Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Prey

Title: Prey

Describe This Movie Using One Simpsons Quote:
MR. BURNS: Some men hunt for sport, others hunt for food
The only thing I'm hunting for
Is an outfit that looks gooooood
Brief Plot Synopsis: For once, white people aren't the Comanche's biggest problem.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 4 Chris Hansens out of 5.
Tagline: "The hunt begins."

Better Tagline: "Payback time."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: As if aspiring to be the only female warrior in her tribe wasn't enough, young Comanche Naru (Amber Midthunder) has to square off with French fur trappers, rogue bears, and worst of all: an extraterrestrial trophy hunter, aka a Predator (Dane DiLiegro), who's set up shop in Naru's stomping grounds.
"Critical" Analysis: Few experiences are more relatable than chafing under the expectations of your so-called betters. In this respect, Dan Trachtenberg's Prey is more than just the latest installment in a venerable sci-fi franchise, it's also the first to touch on more universal themes.

Though it's admittedly arguable how universal fear of aliens is.

As a young person (even one living 300 years ago) trying to make her way, Naru is easy to sympathize with. It also doesn't hurt that — unlike in previous Predators — she doesn't start out as a consummate badass, a la Arnold Schwarzenegger or Danny Glover. Naru is still learning to compete with the men in her tribe, and while she's earned grudging respect from her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers), she still struggles against traditional tribal roles, as well as the insults of the established warriors.

That is until ... well, you know.

If you saw the first trailer for Prey and thought maybe it was a mistake to let the cat out of the bag with regards to the bad guy, you're not alone. Sure, it was spoiled in other ways (Deadline leaked the news in late 2020), but just imagine watching this movie in a crowded theater when the Predator was finally, gloriously revealed?

Oh, that's right: Prey isn't another bloated MCU cash grab, so it won't be showing up in theaters. Thanks to the terms of Disney's acquisition of 20th Century Fox and the latter's prior deal with HBO, a theatrical release would have been accompanied by a streaming release on HBO. Disney, not wanting to repeat the New Mutants fiasco, elected to send Prey straight to Hulu.

Which is a goddamn shame, because Prey is exactly the kind of film mean to be experienced on the big screen. Jeff Cutter's cinematography captures the sweeping landscapes and impenetrable forests of Naru's home, accompanied by Sarah Schachner's rousing score and highlighted by some truly gripping action sequences.
click to enlarge
Move over, Arnold.
Director Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) was clearly aiming for a big screen experience, and his shot choices show it. There's a great one of Naru squaring off against a mountain lion in a tree, for example, and the scene where she's leaving camp to hunt, literally going against the tide of the tribe's other women as they return to the fields.

Also? It feels like this Predator is kind of an asshole (or more of one, depending on your feelings on the subject). Previous installments had him going up against ... well, not comparably armed opponents, but at least ones with modern guns. Naru and her people aren't highly trained Special Forces or aggressively armed LAPD officers or shanghaied mercs; they've got bows and arrows and spears. It's about as sporting as hunting deer with a rifle, when you get right down to it.

But then, that's kind of the point. Trachtenberg may telegraph some plot machinery early on, but arguably the best part of any Predator movie is watching our heroes learn how to fight back and put their plans into motion, and Naru does so to satisfying effect.

It's been a long time since we had a Predator movie worth getting excited over (and the less said of the AvP series the better), but Prey is a taut, imaginative experience, and it exceeds the majority of its predecessors thanks to a central character who's compelling in her own right. Amber Midthunder is the best thing to happen to this franchise since Topher Grace bought it in Predators, and while it's probably too much to hope for a follow-up, she and Trachtenberg have given us the best Predator since the original.

Rank 'Em:
Predator (1987)
Prey (2022)
Predator 2 (1990)
Predators (2010)
The Predator (2018)

Prey is now streaming on Hulu.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar