Action Drama

Review: ‘Prey’ is a ‘Predator’ Prequel that Aims to Redefine the Iconic Sci-Fi Action Franchise

August 3, 2022Ben MK

The Predator films have always been fuelled by a healthy dose of testosterone. After all, the movie that started it all starred one of the most iconic action big screen action heroes of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and was beefed up by a supporting cast that included fellow tough guys like Carl Weathers and former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura, so it was only logical that its sequels be steeped in plenty of macho bravado as well. With director Dan Trachtenberg's Predator prequel, however, the ruthless alien hunter is going up against an opponent unlike anyone he's faced previously. But does Prey have what it takes to breathe new life into the nearly four-decade-old sci-fi film franchise?

The setting is America circa 1719, and something deadly has come to the Northern Great Plains. It's here that we meet Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young Comanche woman eager to prove to her tribe that she's capable of more than just what her society expects of her. However, with her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers) consistently impressing the tribal elders with his hunting prowess, Naru has her work cut out for her, especially since she too has dreams of becoming a great warrior. Then, one day, after joining a hunting party formed to slay the lion suspected of snatching a member of her tribe, Naru finally gets the chance to show the others just what she's made of, as she sets out to outsmart one of nature's most vicious predators. But when she realizes that there's something out there even more terrifying than the big cat, Naru must learn to defeat a new enemy, as she and her fellow hunters become the prey for a creature that no one on Earth has encountered before.

What follows borrows as much from such female-led action thrillers as Resident Evil and Underworld as it does from John McTiernan's 1987 original and the subsequent entries in the Predator series, as Naru embarks on a journey to become the most badass female screen protagonist since Ellen Ripley in Aliens. Yet, at the same time, Prey also underwhelms in several areas — most notably in the screenplay itself, which is even more paper thin than the first movie and which struggles to deliver even the most basic character beats, let alone any real character development or actual plot points. Then there's the design of the actual Predator alien itself, which attempt to set itself apart from any of the Predators glimpsed in the franchise thus far. But while it's possible to appreciate the rationale behind the updated creature design, it also doesn't strike the same terror in viewers as its predecessors, which sadly makes this feel less like a Predator film and more like a direct-to-video knockoff.

Luckily, Midthunder's portrayal of the movie's fierce heroine fares somewhat better. In fact, her performance is perhaps one of Prey's few saving graces, a combination of River Tam in Serenity, Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 and Laurie Strode in Halloween that helps elevate the film above the level of mediocrity. Still, there's something to be said for how poorly fleshed out her character actually is. And even though it's refreshing to see a female protagonist take center stage in the series, it would be foolish to think that she was the first. After all, Sanaa Lathan's Alexa Woods managed to survive a showdown between both the Predators and the Aliens in 2004's Alien vs. Predator. Nevertheless, as far as being the final girl goes, Midthunder manages to hold her own.

Otherwise, audiences won't be too surprised. From the obligatory callbacks to classic lines like "If it bleeds, we can kill it," to action beats that throw back to Arnie's climactic confrontation with his extraterrestrial foe, the result is as predictable as decades-later followups get. That said, Prey is still a step up from Predator 2. And unless Danny Glover's baggy '90s wardrobe becomes trendy again, that's probably the way it's going to stay.

Prey begins streaming exclusively as a Hulu Original on August 5th, 2022. The film has an MPAA rating of R for strong bloody violence. Its runtime is 1 hr. 39 min.

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