The original Predator is an undeniable classic. It holds court with a handful of genre films that when broken down, are the blueprints for great film making. Robocop, Child’s Play, and Predator are all great examples. Even if you’ve seen them hundreds of times and know the twists and turns, they are so brilliantly put together that there is no denying; these are well constructed movies. If they never held up to the original, those other franchises have sequels that bear some fruit. Where Predator has forever been begging for a good follow-up. The new prequel film, Prey, has shown some promise to finally break the cycle of bad Predator films. But does all the early buzz truly reflect the kind of film Prey turned out to be?
It’s the early 1700s and Naru (Amber Midthunder) is a young Comanche tribe member who doesn’t want to follow the traditional road her tribe would put her on. She is a hunter and wants to be known as a hunter. While out with her brother on a hunt, she begins to notice some things that make her question whether there is something else out in the wilderness. Something her or her tribe have never encountered before. Her brother and the other hunters of the tribe dismiss her claims. They are hunting a mountain lion, and other than maybe a bear, there is nothing else out there waiting for them. Of course, there is something else out there waiting for them. How will these hunters adapt to the future problems that are bearing down upon them?
Let’s just get this taken care of straight away. When Prey was shown at the San Diego Comic Con (It screened for me a few days later), the rave reactions came out immediately. Articles saying there was a 10 minutes standing ovation, colleagues claiming it is even better than the original. There was no shortage of praise for Prey. A lot of it came from people I am close with and respect. I’m thrilled people love the film.
I’m happy there are throngs of fans who can finally get enjoyment from another Predator film. But I have to wonder if maybe they were all smoking crack at this point, because Prey is far from an infallible savior of the franchise and even further away from being a great film. This is a serviceable film and arguably the best Predator film outside of the groundbreaking first feature. But that doesn’t equal good.
Early buzz about the film was that there would be little dialogue and what amount of that existed would be spoken in Comanche. Now, that might have changed along the way during production, and it isn’t really an issue if you ended up with a lot of back and forth spoken in English at the end of the day. However, the interactions between Naru and all of her tribe are not time appropriate. They all talk to each other like a group of 21st-century teens hanging out at the mall on a Friday night. It was off-putting and distracting, to say the least. The early sections of the film also felt the need to hammer home this idea of the natural predator/prey atmosphere of pre-frontier America–and it got real old, real fast.
A big chunk of Prey involves Naru pitted against animals (I know I am not an expert in these things) that don’t really follow their traditionally well documented behaviors. Solid enough action in the tail end of the film does enough to pull Prey out of the muddy swamp it finds itself sinking in, but doesn’t do enough to crown it anything more than; OK. The design of the Predator to introduce something different that existed hundreds of years before our first meeting with the crab faced menace makes total sense. But he gets more advanced weapons than his great, great, great, grandson has to use? How is that a thing?
A battle of competing themes really drags down the ultimate goal of Prey. The story of a young woman fighting for her identity that doesn’t conform to her upbringing. The impending doom of outsiders coming to take over their land contrasted with the overbearing presence of an alien creature to symbolize something that was already there. It’s a web of roads that never seem to intersect. There seems to be a missed opportunity here. We know the Predator hunts for sport, but all we get is another Predator who has come to kill. Why wasn’t there a comparable storyline to Naru’s life journey from the opposite side? At least that would have added some weight to the story. Instead we plod along, dropping call-backs along the way till we reach some action to end it all.
Final Grade: C-
It is scheduled to be released by 20th Century Studios as a Hulu Original Film on August 5, 2022.
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Here’s the trailer of the film.