Review: ‘Prey’ is a welcome revelation for a once-tired franchise

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Review of: Review: 'Prey' is a welcome revelation for a once-tired franchise

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Rating:
4
On August 6, 2022
Last modified:August 6, 2022

Summary:

'Prey' is a fresh, original, and exciting entry into a franchise that was in desperate need of new life.

Review: 'Prey' is a welcome revelation for a once-tired franchise

There are many moments in Prey, the latest entry in the Predator franchise that make you forget you’re watching a franchise film, and in the best way possible. So often in contemporary blockbusters, the style and bombast of a movie can outweigh its substance (if there even is any).

With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised by how Dan Trachtenberg’s latest uses quiet moments to its advantage, building characters through efficient but thoughtful writing. Take, for instance, a scene early on in the film where we’re sitting with our hero Naru (Amber Midthunder) and her mother Aruka (Michelle Thrush).

They have an exchange about Naru’s desire to be a hunter, at the protests of basically everyone in the story, and about the medicine Aruka is making (which may or may not come in handy later on). Maybe it’s just because of our current state of blockbusters that often value hollow visuals over substantive character development, but moments like these, with character building and well-done exposition, feel like a small revelation.

Prey takes place in 1719, and follows Naru, whose clear talent and drive are dismissed by the members of her community, as she discovers the first Predator to land on Earth. She decides to take matters into her own hands and hunt the alien interloper, protecting her people and proving herself as a worthy and capable warrior. There is so much more that unfolds, too, including a section that touches on the horrors of colonialism through a French hunting party, one that’s scarier than the actual Predator with their capacity for cruelty.

This premise could have been done wrong in many ways, but fortunately, it all comes together to create a new classic in the sci-fi-horror genre. This is thanks in huge part to stellar performances from the mostly indigenous cast, especially Midthunder, who brings fierce determination and a beating heart to Naru, making her as compelling an action hero as the best of them, maybe even better because of her clear love for her family and community.

Her supporting cast is also great, with Dakota Beavers as Taabe, Naru’s older protective brother, and the aforementioned Thrush. The script is also something to celebrate, keeping the story compelling. It’s the work of Trachtenberg, who gave us 10 Cloverfield Lane, and writer-producer Patrick Aison, who clearly know their way around breathing fresh life into a tired genre concept.

Where most action franchise installments can feel disorienting for a new viewer, Prey is mercifully easy to follow and understand, even if this is your first trip into the Predator universe. In fact, the story here is so strong it could have easily been a fresh, original movie if we didn’t live in a media landscape that prioritizes established IP over the new and exciting.

Overall though, I’m just happy we got this at all – it’s so rare to find an action blockbuster that delivers on the thrills of the genre without feeling trite. That alone is something to celebrate. Hopefully, the strength of a movie like Prey can open the door to more new, creative, and diverse takes on franchise movies – or better yet, more original movies and opportunities for everyone involved. 

Review: 'Prey' is a welcome revelation for a once-tired franchise
Great

'Prey' is a fresh, original, and exciting entry into a franchise that was in desperate need of new life.