It is quite unfortunate that one of the year’s best blockbusters did not get a theatrical release, even more so when it is unanimously hailed as the best movie in its franchise since the original. After a rocky number of sequels and even failure in a crossover franchise, the ‘Predator‘ franchise tried returning to the big-screen in 2018 directed under Shane Black. However, the disappointment in that movie led this franchise astray wandering off into nothingness until the announcement of a prequel movie titled ‘Prey‘. The only downside of this is that it would be put on Disney+/Hulu. Upon its release, the film garnered universal acclaim, prompting me to finally get into this franchise. What was striking to me after watching the first two movies and now this prequel is that ‘Prey‘ features the best parts of both of those movies to create what is arguably the best written ‘Predator‘ movie.
spoilers for ‘Prey‘ are featured in this review.
As research for this movie, I decided to watch the first two ‘Predator‘ movies because I got the impression that ‘Predators‘ and ‘The Predator’ were not considered canon or connected. Watching the very first movie, I was intrigued but slightly worried that it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t really compelled the entire time and I feel the movie lacked some excitement at times. I fell in love with the Predator as a character immediately, such an iconic look that still terrifies to this day. I won’t lie, the Predator without the mask is still unnerving to me as a 20 year old. I went into the often bashed sequel ‘Predator 2’ thinking it was going to be a chore but what I realized soon enough was that I actually ended up loving this sequel. The added lore, campiness, increased gore and violence and all taking place in an 80’s cityscape. It just clicked for me. I love how much more action-packed this movie was, I still liked the characters. I won’t get into the racism in terms of Jamaican representation because it really does speak for itself. As hot of a take it is, I have to stick to it and say that ‘Predator 2’ is more enjoyable than ‘Predator‘ even if the latter is technically a better movie. ‘Prey’ takes the heavy gore and action from the sequel and the wonderful use of nature from the first movie to make what I honestly think is the most satisfying movie in the franchise so far.
What makes ‘Prey‘ so endearing and satisfying is that there is an emotional core, something which those two movies didn’t really seem to grasp. There is this brother/sister dynamic between Naru (Amber Midthunder) and Taabe (Dakota Beavers) which the movie plays off of many times in order to get us to root for them or even increase the stakes. While this relationship could’ve been more fleshed out, there was enough there to get me to care about the both of them. Despite being separated for a good chunk of the movie, when they do get reunited, they make a great team. When the unfortunate death of Taabe happens, it gives even more of a reason to root for Naru and from then on, the movie kicks into it’s amazing third act finale. First off, hats off to Midthunder who is a true star in this movie, she’s a great action hero and she absolutely sells the physicality of the role. The callbacks to previous moments in the film being used to trap the Predator is as clever as it is satisfying. The movie differentiates between the mind of a Predator and a human very well. When she ends up killing the Predator using his own tracking laser, it was just one of the most satisfying moments of the year for me. Seeing her arrive to her village with it’s head was the cherry on top.
That being said, perhaps what I love the most about ‘Prey‘ is it’s use of nature and how it explores the natural cycle and the food chain. It does so in such a clear and direct way but it always feels effective. One example of this is when Naru gets the attention of a bear who climbs up to her. Usually at least what I realized is that the creature/animal would stop right before it gets to our protagonist and then attack. Here, however, the bear keeps going after Naru until the dog gets its attention. It was actually insane watching the bear hold it’s own once it got to the Predator. Seeing as how this creature’s role is to find a worthy opponent, it was great seeing this Predator adapt to this planet with various animals. The scene where the snake eats the mouse, first off, fantastic use of a jumpscare but then an even more fantastic use of the Predator. I love the use of the invisibility feature on his suit. Seeing ants crawl up the suit, the blood of the bear drip and showing up on the suit removing that element of surprise, the quicksand covering it in the final fight. ‘Prey‘ understands this character like no other, the level of inventiveness here was super fun, clever and creepy! The team behind this movie should definitely be involved with any ‘Predator‘ project moving forward.
Overall, despite it being a prequel, ‘Prey‘ should be an example of the ‘Predator‘ franchise moving forward. The use of horror, nature and action feels new and inventive. The cast is great, the shot composition is striking at times and overall, it’s a movie that I feel represents this franchise the best. It’s violent, gory, fun and satisfying, everything a ‘Predator‘ movie should be.
‘Prey‘ is now streaming on Hulu / Disney Plus.