Thirty-five years ago a new type of sci-fi film hit movie theaters. In the film, an alien came to earth to hunt, kill and skin its prey. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator series), Predator became a box office success, earning almost $100 million worldwide off of an $18 million budget. Since gross earnings like those generally amount to a sequel, it was no surprise when Predator 2 was made three years later. Then came Predators, then The Predator, and this week, Prey, the fifth film in the franchise comes to the streaming service, Hulu, after debuting on July 21, 2022, at San Diego Comic-Con.
The year is 1715 and Naru (Amber Midthunder; Legion), a young Comanche Nation Native American girl, dreams of becoming a warrior but that is not her "role" in the tribe. One day, while out collecting roots and plants for food and medicine, She sees a sign - a giant thunderbolt in the sky. Little does she know what is really inside that "thunderbolt" but once members of her tribe are murdered and a snake is skinned, she decides she will join the hunters to kill the lion. Only it isn't a lion but something much worse.
While Prey has the same underlying premise as Predator there is so much more on display in this fifth installment. By rewinding back to the 1700s, we are not only introduced to the ancestor of the alien creature introduced over three decades ago, but we also get to enjoy a story and visuals of a bygone time when nature was celebrated. The rituals of the Comanches along with their customs give the viewer a unique view of the delicate balance between man and nature. The Frenchmen who invade the native American lands only serve to add another layer to the rich history of the country.
Midthunder leads a great group of actors and she shines as the stubborn but skilled Native American who is not satisfied with her pre-determined position in life. She portrays the intelligent and cunning Naru with a feistiness that suits the character. She is joined by newcomer Dakota Beavers, who plays her older brother, Taabe, and Dane DiLiegro (American Horror Story) as the Predator.
Director Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) sets the scene well with wide shots of the mountainous terrain broken up by a beautiful, flowing river. He juxtaposes the breathtaking landscapes with gruesome visuals of skinned snakes and mutilated corpses. His up close, "in your face" moments are always placed with purpose, often showcasing Naru's determination and grit. The pacing rarely seems slow and almost every scene is necessary to tell the story.
As a sci-fi, action, drama film, Prey has more style and depth than the original Predator movie but still manages to tie the two films together with common threads offering a plausibility that makes sense. The second film in the franchise was a well-thought-out sequel but Prey could have been next in the series without seeming disjointed or out of place. It also could have been the third in a trilogy effectively killing Predators and The Predator which, let's face it, most likely would not have been missed. It could even be made into a television series with the weekly adventures of Naru hunting the aliens coming to earth.
Even if you aren't a fan of the Predator films, Prey offers enough story and historical depth to keep the viewer engaged throughout. Plain and simple, as part of the Predator franchise Prey works...as a stand-alone movie, Prey still works so if you don't have access to Hulu, I suggest you subscribe because Prey is going to be the hot topic around the water cooler this week.