- Fifth Predator movie in the sci-fi action-horror franchise
- Set nearly 300 years before 1987's Predator film
- Directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane)
- Written by Patrick Aison (Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan)
- Stars Amber Midthunder as Naru, a Comanche warrior
- Releasing on Hulu in the US and Disney Plus in other territories
The 80s was a watershed moment for the sci-fi genre. Hugely popular film series, such as Alien and The Terminator, were created during this time and, while these franchises have struggled to remain relevant in the modern era, the duo delivered sequels – Aliens and Terminator 2 – that were arguably superior to their predecessors.
The Predator franchise cannot claim likewise. The first film in the Jim and John Thomas-created series – the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring flick – may have wowed audiences with its suspenseful moments, strong and simple characterization, and over-the-top set pieces upon initial release. Multiple sequels, though, have failed to deliver a worthy follow-up to the testosterone-fuelled sci-fi action original, diminishing the Predator movie series in the eyes of many.
So the arrival of a new Predator film – Prey – is sure to be met with equal parts intrigue and trepidation. Is another Predator movie really necessary and, if so, will it actually be worth watching?
The answer to those queries is a resounding yes. Prey is a thrilling, gruesome, and deeply resonant movie that finally wakes the dormant Predator franchise from its decades-long slumber. It doesn't reinvent the series' narrative formula but, armed with a captivating lead actor, crowd pleasing moments, and its authentic portrayal of Native American traditions and cultures, Prey is the best Predator film since the original.
The hunt begins
Set in 1719, Prey stars Amber Midthunder (The Ice Road, Legion) as Naru, a member of a Comanche Nation tribe who longs to be taken seriously as a skilled and fierce warrior.
Determined to prove her worth, Naru sets out to hunt an unidentifiable creature living on the Northern Great Plains, an expansive stretch of land straddling Canada and the US. However, Naru soon discovers that the prey she's stalking is a bloodthirsty extraterrestrial, armed with all manner of advanced weaponry, who hunts for sport and glory – and it has Naru, her Comanche brethren, and other Great Plain dwellers in its crosshairs. Cue Naru fighting for her survival amid the numerous obstacles put in her way – Predator included – in a thematic coming-of-age tale.
Narratively, then, Prey doesn't deviate from the Predator series' tried and tested plot formula – i.e. a Predator arrives on Earth to hunt humans who, though outgunned and initially out-thought, eventually succeed in defeating the Yautja warrior.
Basic as that blueprint sounds in 2022, though, the simplicity of Prey's story is what makes it effective. Its plot is concise and cohesive in its approach; foregoing extraneous story beats to tell a story that primarily focuses on its two leads – Midthunder's Naru and the titular Predator, portrayed by basketball player-turned-actor Dane DiLiegro (American Horror Story) – and their respective character arcs.
For DiLiegro's Predator, that means presenting an ever looming and foreboding threat to Naru and company. By contrast, Naru's journey from a bold but naive wannabe warrior into a fully fledged, inventive fighter is the classic "hero's journey" arc that's typical of such films.
Thanks to the brevity of its plot, too, Prey abandons an amazingly odd quirk for the Predator franchise – that being, the quartet of films preceding Prey all clocking in at 107 minutes. With its comparatively sprightly 97-minute runtime, Prey nimbly progresses through its tight narrative, finding a satisfying balance between its quieter, tender moments and those of the action-packed, suspenseful variety. It even dispenses with one obvious horror trope that, when you realize what it is, you'll be grateful for its exclusion.
That's not to say Prey's story is perfect. Viewers hoping for a subversive or wholly original plot may be disappointed that Prey is a retread of what's come before, albeit a story set in a different time period and location. There's even a scene involving different creatures preying on one another – for a film called Prey, one starring a creature called a Predator no less, it's unashamedly but eye-rollingly on the nose.
The Predator's delayed reveal – we don't get a proper look at it until midway through the flick – is also somewhat frustrating. Sure, given the Predator's updated look (more on this later), director Dan Trechtenberg and write Patrick Aison likely wanted its unveiling to be a significantly impactful moment in the film. However, franchise fans already know how Predators look and act, so holding this reveal back until the movie's second half feels like a slight misstep.
Some of the film's English language dialog is contextually iffy, too. A few of those instances are down to Prey's occasional exposition heavy story beats, which feel unnecessary for a movie as uncomplicated as this. Still, with Prey also fully available in Comanche – historically the first-ever Hollywood film to do so – this particular sore point may not be as noticeable in its alternatively dubbed format.
Honoring the past to deliver a brighter future
The inclusion of Comanche language isn't a token gesture on Prey's part, either.
The whole film captures Comanche traditions and cultures in stunningly authentic detail, while the casting of a Native American actor in Midthunder as its lead is testament to Prey's faithful depiction of the Comanche community.
In fact, the decision to almost exclusively hire Native American and First Nation talent in front of and behind the screen is proof of the filmmakers' desire to faithfully represent Indigenous people and their way of life. From Indigenous actors including Dakota Beavers and Stormee Kipp, to Comanche consultant Juanita Pahdopony and executive producer Jhane Myers, Prey makes every effort to reproduce Comanche society on screen as truthfully as possible.
In an industry that's done shockingly little to provide genuine equality for Native Americans – they've routinely been portrayed as violent, primitive barbarians in Hollywood productions – Prey feels like a genuinely significant step in the right direction.
Given the scope of its expansive landscape shots and Naru's personalized journey, parallels are sure to be drawn with Leonardo Di Caprio-starring movie The Revenant. Although, Prey appears to perform a more capable job of accurately depicting Comanche society and heritage than The Revenant's illustration of Pawnee and Arikaran Nations.
Such due care and attention also extends to the history of the Predator franchise. As Prey is set nearly 300 years before the events of the 1987 original, the alien species aren't as technologically advanced in Prey as they are in other entries. There's no plasma cannon here – something just as violently fun replaces it, though – nor does it come equipped with the iconic headgear that Predators are known for.
Indeed, Prey's version of the Predator is more feral and gladiatorial compared to previous iterations, but to call it primitive would be to do it a disservice. Prey's version of the Yautja still comes equipped with a potent arsenal of weapons, classic facial features, and those iconic noises that Predator fans will instantly recognize. With a self-appointed Predator fanatic in Trachtenberg at the helm, it was clearly important to do justice to Predator projects preceding this one.
Other tributes are littered through Prey's narrative, but particular mention should go to its fight sequences. They're especially worthy homages to what's come before, with the final showdown between Naru and the Predator a clear ode to the original film. Without spoiling too much, it's a sequence that seemingly brings the franchise full circle; one that's handled with a deftness of touch, plenty of tension, and two resolute warriors going hammer and tong on one another to satisfying effect. With a few Easter eggs scattered throughout, and its ending teasing a possible sequel – or, whisper it quietly, a new movie series in the franchise itself – too, Predator fans will be pleased with what Prey delivers from action and reference perspectives.
Prey is the most entertaining and suspense-fuelled Predator movie since the franchise's first entry. Its unique setting in the past, emotive plot, and authentic representation of Indigenous people breathe new life into a series that had lost its way, but equally it's a film that doesn't lose sight of honouring what came before.
Narratively, it doesn't shift the franchise in a new direction, and it's likely that some will criticize Prey for playing it too safe or peddling to nostalgic fans who have been deprived of a truly good Predator sequel for so long. It's a slight pity that the film will forego a theatrical release to launch exclusively on streaming services – Hulu in the US, and Disney Plus in the rest of the world – too, as it's a film designed to be seen on the big screen.
Given the films that preceded Prey, though, there's little competition to suggest it isn't the best Predator flick since Schwarzenegger's Alan 'Dutch' Schaefer implored us to "Get to da choppa". It's unapologetically violent, surprisingly poignant, and simplistically effective. Sometimes, that's all you need from a movie.
The hunt for a worthwhile Predator sequel is over – and its name is Prey.
Prey launches on Hulu in the US, and Disney Plus in non-US territories, on Friday, August 5.