Review: ‘Prey’

Amber Midthunder Slays It In A Smart, Ultra-Violent 'Predator' Prequel That Reignites The Franchise

I consider myself a Predator superfan. Always have, ever since Schwarzenegger, Weathers, and Ventura battled the original alien hunter in 1987, I’ve loved the simplicity of a fight between man and technologically advanced foe who is superior in every way. There have been seven total movies in the franchise if you include the middling AvP flicks, and while most are pretty good they all made the mistake of giving the humans more weapons, bigger weapons, more allies, more resources, in order to balance the scales. But that was always the wrong way to go. Less is so much more when it comes to Predator, and Dan Trachtenberg’s awesome film Prey is proof positive. Not only can these movies survive and thrive in a tough action market, but done right they can absolutely slay.

Prey is more than just another action movie, although that’s what it’s best at. Led by star Amber Midthunder, who plays young Comanche warrior Naru, it’s also an effective coming-of-age tale, beautifully shot to capture her evolution in this deadly frontier territory. Predictably, Naru is dismissed and look at with skepticism by the male members of her tribe, and even most of the women. Her older brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers) is among the tribe’s fiercest, and he knows his sister’s skills as a scout, tracker, and hunter.

It’s actually Naru’s keen perception that first catches on to the Predator’s arrival. As the creature begins it’s hunt, and members of her tribe start vanishing, Naru realizes this is no great bear that’s causing such unusual carnage, but a beast they’ve never seen the like of before. She takes it upon herself to warn the others, and if need be, to catch and kill it to prove her true warrior worth.

Trachtenberg’s clever revival of the Predator does so by going back to what made the first movie so great. A simple underdog battle between mismatched opponents. And it doesn’t get more mismatched than a Predator equipped with his usual array of sensors, shields, and weapons, against a woman using rudimentary tools. So how can she possibly survive? Well, the same way Schwarzenegger did in the first movie; by learning how the Predator thinks. Prey is the first movie in ages that actually presents the Predator as more than just an unthinking killing machine that wants another trophy to mount on its spaceship trophy wall. It actually arrives on Earth to discover, to learn, and never sees Naru as a true threat. While we’re led to believe that part of the reason is that she’s a woman, it’s actually about the danger level to himself. In a stunning, absolutely jaw-dropping battle we see the Predator battle a fearsome bear and it’s just incredible the sheer power on display. The Predator is reveling in the flow of combat, while Naru is left shocked and what she’s just witnessed. It’s so crucial to get that moment right, when the human first lays eyes on the Predator, to get a true sense of how overmatched they are, and Prey just nails it.

There are other amazing scenes that highlight the intimidating visage of the Predator. The other Comanche who mostly end up mowed down into toothpicks are selfless, brave, and sure also a little bit overconfident in their own abilities. When a French contingent of trappers arrives, they’re made to look like clowns, and only seem to be there to pump up the body count, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The blood flows freely and gruesomely, made even more savage by Jeff Cutter’s smoky cinematography that captures the danger and beauty of the plains.

While these films will always be about the extraterrestrial danger, Prey finds Midthunder making it her own. Truly, other than Schwarzenegger no other actor has made this kind of impression on the franchise. Midthunder gives a mesmerizing performance, one that’s vulnerable, intelligent, and suspenseful, like in a scene when Naru fights to save herself from a tar pit. That’s right, the Predator isn’t the only threat out there, and that’s also what makes this movie so different from the others. This natural landscape is deadly in its own right. The Predator is just a lethal icing on the cake.

If there’s any problem at all with Prey it’s that some may balk at screenwriter Patrick Aison’s slow build. It takes a while for the action to get going at the relentless pace it eventually archives. But even so, the world-building is key to what Trachtenberg is trying to do, which is breathe new life into the Predator franchise with a movie that is undeniable. Predator hasn’t been this good since Arnold first yelled “Get to the choppa!!” Prey is an absolute monster of an action flick, and what seemed until recently to be on life support is now energized with new possibilities. Bring it on!

Prey hits Hulu streaming on August 5th.



Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.