Prey – Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It was only four years ago that director Shane Black (Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys) tried to reinvent the Predator franchise and bring it back to fine form after decades of failing to replicate the success of 1987’s ‘Predator’. But much like the many sequels/redesigns that have come and gone without leaving much of a lasting impression, Black’s highly slandered sequel also failed to excite both critics and general public alike.

This time director Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) takes the franchise back to its roots (in more ways than one). Set around a Comanche tribe in the early 18th century, fierce warrior Naru (Amber Midthunder) finds herself to be the prey to an unknown ‘Predator’. He’s a mean, bleeds green, fighting machine, and no amount of hunter training could prepare young Naru for this otherworldly foe. But with the help of her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers) they must quickly learn of his weaknesses, because after all “If it bleeds, we can kill it”.

Advertisements

Trachtenberg seems to understand what has already been done in the past with this infamous movie monster, so he simplifies things, predating its original predecessor by some centuries and gives the series a much needed breath of fresh air. The stakes don’t seem as high and there’s not an endless stream of explosives or ammunition, just a tribe trying to survive in a dog-eat-dog world armed with bows, spears and at best slow loading muskets and pistols. You could come into this thinking ‘well if we’ve seen the Predator cakewalk his way through armies, then what chances do these guys have’, but Trachtenberg utilises the surroundings of its time period, and finds new ways of keeping it organic.

Gone with the heavy bravado, oiled up masculinity and excessively unsubtle approach of John McTiernan’s franchise starter. Arnie’s brutally brawn showdown with the Predator is one of cinema’s finest hours in the action/horror department, and it helped pave the way for a series of reappearances for the alien that really puts the dread in dreadlocks. But that success and level of excitement was never really replicated throughout its following iterations, at least until now.

Advertisements

Whilst the scenery isn’t so dissimilar to what’s come before it and still keeps in tune with the rumble in the jungle vibe, Trachtenberg’s period piece is far more restrained. The nurtured Naru has no real chance of facing the beast with the same muscular power as Arnie and his army, but he’s fighting on her turf and she quickly adapts to each landscape and studies her pursuer to optimize her chances not only for survival, but to kill it and return to her tribe with a trophy they’d be proud of.

There are some brutal exchanges between the Comanche warriors and French colonists. Both coming face-to-face with the Predator in some gnarly and gruesome sequences that again give this ‘prequel’ a surprisingly organic feel, something many of the sequels have been seriously lacking. Wanting to still feel part of the history of the franchise, there are also some nice callbacks to those that came before it.

Advertisements

Going back to the drawing board is the best decision this franchise has made since the first film was released in ’87. It dials down on a lot of things, but its spectacle isn’t one of them and it’s a shame that it only received the Hulu/Disney+ streaming release.

After his impressive work on the Cloverfield sequel it seems Trachtenberg knows how to adapt and improve upon franchises. Being 2 for 2 in that department now, he could be the man to rejuvenate a lot of franchises, but for now Prey is the latest to receive a well earned facelift and it’s worth your time whether you’re a fan of the Predator franchise or not.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s