Movie Review: Prey
The original 1987 Predator movie is sublimely simple, stripping down a science-fiction and action premise to its rawest elements, with just a grizzled band of military commandos squaring off against a super-strong, heavily equipped hunter from outer space. Later films (and comics, novels and video games) have expanded the mythology surrounding the Predator species itself, but the core of each of these stories has always been the battle of wits and strength between an alien monster and the people it’s trying to kill.
The prequel Prey is the franchise’s best instalment since the first because director Dan Trachtenberg and screenwriter Patrick Aison seem to understand that what makes a Predator picture exciting is watching grossly overmatched humans figure out how to stop the unstoppable. Prey is set 300 years ago on colonial America’s Great Plains and has as its hero the underdog of all underdogs: a Comanche warrior named Naru(Amber Midthunder), who has only a few primitive weapons to use against the Predator’s high-tech armory.
After just a little bit of setup — establishing that Naru likes to hunt and fight — Prey gets straight to the action, as the heavily camouflaged Predator starts tracking and killing in ways that initially suggest maybe a ferocious animal or some local French trappers are to blame.
Once Naru gets a glimpse of her true enemy — during a thrilling sequence that also sees her dashing through a creek and dodging a bear — she quickly has to learn how the alien operates so she can find its weakness and protect her tribe.
Prey has a refreshingly compact running time, and unlike a lot of modern action movies, much of it takes place in the well-lighted, colourful daytime rather than in the visually bland, murky night. There’s even some thematic resonance here, as Trachtenberg and Aison parallel the Predator’s hunt with the French trappers’ encroachment on Comanche land. Mostly though, Prey works because the filmmakers don’t overcomplicate it. A Predator story should have well-crafted and excitingly staged scenes of humans fighting an alien. This picture has plenty.