August 14, 2022
Dan Trachtenberg's Predator Prequel PREY Review

With PREY, Dan Trachtenberg has revitalized the Predator franchise with a visceral, character-driven story that is low on flaws, big on action, and iconic in every sense!

The Predator franchise has been delighting audiences for well over three decades. From Arnold Schwarzenegger’s unsurpassed curtain raiser to Shane Black’s studio-tampered efforts on The Predator, fans can’t get enough of the alien hunter…especially when it is hunting us! And now, the Yatuja hunter is back on earth and up to its old tricks in PREY. The new movie is helmed by 10 Cloverfield Lane’s Dan Trachtenberg and promises to return the story to its roots. And this time, the unsuspecting victims are the tribespeople of the Comanche. But can the visionary director capture lightning in a bottle and reenergize the franchise? Or is PREY another studio-tampered disappointment doomed to fade into insignificance?

Fear not Predator fans…PREY is a magnificent and triumphant return to the source material. And coupled with a standout performance from Amber Midthunder and a noteworthy story, PREY is easily one of the best Predator movies to date. Period. Dan Trachtenberg has crafted a glorious return to form that will have fans on the edge of their seats from start to finish and marveling at the lethality of our new visceral alien hunter. But is the movie without flaws? Let’s unpack this visual feast and set the tone for a thrill ride you’ll want to watch again and again!

PREY
Amber Midthunder as Naru in 20th Century Studios’ PREY, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by David Bukach. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

THE PLOT

When Dan Trachtenberg promised the fans that his movie would return to its roots, he meant every word. Setting his movie 300 years in the past was a bold choice. One that could have divided the fanbase. There are no automatic assault rifles, no grenades, mines, or flamethrowers…just muskets, spears, tomahawks, and a bow and arrow. But it is here where the simplicity of the story evokes the spirit of John McTiernan’s classic original.

The plot centers on Naru, a fierce and highly skilled warrior. She has been raised in the shadow of some of the most legendary hunters who roam the Great Plains but is disregarded as a warrior by the members of her tribe. Instead, her life revolves around picking medicinal fruits and herbs. It’s a noble calling, one that has allowed her to master the art of being a healer. But when danger threatens her camp, she sets out to prove herself a worthy hunter. But what she sets out to hunt is more than she bargained for…because her quest for acceptance has put her on a collision course with the Predator.

PREY
Dakota Beavers as Taabe in 20th Century Studios’ PREY, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by David Bukach. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

CHARACTERS

After taking a tour of the beautiful grasslands of the Comanche, Trachtenberg gets to work introducing us to Naru’s family. Harnessing the brilliance of the old-west-centric movies of the ’80s, we are introduced to her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers), and mother Aruka (Michelle Thrush). Taabe is a seasoned hunter and is regarded as the tribe’s go-to warrior, while Aruka is the tribe’s witch doctor. Despite doubting Naru’s ability as a hunter, both loosely support her in her quest while constantly reminding her of her responsibilities to the tribe. But after one of the tribespeople is attacked by a lion, both Naru and Taabe set off to save them, all the while unaware that a new threat has landed and is now stalking the landscape.

Seen from the perspective of the Naru; performed brilliantly by Amber Midthunder, Trachtenberg frames the movie as a coming-of-age story. One packed to the brim with stunning picturesque landscapes, intense action, and more kills than you can count! Fans will get a kick out of spotting all the tropes and iconography on display – which proves that Trachtenberg has done his homework. And the subtle links to Predator and Predator 2 will have long-term fans grinning from ear to ear.

PREY
Amber Midthunder as Naru in 20th Century Studios’ PREY, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by David Bukach. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

ICONOGRAPHY

The perfect blend of nostalgia and a fresh story gives the franchise a whole new lease of life. All the while giving the fans the feast of Predator action they have been craving. As well as presenting us with a new early adaptation of the alien hunter to explore, and the changes are significant. Gone are the iconic plasma caster and the metallic helmet. These are replaced by new gadgets and a helmet made from solid bone. Which is by design.

Trachtenberg omitted them from proceedings to ensure that the ancient Comanche warriors had a fighting chance against the futuristic tech of the hunter. And the result is spectacular. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the Predator will be any less lethal without its iconic weapons. In PREY, the Predator is absolutely brutal. A clinical hunter that is happiest when it is eviscerating its prey. And here, it’s having a field day!

That being said, the further iconography of the franchise is there for all to see. Everything from the infrared heat vision to the retracting razor net is back in action and they are all used to lethal effect. And that is encompassed by the iconic vocalizations of the Predator itself. All the traditional clicks and roars echo through the woods and alert us to what awaits its quarry. And one will be forgiven for enjoying a few juicy spine-tingling moments here and there.

Dan Trchtenberg's Predator Prequel PREY
Dane DiLiegro as the Predator in 20th Century Studios’ PREY, exclusively on Hulu. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

THE CAST

As is always the case, the success of the movie hinges on the strength of its cast. And every member of PREY’s cast is up to the challenge. Coming to the forefront against the Predator was always going to be a challenge, but Amber Midthunder manages it effortlessly. We are immediately invested in Naru’s story and her quest to overcome the doubters and become a warrior in her own right will resonate with us all. And as her battle against the Predator unfolds, Midthunder grows into the role with zeal. Over its fast-paced 1 hour 39 minutes, we witness Naru grow in confidence as she takes on the hunter’s mantle. And the inevitable conclusion to her story will leave us all gasping for air.

Another standout performance comes from Dakota Beavers. In his supporting role as Naru’s brother, Beavers delivers a solid spell as the tried and tested warrior. And although he has his doubts about Naru’s ability to become a warrior, he slowly becomes her strongest supporter. Even against a foe as lethal as the Predator. And one of his lines of dialogue, in particular, will have fans grinning from ear to ear.

Dakota Beavers in PREY
Dakota Beavers as Taabe in 20th Century Studios’ PREY, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by David Bukach. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

THE PREDATOR

Assuming the role of the Predator was always going to be a daunting prospect, but Dane DiLiegro sticks the landing perfectly. His huge physique makes him the perfect build for the Predator, and his on-screen presence delivers on the menace in spades. Unlike The Predator which was over-reliant on CGI creatures, PREY goes back to basics and returns to the formula that made it such a success in 1987. And it pays off. We get a real sense of the creature’s menace every time it arrives on screen and the characteristics on display are hauntingly similar to the classic Predator. And the result is a new hunter that feels hauntingly reminiscent of our beloved originator, all the while bringing a fresh new look and lethal skillset to the table. So expect limbs to fly and heads to roll. Literally!

Dane DiLiegro as the Predator in 20th Century Studios’ PREY, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by David Bukach. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

SCORE

As a lifelong Predator fan, I had real reservations about a new direction for PREY’s soundtrack. And sadly, those fears were justified. Not that the score is lacking. Far from it. In fact, Sarah Schachner’s new soundtrack is beautifully crafted, powerful, and well-suited to the Comanche material. However, as a fan, I was craving a burst of Alan Silvestri’s classic Predator theme. Or even a hint of the iconic tribal drums, but sadly neither materialized. I cannot stress this enough, but the movie would have been perfect if these themes has been incorporated into the score. Instead, Schachner’s soundtrack, though brilliant in its own right doesn’t quite hit all the right notes. And that is the singular disappointment in Trachtenberg’s movie. It is a minor quibble, but a legitimate one. But thankfully, it doesn’t take anything away from what is otherwise a near-perfect Predator movie.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

As far as the aesthetics of the movie are concerned, like its predecessors, PREY is littered with spectacular topography. If cinematographer Jeff Cutter set out to deliver the most scenic Predator movie ever attempted, he succeeded. Effortlessly. The locations selected for the movie never cease to dazzle, and the beauty of the landscape easily makes PREY the most vibrant entry in the franchise to date. Whether it’s the Bison-rich grassy plains, the dense woodlands, or the rocky waterfalls, the beauty of the locations easily outweighs the need for computer-generated imagery. And the depiction of the Comanche people, overseen by Producer Jhane Myers, a member of the Comanche nation, ensures that the indigenous cultures are depicted accurately and with respect. And this collaboration serves up a feast for the eyes that is rich with Comanche heritage and low stereotypes.

(L-R): Stormee Kipp as Wasape, Amber Midthunder as Naru, and Cody Big Tobacco as Ania in 20th Century Studios’ PREY, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by David Bukach. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

VERDICT

By now it should be abundantly clear that PREY is the Predator movie we’ve all been waiting for. It is pure, imaginative escapism at its best, even when the director drags us down into the bloodsoaked trenches against a new Predator. One that is far more clinical, and way more lethal than anything we have seen before. Instead of leaving us with a bad taste in the mouth like its predecessor, Dan Trachtenberg’s movie overcomes the sequel/prequel conundrum to deliver the perfect counterpart to John McTiernan’s originator. It serves to reenergize the franchise and taps into the brilliance of what bought us to the dance. And it’s no stretch to declare that Trachtenberg has captured the same lightning in a bottle that McTiernan did in 1987. PREY’s impactful storyline, breathtaking visuals, and rich depiction of Comanche heritage deliver everything a Predator fan could wish for. And it has been a long time coming.

PREY
Amber Midthunder as Naru and Dane DiLiegro as the Predator in 20th Century Studios’ PREY, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by David Bukach. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

In short, PREY is a major step up from the studio-tampered fare of the last outing. It will tantalize every sense, challenge your thinking, and reintroduce us to an alien hunter that is back to its brutal best. And that is a joy to behold. Get ready for the ultimate showdown between Predator and PREY because Dan Trachtenberg has delivered a movie that is low on flaws, big on action, and iconic in every sense! It’s just a shame that we won’t be enjoying it on the big screen…because that’s where it deserves to be!

 

Dan Trachtenberg’s PREY will premiere on Disney Plus in the UK and Hulu in the United States from August 5th.

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