A lot of popular movies are released directly online via streaming these days, especially since the pandemic began two years ago. But Dan Trachtenberg’s soft reboot of Fox’s famous Predator franchise, a prequel called fittingly Prey, is the first time I’ve seen a unanimous opinion that a movie should have been released in theaters.
After Shane Black’s ridiculous The Predator (2018) four years ago, I can see why 20th Century Studios opted for just dropping this new release on Hulu. The previous film’s dumb humor and offensively stupid logic hurt the action-horror brand.
But — like Joseph Kosinski’s Top Gun: Maverick — Prey not only delivers what most were not expecting, but also reestablishes a 1980s action classic four decades later.
In the great wilderness of 1700s North America, Naru (Amber Midthunder) is a female member of the Comanche tribe who wants to hunt and fight with the men instead of work domestically. Her older brother, Taabe (Dakota Beavers), already has the strength and skill that she longs for, and thinks she’s in over her head.
The plot expands when the bigger animals in the forests start suddenly appearing brutally killed, and Naru senses something unusual is lurking the tribe’s territory.
Dane DiLiegro is the body and model for the infamous extraterrestrial baddy, and Naru’s canine companion Sarii is played by a first-time set-trained dog named Coco.
Prey has been getting lots of praise for cleverly reinventing the Predator franchise, and also putting the spotlight on Native American characters as film leads. It makes sense that the first prequel in the series would be set in historic times, since the John McTiernan’s original Predator (1987) and most of the sequels take place in the jungle in modern times.
The few complaints I’ve seen of Prey didn’t actually bother me. One is that everyone in the movie speaks English, when obviously they would be speaking Comanche, and Midthunder in particular sounds like a modern teen.
But since the characters are speaking English anyway, I don’t mind the dialogue and characters sounding somewhat modern, because this is ultimately a fictional fantasy with contemporary actors. (And for those who enjoy Prey enough to watch it again, there actually is a Comanche dub featured on Hulu.)
Another criticism I’ve seen is about the heavy computer graphic effects during the action scenes. Sarii is played by Coco in all scenes, but the big, wild animals are computer graphics. I have to agree with the filmmakers that it’s probably easier to artificially create huge grizzly bears and wolves than train them.
The only thing I can’t really comment on is the allegedly garbage transcribed dialogue for some French fur trappers, so I’ll take the native French speakers’ word for it. Also, as a reminder for parents, there’s a strong reason the Predator movies are rated R.
All in all, Prey does the simple, basic task of giving audiences quality entertainment without any fluff. Midthunder, Beavers and Trachtenberg (who also directed the refreshingly subversive 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)) are impressive, and I’m excited to see what all three of them do next.