Review: Dan Trachtenberg's Predator One-Off 'Prey' is Outstanding
by Alex Billington
August 5, 2022
One of the best action movies this year is only available to watch at home. Unfortunately you can't watch it in theaters, where it belongs, and where you will have the best experience with it. Why? Ask Disney… Many critics are framing their reviews of this movie around this complaint because, well, we have to – this movie kicks ass and oddly Disney decided to screen it in theaters for critics, but it's releasing for streaming only (I double checked). Prey is a Predator one-off movie not connected to the Arnold Schwarzenegger franchise beyond the fact that it involves an alien "Predator" warrior. It was supposed to be a surprise, and I think it would've been an even more exhilarating experience to sit down for an action movie and discover only once it starts that it's actually a new Predator movie. Nonetheless, I had the privilege of watching Prey on the big screen and it totally rules. It's the best theatrical experience I've had this summer since Top Gun: Maverick.
Over the last few decades, 20th Century
Fox has tried and tried to revive the Predator franchise - with the 2010 sequel Predators (which was actually pretty good - one of the better sequels), then again with Shane Black's 2018 movie The Predator (which was not very good despite Black's involvement); we won't even mention the Alien vs Predator movies because eesh. However, after all this time, the perfect Predator movie has finally arrived. Prey is so damn good it even rivals the original John McTiernan Predator movie from 1987, the original action classic, with this new one acting as an homage or tribute to that movie more than anything. It's gritty and muddy yet still beautiful and invigorating, it's packed with seriously tense action, and it's all about using cunning tactics and the environment around you to outwit and outsmart a vicious Predator warrior intent on killing any and every animal it encounters. It's the second feature film from Dan Tracthenberg, who has gone from podcasting to becoming a top notch Hollywood director, following 10 Cloverfield Lane previously. This is no sophomore slump - I enjoyed it even more than his Cloverfield film.
Prey is one of these contemporary female empowerment stories that actually gets it right and doesn't come across as forced or performative. Actress Amber Midthunder, of the Fort Peck Sioux Tribe, stars as Naru, a young Comanche warrior who protects her tribe against a monster. She's trying to prove herself as a warrior, but aside from her brother Taabe (played by Dakota Beavers), all the other male warriors look down upon her. They don't think she belongs with them and they prefer she just stays back with the other women. But she is defiant and goes out on her own to hunt and scout, often accompanied by her dog Sarii, played perfectly by a pooch named Coco. I love how much of a dog movie Prey is, even though Sarii doesn't get into too many fights, it's still a joy to have this kind of doggie presence. After a Predator is dropped off in the lands of the Comanche Nation circa 1719, Naru ends up battling it because it won't stop at anything and will probably come kill her entire tribe if she doesn't. There's a few other twists and turns in the plot, but the small scale storytelling works wonders for this concept. And don't worry - all the action is big and thrilling.
I loved every last second of Prey. I wanted to stand up and cheer so many times. This is why it's a must see in theater with an audience that's amped up to be there. They'll laugh and cheer and applaud at all the best scenes – this movie deserves that adoration. Trachtenberg and his crew nailed the action – not only getting the Predator right, but figuring out how to make each and every new scene exciting as Naru and her fellow tribesmen attempt to defeat this massive monster with bow & arrows and axes and other simple weapons. In addition, it features gorgeous mountainous backdrops shot on location up in Canada by cinematographer Jeff Cutter. And a fantastic score by Sarah Schachner. I also don't agree with a few complaints I've seen about pacing; the story quickly pulls you into Naru's life and follows her rather intimately, gliding along like a rollerocaster with calm moments and intense scenes. All I want to do is go back to the cinema and watch this again right away. Alas, it's only available to view at home now (on Disney+ in Europe / Hulu in the US).