Prey follows in the footsteps of its amazing predecessor, Predator.
Big Shoes to Fill
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that the 1987 Predator movie is easily among the top 5 best science fiction films. Ever. The audience doesn’t actually see the predator until well into the movie. What is so stunning about the film is that the audience is allowed to witness what horrific things the predator can do to humans in the jungle long before they ever see it. Only then does the original crew, commanded by Arnold Schwarzenegger, begin to realize that they’re not the hunters but rather the hunted.
Days of Future Past
Prey’s director, Dan Trachtenberg, had the idea for the film long before he sought permission to make it. The traditional Hollywood machinery was moving along predictable Predator pathways. It appears, however, that the powers that be became receptive to a new take on the franchise that zagged when everyone else was zigging. That new take involved making the new film a prequel to all the others and setting it in the remote past.
BONUS MATERIAL – ANOTHER REVIEW OF PREY!
The Gist of the Tale
The year is 1719. The place is somewhere on the Great Plains.
Naru (Amber Midthunder) is a young Comanche woman trained in the healing arts. She desires nothing less than to become a great hunter like Taabe, her brother. One evening, out with her amazingly intelligent dog, Sarii, she witnesses the passing of the Thunderbird and can’t wait to tell others about it. She interprets this sighting as proof that she can achieve her rite of passage. Taabe (Dakota Beavers) doubts her abilities but allows her to accompany his group when they leave to find a mountain lion that attacked a hunter. His reason? So she can provide medical help if needed. After they find the wounded man, Taabe tells everyone to head back home while he stays to find the lion.
The return to camp begins, but Naru finds huge tracks and a rattlesnake that has been expertly skinned. How can that be? Isn’t the bear that left the tracks more dangerous than a lion? Naru reunites with Taabe and their cohort, Paake, and the threesome starts to hunt the lion together. Naru is suspicious of the bear track, believing it to be something more menacing. Taabe is dismissive. Attacking from out of nowhere, the lion kills Paake, and Naru must take on the big cat on the branch of a tree. Distracted by strange lights and sounds, she falls to the ground and is rendered unconscious. Carried back home by Taabe, Naru is cowed because she failed to defeat the lion. Later, Taabe returns with the body of the lion, and the tribe celebrates his new warrior status.
In rapid order, Naru leaves camp with Sarii. It is her mission to solve the mystery of the bear track, the strange lights, and the mysterious sounds. She finds a herd of slain bison and wonders if the bear creature could be responsible. Not long after, she is attacked by a real grizzly bear and manages to find temporary shelter from the bear. Cowering with fear, Naru witnesses an invisible being battle the ferocious bear and somehow dispatch it. When the being lifts the bear over its head, blood gushes out and over the being, revealing that it is, in fact, a monster.
A Massive Free for All
Without giving away the entire plot, Naru manages to escape the clutches of the predator, only to be captured by a group of French voyageurs. Unfortunately, it turns out they were the ravagers of the bison herd and had no love for the Comanche tribe.
The remainder of the film deftly moves between the voyageurs, the Comanche, Taabe, and Naru as they track, trap, and battle the predator. As with the original movie, a predator is extremely hard to kill. Only by teaming up with Taabe and using her extremely deft fighting skills does Naru stand even a ghost of a chance.
Why Prey is a Good Film
In the best of Hollywood traditions, no scene in this film is gratuitous.
First, the film’s opening scenes are gorgeous (and gorgeously filmed). Second, Naru’s world is shown to be rugged and challenging but also pristine and beautiful. This is important because as the film progresses, the world continues to be a challenge to navigate through, even as it becomes more stark, dark, and sinister.
Second, Prey does not try to explain anything to the viewer. It presupposes that the viewer has seen (or heard of) the Predator franchise and that they understand the kind of film it is and what it aspires to do. From the opening title to the closing credits, it is all about business – the business of being a different sort of predator film that leverages heavily on elements from the first movie.
And it succeeds more than it (perhaps) had any right to. The story focuses mostly on the Comanche nation. It removes all forms of human technology from the equation and even removes firearms almost entirely. Naru demonstrates her gift for indigenous weapons, something that the writer, Patrick Aison, and Trachtenberg work diligently to show the viewer in great detail.
For example. Naru tires of having to retrieve her hatchet when she is unable to hunt wild rabbits. Instead of giving up, she crafts a thin, strong rope from local fibers and attaches it to the hatchet. During a lively action-filled vignette, Naru trains with the new retrievable hatchet and soon is shown walking off with a brace of bunnies ready for skinning and cooking.
The Predator Look
While much of Prey takes its look and feel from original source material, there are several scenes that are dead-on Predator – wait – bad expression.
For instance, there is a scene set in a burned-out forest where the action is taking place in a tableau of shifting fog and swirling ash particles. The atmosphere and lighting shift and give a very gritty, dark, and realistic background for the battle that is about to take place. However, atmospherics are not wasted. Naru and Taabe have been lashed to a dead tree to act as bait. The French voyageurs are hiding out on the periphery, hoping to spring a trap on the predator. The French folk’s horses even get loose and charge around the scene, adding another bit of frenetic tension to the scene.
One of the standout performances in the movie is other than the two-legged kind: Sarii, Naru’s canine companion.
A Carolina dog named Coco was cast as Naru’s dog. Talk about type casting! However, it’s not what you think. Coco was adopted and trained for the film and was initially only supposed to be in a few scenes. The crew found that because of her training and effervescent spirit, they included her in more scenes and more than a few action sequences. Including more of Sarii gives Naru’s character more complexity and empathy, and when Sarii trots into dangerous territory, it ratchets up the tension of that sequence.
Off To the Cineplex!!!
Prey is a Hulu original that should not have been released on Hulu. It should have had a run in the cineplex. It’s that good. Unfortunately, studios are feeling the pressure to not miss with their content by sending it into the movie theater if they’re not guaranteed a profit by doing so. The competition is also fierce to land original content that helps the streaming service of choice stand out from the competition.
Hopefully, Hulu won’t make the same mistake with Prey II when it debuts. And hopefully, Prey II will be of the quality that it will also be worthy of a debut on the big screen.
* Source – Youtube: Prey – Movie Review