design is effectively scary. Additionally, Dane DiLiegro’s physicality dominated every shot in which he was featured. His performance is impressive for someone who had to act purely with his body.
I loved that the Predator wasn’t an untouchable boogey-monster. It made mistakes, and got hurt a few times before the final fight. Some people might not like this because they’ll say it made the monster too vulnerable. I, however, find it more interesting that the villain isn’t a perfect killer.
The Predator’s vulnerability adds to our entertainment value because unbeatable villains are boring (as are unbeatable heroes). We see this alien as exponentially tougher than humans, yet have hope Naru can kill it… somehow. The fact that Predator CAN be beaten is necessary for Prey to have stakes– otherwise what’s the point?
Dakota Beavers was an unexpected standout as Naru’s older brother, Taabe. His character was, perhaps, the most interesting in Prey. Taabe defied my expectations for what that role would normally look like. His type of “skilled older sibling” character would usually dissuade his younger sister at every turn, and would be the person to whom she must prove her worth. But Taabe is surprisingly supportive of Naru’s hunting ambitions, though not especially encouraging.
Prey features heavy use of multiple languages: including Comanche, English, and French. The implentation of these languages, however, proved both cool and frustrating. Prey chooses not to translate any language other than English, so there’s large stretches of the film which prove incomprehensible.
The Comanche bits were mostly quick asides which I understood well enough from acting cues. And the French parts were intentionally meant to confuse us, because Naru does not understand the language either. But I’m still glad I watched Prey with subtitles (and combined my knowledge of Grade 9 French), or else I would have missed out on dialogue and gotten frustrated.
Prey had a slow start, which kept my attention but not my enthusiasm. That might turn some people off early. Keep at it though! Its story kicks into gearinl Act 2, when Naru searches for the Predator. And Prey grows exponentially more interesting from then on.
Prey‘s hunting scenes were especially impressive! Every time the Predator eviscerated its foes was a treat. I was satisfied with the carnage it wreaked upon unsuspecting animals and people (as twisted as that sounds).
The action sequences were well-shot and performed. Few of Prey‘s fights felt gratuitious, and none of them overstayed their welcome. The action efficiently moved Prey‘s story forward as well, which isn’t always a given. Most of the fights featured practical choreography and stunt-work, from the looks of things. And those elements were handled with above-average skill.
Some of the CGI work, however, looked as if it had a TV budget. I haven’t seen such obvious VFX in a long time… Thankfully the film-makers used the worst effects shots sparingly.
I’m shocked that so many movies I’ve watched lately create pay-offs! I believed “the pay-off” to be a dying art, but they might be returning. I won’t say much more in case I spoil something for you. But rest assured Prey‘s seemingly random events come together. None of it was brilliant by any means, though I was pleased to see script elements had purpose after all! This screen-play was tight enough to give a pass for its under-baked moments.
TWO MORE NOTES: 1) The dog Sarii was awesome.
2) Stick around till the end of the “paintings” in the credits for a hint towards Prey‘s aftermath.
Prey is a decent action flick. It impressed me more than I expected. I wasn’t invested in its characters, and its plot was simple, yet I enjoyed my experience. And I’ll definitely check out the other Predator movies now (at least the first one)!
Prey is neither great, nor bad, but it’s certainly Worth a Watch.
FOR MY SPOILER-FILLED THOUGHTS ON PREY, CHECK OUT THIS EPISODE OF CLOSE UP:
What should the next Predator film be about? What did you think of Prey? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know.
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Till next time,