The Predator is a sci-fi icon, but none of the movies that followed the 1987 classic have managed to live up to Arnold Schwarzenneger’s unforgettable battle with the alien menace. There’s been something to love about all of them (well, maybe not that 2010 reboot), with even the schlocky Alien vs. Predator movies managing to do something fun with the formidable hunters. However, it’s been clear for a while now that the franchise needed to go back to the drawing board, and it does exactly that with Prey, a perfect Predator movie that sets the stage for a new era of storytelling we’re very much hoping continues at Hulu.
While there appears to be something of a consensus online that Prey has been "dumped" on the streaming service, both Hulu and Disney+ (where this movie will be available to watch internationally) have a massive audience. If a non-theatrical release is the best way to resuscitate this dying franchise, then we’re happy to forego the big screen experience, though it’s worth pointing out it would have looked pretty damn great on an IMAX screen. Alongside cinematographer Jeff Cutter, director Dan Trachtenberg delivers a beautifully shot and authentic portrayal of the Comanche Nation in 1719, exploring themes and beliefs from the time that resonate just as much today.
Naru’s (Amber Midthunder) place in her tribe is to be a dutiful woman, cooking and cleaning for the men who go out hunting before returning with their trophies. However, she has grander aspirations and is constantly looking to prove herself. When the Predator arrives on Earth, for what appears to be the first time, Naru is forced to step up in a way she could never have possibly imagined, all while trying to live up to her brother Taabe's (Dakota Beavers) revered status and shake off the jibes of the men in her tribe who look down on her. What follows is an edge-of-your-seat thriller where the hunter becomes the hunted, and yes, there’s plenty of gore, scares, and badass action along the way. Prey’s setting means its leads have to make use of pretty basic weaponry, and that only serves to make the Predator feel more unstoppable and deadly than ever before. Trachtenberg has a great handle on action scenes, ensuring we feel every blow that lands in a visceral and very real way.
If the movie stumbles anywhere, it’s with the somewhat familiar story of someone looking to prove their mettle. Prey proves to be empowering, but gets there in a way we’ve seen before. The way the Predator is teased throughout (thanks to that familiar cloaking technology) until a big reveal later in the movie is a little forced, especially when we all know what the Predator looks like. On the one hand, this feels like a good way to reintroduce the alien to viewers, though some fans might find the wait a little frustrating and unnecessary even with the creature boasting an overhauled look. Still, it helps the final battle land a little harder and the wait does add to the excitement in some ways. It’s a minor niggle, and not likely to dampen your enjoyment of this otherwise excellent spin on the franchise. There are some fun Easter Eggs for longtime fans too, and while you won’t find a post-credits scene here, be sure to pay close attention to the animated closing credits.
Those of you who watched Legion will be aware of what a talent Midthunder is, but she really gets to stand out here in a way that establishes her as a bona fide movie star. Yes, Naru’s journey to overcome the misogyny in her camp by proving herself is a familiar one, but the actor finds a way to make it resonate and helps us to understand what her character is going through. Beavers can’t quite live up to his more experienced co-star, but considering Prey marks his first acting gig, we find it hard to fault what he delivers here. As for the Predator, some might argue that it's the real star of the show, and fans are sure to be overjoyed with this back-to-basics approach that sees it too have to prove itself on Earth by squaring off with the denizens of the planet. Not quite as technologically advanced as its predecessors, this Predator is primal and terrifying, and when it finally drops the cloaking tech, it feels like an absolute beast of a character that can’t be stopped. Isn’t that how it should be?
Prey delivers pure Predator pandemonium, and is the Predator franchise at its best. It's also a much-needed fresh start for the series that allows Amber Midthunder to shine in a role that promises to put her on the map.