Prey movie review: Sorry Arnold Schwarzenegger, but this is hands down the best Predator film now
Prey movie review: Amber Midthunder stars in this smashing Predator sequel that is among the smartest action films made this year.
Prey is a throwback to the 80s’ Hollywood in more ways than one. First, it released in India two months after its global premiere (who even does that in the 2020s), and second, it is an uncomplicated survival drama/monster feature mash up, the kind 80s threw at us regularly. But Prey is good, really good. In fact, I may even commit sacrilege and say it’s better than all other Predator films before it. Yes, including that one with Arnold Schwarzenegger. But before you bring out the pitchforks, let me explain why. Also read: Werewolf by Night review: Marvel special shows how to bring a monster into MCU
Prey, set in the early 1700s America, is a prequel to the Predator franchise, setting the arrival of a Predator in America, where it comes face to face with a Comanche tribe and some French voyageurs. Sticking faithfully to the premise of the first Predator film, it shows how a Comanche woman Naru (Amber Midthunder) uses her training, grit, and resourcefulness to one up this powerful hunter.
Between 1987 and 2018, there were four Predator films and two largely forgettable crossovers with the Alien franchise. Apart from the original Predator (1987), none were received well by critics and the audiences. Most of it was due to how these films tried to subvert the Predator concept and use it in different settings- urban, 21st century, alien ship and what not. But the beauty of a Predator is that his terror is heightened in the wilderness. It is after all, the most efficient hunter in the galaxy. You need to give him the forest to stalk his prey, and that’s exactly what Prey does.
Prey works because it understands its villain. Unlike other ‘monsters’ from Hollywood, Predator isn’t a mindless freak. It is a cunning hunter that uses technology and its wits to outfox its prey. It enjoys the hunt in almost a sadistic, ritualistic fashion but is efficient enough to not let the prey get away. It cannot be beaten with technology or brute strength because there, it is far ahead of the humans. It can only be outfoxed by someone using their wits and superior knowledge of the surroundings. That’s what Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) did in the 1987 original and that is exactly what Naru does in Prey.
Many have called Naru a Mary Sue, a word used to describe a female character too overpowered or flawless to be engaging. Similar complaints have been made of other female heroes like Captain Marvel of late. But I wonder if any of those folks have even seen the film. For almost the entire length of the film, Naru is struggling to just stay alive against the onslaught of the beast before her. Yes, better hunters fall to the Predator while she survives but that is because she proves to be smarter. And as we have established, brute force can’t win against the Predator. As for those wondering how a teenager can beat a Predator where an elite paramilitary team failed (in the original film), one needs to understand that even the Predator here is less evolved, with older technology, and less awareness than his 1987 descendant. It pretty much levels the playing field.
The action is realistic, the plot smartly written, and the Predator is genuinely menacing. The choice to redesign the character a bit was a bold one, considering how iconic the look of the Predator is, but it has paid off because it establishes that this one is less experienced and evolved than the ones before, and hence, slightly more fallible. The characters are basic as the film wastes no time in establishing a complex back story for them. It gets into the thick of the action quickly. But they are still relatable and you do feel for them. There are quite a few throwbacks to the first film, cleverly inserted throughout the narrative, giving Prey a feel of an homage, but done quite smoothly.
Prey is an enjoyable watch, and at under a hundred minutes, it is crisp too. It is something fans had been yearning for for years--a Predator sequel that understands the premise. Now that we finally have it, can we just stop cribbing about the nitty gritties and supposed gender agendas (whatever that means) and enjoy this superb action film? Prey released in the US in August and finally had its India release on Disney+ Hotstar on October 7.
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Cast: Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro, Michelle Thrush, and Coco the dog.
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