We’ve often seen studios dump films directly to their streaming platforms when they think they have a dud on their hands. “Prey” hasn’t had much marketing, and it is only available for viewing on Hulu streaming, so it would be easy to think this is another throw-away title in the franchise. But make no mistake, “Prey” is the best Predator flick in a very long time and the most visually pleasing of the entire series.
The story takes place 300 years ago in the heart of Comanche territory. Naru (Amber Midthunder) is a young woman in her tribe who is an excellent tracker and hunter. She longs for the respect of her brother and others in the tribe, but as we’ve seen in many movies before, her abilities are ignored and mocked because she’s a woman. The premise starts off like any number of Disney films, but the difference here is it’s not just a generic plot point. Naru truly is one with nature and has a remarkable attention to detail. Amber Midthunder‘s extraordinary performance breathes life into this wonderful character.
It’s not easy to make an entertaining movie that follows a familiar formula. We know the Predator will eventually arrive and threaten the lives of her and her tribe. We know eventually, they will have a climatic showdown. And we hope that our protagonist will prevail. Too often directors follow this structure in a paint-by-numbers fashion, boring the audience with elements they’ve already seen before. “Prey” could have easily been another boring rehash, but instead director Dan Trachtenberg treats this movie with the love many of us have for the original. He spends the time to develop not just a protagonist we’re interested in, but an entire world. The cinematography is the most beautiful, by far, in the franchise. Trachtenberg isn’t afraid to let the camera linger in almost every shot, giving us a chance to exist in the world along with the characters. It’s quite breathtaking at times. Even during the action sequences later in the film, he trusts in the ability of his actors. There are long takes with camera moves that whip around instead of relying on the incessant cutting of an editor to try and sell action that isn’t there.
Not all of the CGI looks great, but it’s a minuscule critique on a film that is so gorgeous. The only true complaint about this movie is that it wasn’t released in theaters. It’s a shame that “Bullet Train” is being released in IMAX on the same day, since that movie gains nothing from the large format, whereas “Prey” would have been breathtaking.