‘Prey’ movie review: A brilliant Amber Midthunder in an impressive ‘Predator’ film

With great casting, character writing, and cinematography, ‘Prey’ becomes a welcome addition to the popular franchise

August 11, 2022 03:35 pm | Updated 05:06 pm IST

A still from the film

A still from the film | Photo Credit: Hulu

Prey, the latest addition to the Predator franchise is a significant effort at reviving the franchise and defining the course of the series. Since the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger original, the franchise has declined in popularity with most of its films and spin-offs failing to create an impression in the minds of the audience and the box office alike. The latest installment, however, seeks to right this wrong and is quite successful as Prey is now Hulu’s all-time biggest premiere yet.

Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Cast: Amber Midthunder, Dane DiLiegro, Ray Strachan, Stefany Mathias, Dakota Beavers
Runtime: 100 minutes
Storyline: A skilled Comanche warrior protects her tribe from a highly evolved alien predator that hunts humans for sport, while also fighting against wilderness and dangerous colonisers

Prey is the fifth mainstream film in the franchise, and serves as an intriguing prequel. Set in 1719 in the Northern Great Plains in North America, it follows the story of Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young Comanche healer and warrior. Naru, as a woman, is tasked with the duties of tending to the injured; miffed with her place in the tribe, she is always in search of opportunities to hunt to prove herself. Naru has dreams of becoming a great warrior, and by establishing this quite early in the film, the viewers are looped into her quest for almost the entire runtime of the film.

Naru intends to prove herself by hunting down an unidentifiable extraterrestrial blood-thirsty creature. In the process, she is faced with ridicule by her tribesmen who find the idea of a ‘female hunter’ funny. She still persists with the help of her dog Sarii, played by a dog named Coco who wasn’t even trained, making his performance dearer to all of us. Dogs always know how to make it better, don’t they?

Prey follows the formula familiar to the movies that preceded it in the franchise; a Predator arrives on Earth to hunt humans who are initially overpowered by the alien, and now to have to figure out how to combat it. The formula works. In fact, the strength of Prey lies in keeping its plot simple and fleshing out the characters. Naru follows the typical ‘hero’s journey’ that action film fans are no strangers to.

The treatment of the tribespeople by the camera is noteworthy; they are given their due respect and aren’t constrained in boxes through the means of archaic stereotypes. The Comanche language is also used occasionally to make the world-building feel real to the audience. Not to mention the role played by the hues and tones used by the costume and make-up for the same. Prey also makes history by being the first Hollywood movie to be available in Comanche, a rightful tip of the hat to the tribespeople.

Amber Midthunder, an actor with indigenous heritage, (who is also an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Sioux Tribe) being cast as the protagonist in a big-budget Hollywood film, shows that the creators — while highlighting the stories of the Native Americans — have done their due diligence in rightfully platforming the people who are at the centre of the story. Their tale, in this case, might have a hand in restoring glory to a famous Hollywood franchise. The politics of the film — while subtle — definitely needs highlighting while we have conversations about the film.

The directorial decision to camouflage the alien is intelligent, and works in favour of the new generation audience to whom Prey might also serve as an introduction to the franchise. The masking of the Predator coupled with the predictability of the plot actually provokes the audience to interpret the film to suit their sensibilities. Prey gives a generation wrought with climate anxieties a metaphor to resonate with; it also narrates the adversities of the past whose remnants have spilt over and continue to haunt the political climate of today.

Scenes of the French trappers killing bison are cleverly incorporated into the film to make the stories of the indigenous people authentic and give a tale of heroism — albeit a fantastical plot — some credibility. Scenes of wildlife hunting their prey, though beautifully shot, come across as cheeky.

All of this is eclipsed by Amber Midthunder who embodies Naru’s spirit to near-perfection and shines during the fight sequences spread across the movie. If you are alien (pun intended) to the Predator franchise, Prey is a good place to begin your hunt.

Prey is streaming on Hulu in the US, on Disney+ Hotstar in select Southeast Asian countries, and on Star+ in Latin America

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