Cert – Recommended for ages 16+, Run-time – 1 hour 40 minutes, Director – Dan Trachtenberg
Comanche hunter Naru (Amber Midthunder) finds herself defending her tribe against an advanced alien predator (Dane DiLiegro) designed to kill the strongest opponent it can find.
Following on from 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg returns to bring another perspective spin to a franchise. The original 1987 Predator is a classic piece of tension building about being hunted and preventing the attacker from winning. For the first half of Prey – taking the story to 1719 and following Comanche hunter Naru (Amber Midthunder) – Trachtenberg, who came up with the story alongside screenwriter Patrick Aison, focuses on the central figure hunting for an unseen figure. She’s uncertain of what waits for her in the nearby wilderness, but knows for sure that the recent roar of a ‘thunderbird’ and strange attacks and sightings are of something unfamiliar. Perhaps a predator stronger than any she, or anyone in her tribe, has seen before. Attempting to track it down she takes it upon herself to take the being down before it attacks the rest of her tribe.
Throughout this search, where we still see brief shots and moments with the initially invisible Predator (Dane DiLiegro) attacking the likes of nearby wolves and snakes, Trachtenberg makes the most of highlighting the wide open space which surrounds Naru. There are plenty of engaging shots of the landscapes to help establish Naru’s hunt, yet reinforcing the idea that the Predator – which she is yet to see – could be anywhere; again leaning away from the original film which manages to highlight the exterior environment while keeping a feeling of entrapment amongst the trees and crowded growth of the area in which Arnold Schwarzenegger feels trapped in.
However, while we commonly think of Schwarzenegger facing the advanced, both in terms of fighting skills and weaponry, alone, Midthunder spends much of the time with fellow Comanche fighters. Trying to prove both herself as a warrior capable of fighting just as well as the men in her tribe – including brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers) – but also the existence of the alien threat. While on the one hand this helps add to the handful of action sequences where the bow-and-arrow and tomahawk-equipped humans take on the precision-dart-firing alien it also slightly detracts from perhaps the highlight moments of seeing Midthunder’s character both explore the world around her and also take part in the action. She certainly gets her moments, but it’s more a case of wishing that there were more of them throughout the film due to the highlights that they serve as.
As the hunting tone of the first half switches to a more hunted feel in the second there’s, as you might expect, an increase in the amount of interactions with the Predator. There’s a level of suspense to be found in each one while keeping them fairly restrained and unshowy – bringing about a style which would perhaps come across with more spectacle on the big screen. While brief these moments are certainly enjoyable, and slightly differ from the build-up and initial search and hunt that we see Midthunder’s character go on. The film as a whole doesn’t seem to change tone or style, more just a slight shift in focus as the search turns into planning and adapting on how to escape and defeat the kitted-out otherworldly creature. It makes for good, certainly gory – the film is sparing but effective with its bursts, splatters and gushings of dark crimson and neon green – entertainment for the time that it’s on, with certain shots and moments likely to stay in the mind a little while afterwards.
It’s certainly interesting to see things pan out, with the idea of a Predator arriving 300 years ago and doing battle with basic handmade weapons of the time avoiding feeling like a novelty. It’s a properly formulate idea which is developed by the characters, particularly Naru, and the hunts and battles that make up the film – particularly allowing the central figure to prove herself on multiple fronts early on so that that doesn’t become the core focus of the film. It’s her vs the Predator and we know that. The film makes it clear. Simply bringing the historical spin to things while still playing with familiar elements of the franchise there’s an enjoyable time to be had with Prey – which has fun with its title and the different angles from which it can be seen throughout the film.
While you might wish the see more of Amber Midthunder going it alone, or up against the Predator, Prey still provides a solid piece of entertaining action, with effective build-up and shots of the open landscape before the hunter becomes the hunted.