There haven’t been many movies I’ve been overly excited about watching for a while, but one (that I’d initially written off after reading the synopsis) came to Disney Plus on Friday so I gave it a watch last night.
If you weren’t aware, Prey is a new Predator movie and the first in the franchise to not have some variation of the word in the title.
It’s directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) and stars Amber Midthunder (The Ice Road), Dakota Beavers (in his first film role) and Dane DiLiegro (American Horror Stories) as the Predator.
This is what it’s about according to the internet:
“The origin story of the Predator in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. Naru, a skilled female warrior, fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth.”
When I first read the premise for this movie last year I immediately thought it was gonna be terrible. It sounded like Disney were short on their “female empowerment” movie quota so decided to make the new Predator film a “woke-fest”. I have to say though, after seeing the trailer a few weeks back I realised I’d unfairly judged what was actually shaping up to be not only a respectable addition to the franchise, but also a decent film in its own right.
I’m happy to report that my premature judgement was very wrong. It’s a great movie!
If you’ve been following this blog and/or my Facebook page for a while you’ll no doubt be aware that I’m a huge Predator fan! I’ve written various posts about how frustrated I am that they don’t seem to be able to make use of all of the brilliant ingredients they still have in the idea, and how I long for a sequel that at least attempts to be as good as the original.
What Dan Trachtenberg has done with Prey is make his own Predator movie. Sure there are a couple of nods to the original in terms of certain lines that are said, but other than that it's very much its own thing and it seems like he hasn’t been too inspired by previous instalments. Any other time I’d think that was a bad thing but it actually works really well here.
He said in an interview recently that he doesn’t consider this film to be a prequel to Predator (1987), but it really is. It’s actually quite a contradictory statement to make when you consider that this is meant to be one of the Predator’s first visits to Earth (not to mention the fact that there’s a nice little link to one of the other movies revealed towards the end of the film).
He also said that it has as much in common with The Revenant (2015) as it does any of the other Predator movies, and that’s definitely evident.
I think the change in tone is possibly what was needed. It’s very different to all of the previous Predator films, not only in the era it’s set but in many other ways too.
Firstly, the cinematography is gorgeous, helped largely by the stunning locations.
According to the The Radio Times, “Many of the key sequences were shot in and around Calgary, a large city in the province of Alberta. More specifically, footage was captured in Stoney Nakoda First Nation, West of Calgary.” (Just in case you wondered…)
The impressive cinematography gives the film a certain credibility that is a refreshing departure from the Hollywood feel that a lot of commercial movies tend to have.
Secondly, the Predator (or Yautja to get technical) in this movie is totally different to any of the Predators we’ve seen before. He’s more primal and animalistic (in look and behaviour). I’d even go as far as to say he’s the scariest we’ve seen so far. This was apparently intentional and Trachtenberg even nick-named him the “Feral Predator” due to his brutal nature.
Something I loved about the film is that we get to see him “using the trees” like is mentioned in the original Arnie classic. I’ve always loved how they set the Predator up as an agile, reptilian-like creature that’s drawn to heat and conflict (at least in Predator 2). It’s an idea they seemingly did away with after that movie but the Predator we see in this film fits more into the original model I think.
Amber Midthunder is really good as the film’s protagonist, Naru. Despite my initial reservations nothing about it feels forced and I found myself happily going along for the ride.
By the way, I’m not sexist. I have zero problem with female protagonists but these days there’s always a feeling that they’re trying to please a certain group rather than tell an honest story. I’ve never thought it about the likes of Ripley in Alien (1979) or Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), and thankfully I didn’t really think much of it with Naru in this film either.
The rest of the relatively unknown cast are very good too, especially Dakota Beavers who plays Naru’s brother, and who surprisingly hasn’t been in anything else before this!
When Disney acquired Fox and all of the film titles that came with it I was initially worried about the likes of Predator and Alien specifically.
Disney have historically been “family friendly”, famously turning down the chance to make Back to the Future because the incestuous implications of Marty and his mother’s relationship didn’t align with their values.
I wondered how a Predator movie made by such a film company would still deliver all of the violence and horror that we’ve come to love and expect. I’m happy to report that that doesn’t seem to be an issue for Disney. There are plenty of decapitations, skinnings and spinal chord removals in this film which for me was a pleasant and welcome surprise.
All in all I really enjoyed Prey. It’s proof that with the right writer and director, a sequel (or in this case prequel) can work even when completely re-imagined.
I guess we all have our own ideas of how these sequels should be but sometimes getting something totally different can be equally as enjoyable.
I read that Prey could be the first film in a new series of Predator films with the director saying he’s excited to explore more ideas.
I for one am interested to see what else he can bring to the table, but personally I’d like to see a different character face off against the Predator in each new movie. I think three movies following the same protagonist would become a little too “Die Hard” and limit the story to one era. But that’s just me…
Is Prey as good as the original Predator? Don’t be silly, but it’s a damn good effort and different to any of the Predator films we’ve seen so far.
If you’re a fan of the franchise I highly recommend checking it out.
“If it bleeds, we can kill it”
Seen it? Let me know your thoughts.