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Prey

****
2022

‘…Amber Midthunder is the real star here, and if you don’t like that, get out of her way, because she’s absolutely taking no prisoners, and neither does this gory, violent, ingenious film…’

I’m as confused as everyone else about the increasingly blurred line between streaming and cinema; for Warners to spend a fortune making a Batgirl movie, then not releasing it in any format because it lacks ‘spectacle’, suggests a world where financial trickery is wagging the artistic/commercial dog. It seems equally mysterious that the fifth entry in the Predator franchise, discounting the Alien vs Predator dreck, would go straight to streaming, particularly given that Prey is probably the most coherent single entry in the series to date. Dan Trachtenberg did such a bang-up job with 10 Cloverfield Lane that getting a crack at the Predator franchise was a just reward; it’s certainly a huge step up on Shane Black’s horrific-for-all-the-wrong-reasons 2018 reboot. So are new movies just a tool for adding lustre to paid streaming services in a dog-eat-dog industry? Never mind that, we’ve got bigger fish to fry in Prey, out now on Hulu in the US and Disney+ elsewhere…

After a notable break-out role opposite Liam Neeson in The Ice Road, Amber Midthunder was clearly destined for greater things; in Prey, she plays Naru, a fearsome Comanche warrior back in the Northern Great Plains circa 1719. With a kick-ass dog, super-skills with her tomahawk, and plenty of agency, Naru is a pretty cool heroine, but she’ll need every bit of fighting skill she’s got. A vision of a thunderbird in the cloudy sky announces the arrival on earth of a Predator, an alien with a taste for hunting the kind of things which can hunt you back, and boasts a groaning sideboard of skulls belonging to creatures who thought they could best it. Naru’s brother, her own tribe and a band of French voyageurs get somewhat in the way, but after an hour or so of preliminaries and introductions, Naru squares up to the Predator in fairly dramatic fashion for our main bout.

Prey is getting positive notices, and rightly so; with no cameos, call-backs, nostalgia or spurious world-building, it’s something of a relief to focus on an old-school manu-manu, or maybe manu-Naru confrontation. The predator design, both in stealth mode and in its full reveal, is much improved to the point of being cool AF and the whole film feels more like a remake of the first entry, with a gutsy female protagonist and a lot less hanging down in the male camaraderie department. Fortunately, Midthunder is more than up to the task of making Naru a smart, agile and resourceful character that’s a no-brainer to get behind.

Prey doesn’t do much to expand the Predator world, but it does circle back to make more sense of what we’ve seen; the way the creature thinks and hunts is more evolved and sharpened here, and Trachtenberg does well with the big action climaxes. If you want the cheesy fun of the original Predator, then stick to Arnold and machine guns; Amber Midthunder is the real star here, and if you don’t like that, get out of her way, because she’s absolutely taking no prisoners, and neither does this gory, violent, ingenious film.

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  1. Hope this ends up on DVD as it sounds too good to miss but that will be the case since I don’t have Hulu and am not going to make the same streaming mistake as before, hook up to a new site, lured by one or a couple of great titles and then rue the day.

  2. I was also pleasantly surprised by this movie, having been tortured into a state of cautiousness by other Predator sequels. I think something simple like this is what the franchise needed and I’m glad it all worked out. Also, I Midthunder to be a mor believable action lead than Adrian Brody!

    • You are not wrong, although pretty much anyone would be better than Brody. Midthunder could have a career of this kind of thing if she wanted…

            • This is the absolute apex of human achievement. And we are living it! How lucky are we?

              • 300 years ago I’d have just been running around on the Great Plains being chased by a killer alien and armed only with a hand axe. I can’t complain.

                • Ten years ago you could have watched Prey in DVD, but these days, you can’t. That’s progress for you. I’m pretty sure that Fox/Disney will make it possible for you to see this one day. But for now, you’ll just have to use your imagination. In the meantime, I’m working on my Henry V Predator script. If you think about Shakespeare, it’s what she would have wanted…

                    • Exit. Pursued by a predator. A Predator’s Winter’s Tale. The Two Predators of Verona. A Comedy of Predators. This is the apex!

  3. I have not watched the 2018 reboot and while I know I will (I do like me some predator after all), I am not looking forward to it.

    Knowing this is waiting for me will help tremendously. I really like the idea of going into the past. It makes the hunt all about the skill of the hunted instead of just big weapons. I’d like to see more of that kind of thing but on other continents or in big historical events. Like Napoleon or a roman legion vs a Predator.

    So no theatre release though. Well, I’d say the theatre ain’t coming back then. More direct to streaming, less theatres. Maybe cinemas will hang around like old vhs players?

  4. I usually leave the typos alone, and Alex picks them up anyway, but I have to say I think you mean Naru is a gutsy female protagonist and not a gusty one, which made me think she may be farting and burping a lot and I’m sure that’d be inappropriate for this movie. Can’t wait to see this, Disney + will have a bit of work to do in our place shortly.

  5. Looks good. Was wondering when you were finally going to get around to reviewing it . . .

    So this won’t play at theatres? Will it be out on DVD? Shut-ins want to know.

    • No theatres, but this will be a DVD for sure one day. These Predator boxed sets aint gonna sell themselves…

        • The market has collapsed, sure, but we’re some way from the bottom yet. Still cash to be won from a $3 billion a year business…

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