Disney acquired 20th Centruy Fox and, therefore, also the Predator franchise. But what I could never have expected is that Disney, of all the corporations, would release what might be the best Predator film since the original and it didn’t even release in theatres! I mean, I’m not that big on theatres anymore, but big action stuff like this will get me there. I’d have loved to have seen this on the big screen.
The film is set in the 1700’s and follows Naru (Amber Midthunder), a native American hunter looking to prove her hunting prowess. After seeing some strange tracks she finds herself being hunted by the Predator. From there it’s very standard stuff; Naru gets her butt kicked by the Predator, Naru learns the Predator has a weakness and then Naru uses that weakness to kill it.
So, standard Predator fare? Absolutely. But it’s high quality and extremely entertaining, which quite a few of the Predator sequels haven’t been.
The thing that works in Prey’s favour the most is the setting. The 1700’s is great and it makes sure to capitalise on the hunting culture of the native tribe, introduces us to some French trappers, and is very big on the ‘let’s film outside’ idea, leading to an authentic feeling movie.
It’s also a lot gorier than I’d expected it to be too, having released solely on Disney Plus in the UK. And it’s not gore for the sake of gore, but quite creative. There’s a good shot where the French trappers are hunting the Predator and, out of focus right at the side of the screen, you see a guy fall of his horse if you’re eagle eyed enough. Then while they talk you see the horses start running away, and only after that do you get the gore when the predator descends upon the guys who are in focus. I like that kind of stuff.
The rest of the action is also pretty great. I like that the Predator himself takes a lot of damage too. Before finding humans to fight, he’s hunting wolves that grab at his legs and wrestling a bear that almost drowns him. He gets shot like a hundred times by French people, a bunch of Indians stab him and fire arrows into him. Predator doesn’t have it easy here. When he has the element of surprise he stomps, but once he’s known about you really get to see people fight against him tooth and nail, which I like. It’s a good change of pace from things like Predator 2 or Predators where they seem so unbeatable that you really have to suspend your disbelief for the finale.
As far as Amber Midthunder goes as a lead, I really like her. The whole point of the film is that her character is unsuspecting and needs to prove herself. And I guess when I saw her I was like, I don’t think she can fight a Predator unless she’s setting Rambo-esque traps all around the forest. But by the end, I bought her as an action lead more than I did Danny Glover or Adrian Brody in their movies. She uses a trap to out smart the Predator, but also is very physical in a way that’s both believable (as far as alien action set pieces go) and very cool to watch.
But the film isn’t without a couple of issues. The first act is incredibly cliche, and you don’t get the sense they’re using the setting to it’s fullest until later on in the film; a lot of the drama in the native camp is like a high school drama lifted out of a Netflix original and dropped into a different time period. Fortunately, it’s short-lived. Then there’s the CGI which is mostly fine… Mostly. The animals like deer, rabbits, wolves and bears don’t always look like they’re in the same realm of reality as the rest of the environment. And there’s just one or two shots of the Predator jumping through trees that look a bit too video gamey. But when everything’s practical, and you know the Predator is actually there, it looks really cool. On the upside of the visuals, there’s a lot of cool vistas and I was pleased at just how much of the movie was set during the day time.
So yes, I would recommend Prey. By a large margin (which, admittedly, might not be saying much), it is the best Predator sequel and is definitely worthy of your time.