Underestimate her; that’ll be fun.
In the early 1700s on the Great Plains of North America, a would-be warrior named Naru (Amber Midthunder) seeks to join the hunters of her Comanche tribe with her older brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers). While no one speaks the words, Naru understands she is meant to gather and prepare with the other non-hunters, but her spirit yearns for more. Her chance comes when she alone witnesses a fiery object streaking across the sky, but having faltered once already, she sets out alone to prove a new threat is among them. As evidence mounts and bodies begin to fall, clever and quick-learning Naru may be all that stands between her and the annihilation of her people.
From director Dan Trachtenberg shooting from a co-written script by Patrick Aison, this so-called Predator prequel story was reportedly developed in secret, the earliest appearance of Predators on Earth if we dismiss the implications of AvP. Following in the inventive footsteps of the 1987 original Predator film helping along the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the initial idea that anyone without advanced weaponry or combat tactics could survive such an encounter at first seems absurd… until you consider the way Predators think and the way tribal Native Americans survive. Streaming exclusively on Hulu with optional English or Comanche language, is this just another post-merger 20th Century no-longer-Fox Studio unloading, or are the whispers true about Prey being one of the best of the entire series really true?
Believe the hype. Viewers will find much to connect with and admire awaiting the predictable arrival of you-know-what. Everything after that arrival is a perfect storm of sight, sound, and situation, layering in believable plot complications until the inevitable and worthy final showdown. The Comanche are shown to be an inventive and resourceful people, neither perfect nor deified but skilled in making do with whatever is around, using their natural environment as the home-field advantage it is. In addition to the cinematography and score inviting the biggest venue to experience a film like this, the attention to detail promises further discovery in repeat viewing, the very thing theaters and audiences crave. A pure spectacle both intended as and deserving of a wide theatrical release, Prey has instead been banished to streaming for the cinematic crime of being a mere merger asset.
With an exemplary Native American cast, Amber Midthunder steals every scene she’s in while shouldering the entire film, and that’s saying something. Setting aside the absurd “What if a regular Predator goes after a bigger, badder, evil-er Predator?” story crutch, there are two standard plots when it comes to Predator movies: a human befriends an alien hunter as they take on an adversary together, or it’s a no-holds-barred human vs. Predator death match. This is true even of the comics and other mediums, but the genius of Prey is keeping viewers guessing which rabbit hole our protagonist is going down. Not only are there countless scenes worthy of framed poster stills strewn throughout the film, there are bursts of choreography that can only be described as “forest parkour” showcasing moves that would make Tarzan jealous.
Watch the end credits carefully for a hint as to what could have come… or could still hopefully come to pass if Prey finds enough love. It’s perfectly natural to despise those who tossed a sure-fire theater win onto the streaming fire, but the good news is viewers will at least get the chance to see what could have been on the big screen, unlike the host of Warner Bros. films nearing completion that will never see the light of day. Come back to us, Naru; we still need you.
Prey is rated R for strong bloody violence and a reminder that what goes around comes around… at a high velocity.
Four skull recommendation out of four