As far as franchise concepts go, Predator is perfect. A species lands that is our superior in every way: strength, intelligence, technology, longevity, and worst of all, its entire life is devoted to accomplishing the perfect hunt. It lands, and we, the top of our planet’s food chain, become the prey. While some films in the franchise are nigh-perfect (Predator) alongside some less than stellar features (those crossovers with ambiguous canonicity), its resiliency as a franchise stems largely from the facts that 1) the Yautja are one of film history’s best extraterrestrial menaces, and 2) it’s potential remains perfect, a conceptual blank check ripe for the picking.
Prey, the newest outing from 20th Century Studios, takes that check, writes a number with a bunch of zeroes after it, and cashes it proudly. It’s easily the best the franchise has been since the original, a sequel that finally realizes the ‘promise of the premise’: ignore a strict chronological sequence and pit these spacebound alien hunters against a badass historical warrior society. It’s clear that director Dan Trachtenberg and writer Patrick Aison really get and love the franchise, and it culminates in a number of great choices.
The film takes place hundreds of years in the past, when a lone Yautja arrives on Comanche territory. Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young woman with dreams of going against the grain and being recognized for her hunting prowess, is seeking to prove her mettle for all to see. Her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers), himself the tribe’s lead hunter, is supportive overall, but the two find challenges they didn’t account for when Naru discovers a new predator, an invisible killer. They have to defend their tribe against both menacing local fur traders and the threatening alien threat.
Amber Midthunder has already shown her talent in projects like Legion, but she’s a force here, a determined, believably badass heroine with a sharp mind and an equally sharp axe. As her older brother Taabe, Dakota Beavers also excels. Taabe is performed with a cool strength (and he, too, gets some great action sequences, horse and all), but perhaps best is the relationship between the pair, the latter being supportive of the former’s drives in a lovely, film-atypical dynamic.
Prey is coming straight to streaming, but it isn’t shot or scored like a film you’ll be watching from your phone on a bus. The shot composition is thoughtful and cinematic (it’s a great looking film), the editing is tight, and the score had gravitas. It’s a movie that belongs in a theater, but, on the plus side, it’s also clearly meant for the theatrical experience, which is a nice change from the streaming spectacles we so commonly experience these days that don’t land on a larger screen.
The action sequences are well choreographed and ably performed by talented stunt performers. The attention to historical detail really shines here (having a full track in the Comanche language is an excellent touch). There’s a sequence with the fur traders that’s badass, thoughtfully constructed, and visually memorable—it’s great, and rivals anything in the franchise so far. In short, it just lands.
Prey just works. Cinematic scale, strong performances, beautiful attention to detail, top-notch action sequences… it’s a solid outing that deserves the largest screen possible. The biggest issue, then, is that it’s going straight to streaming… accessibility is great, but this is not the kind of film that never hits the big screen. Beyond that, however, it’s a high bar in the long-beloved franchise, one the finally gets the series’ infinite potential and makes some new stars. Seriously, check it out.
Prey comes to Hulu August 5th.