Review | Prey | 2022

It says a lot about the state of current cinema that a Predator film, once a tentpole action franchise for 20th Century Studios, has been unceremoniously dumped on Hulu without even so much as a token theatrical release. It's even more telling that Prey is actually really good - easily the best Predator sequel and perhaps one of the most beautiful action films to be released by a major studio since maybe Mad Max: Fury Road. But a cast made up almost entirely of indigenous actors and featuring no big-name stars, Disney (parent company of 20th Century studios) buried it on Hulu with little fanfare, barely even acknowledging that it's a Predator film at all.

Set in the 1700s, Prey finds the Predator doing battle with a group of Comanche warriors, led by Naru (Amber Midthunder) an aspiring hunter whose skills are consistently underestimated by her fellow warriors. But the arrival of the mysterious creature at last gives her a chance to prove herself worthy - using primitive techniques against an adversary with advanced technology sent to earth to hunt to the death.

It is interesting that the film has garnered so much controversy from the usual right-wing Mens Rights Activist types for pitting a Predator against a woman armed only with primitive tools, because the whole point of the film is that the Predator refuses to see Naru as a threat, and is therefore left open to attack because it underestimates her power at nearly every turn. Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) knows how to bake an engaging social commentary into a fleet-footed action narrative, and Prey's 100 minutes fly by swiftly. 

While the Predator franchise as a whole has been a decidedly mixed bag, I do appreciate that the films rarely try to give them an elaborate backstory or mythology (and those that do, like 2018's The Predator, are quickly forgotten), they're simply killing machines that like to hunting humans must hunt them back in order to survive. Taking the action out of modern day is such an exciting twist that truly opens up a world of possibilities to move the franchise forward in interesting ways. Prey is such an ingenuous concept, a film that almost defiantly bucks expectations of both its franchise and its genre and does its own thing, never overstaying its welcome or attempting to complicate the mythology of the original. It's a beautiful, bone-crushing piece of work that is not only the best Predator sequel, it's a fascinating example of how to reframe and continue a beloved franchise without resorting to mere fan service or naked nostalgia. Prey both honors its roots and pushes its source material in a thrilling new direction.

GRADE - ★★★ (out of four)

PREY | Directed by Dan Trachtenberg | Stars Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro, Stormee Kipp, Michelle Thrush, Julian Black Antelope | Rated R for strong bloody violence | Now streaming exclusively on Hulu.


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