★★★★ Watched 14 Aug, 2022
Finally, the Predator franchise got a successor worthy of the original classic. Frankly, it got me worried with a slow, somehow awkward start, attempting to look cinematic and showing its limited budget. After the warmup, things start to move at a faster pace, and the action gets more interesting and imaginative.
There are nods to the original and established Predator lore upon which it builds and expands based on the time period and the setting. My fears were eased with a realization that the majority of the budget went to impressively consistent VFX which in the second half gets even better and more prominent. By the midpoint, the action sucked me in, to the point I was not thinking of the fact that this had the potential to be a theatrical release. Since the budget didn’t allow for a big name(s) and required a great deal of VFX, a sacrifice needed to be made.
Prey is at its core a coming-of-age story about Naru, a young Comanche female gatherer, a huntress at heart whose tribe traditionally refuses to acknowledge her desire. She decides to prove them wrong during her “Kuhtaamia” (rite of passage) just when a Predator lands nearby marking their territory as his hunting grounds.
I like we are seeing more productions with predominantly Native American cast. The young actress Amber Midthunder feels a bit stiff demonstrating a bit limited emotional range needed for a lead role. On the other hand, she is supposed to be a teenager finding her way in the world so to a degree that works to her advantage. The actress as well as the character become more confident as the story progresses. The action is refreshingly believable for the most part since it plays off the natural skill of the Comanche, who learned to ride a horse before starting to walk and doesn’t push too far into superhuman agility. The part when she’s training with her axe and invents an effective modification reminded me a lot of Ayla from the book The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980), which was adapted into a film with the same name and released in 1986. I wonder if that story served as partial inspiration.
Although the costumes and makeup department are to be commented on for the historical authenticity, in the opening chapter they look too new and clean and only, later on, got more worn out and dirty. Being set before the first movie the look of The Predator has been devolved to a more primal look while keeping the core features and weapons intact. The Predator itself looks fantastic and appropriately fierce.
Overall an enjoyable experience and welcome addition to the Predator franchise. A unique blend of sci-fi and Native American mythology that makes a lot of sense on the page and works great on the screen thanks to the promising director Dan Trachtenberg. The inclusion of the French trappers adds a satisfying historical context. This part, including the ferocious bear scene and a few others, made me think of The Remnant (2015), which must have been another source of inspiration.