Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg
Premise: The fifth entry in the Predator series. An extraterrestrial hunter (Dane DiLiegro) stalks the woods in eighteenth century North America. A female Comanche hunter (Amber Midthunder) protects her tribe.
What Works: The Predator series has seen quite a few permutations on the central idea that a race of extraterrestrials periodically visit this planet to hunt human beings for sport. Prey does not reinvent the series but it does shave the conceit down to its essentials and delivers a mix of action and horror thrills with great craftsmanship. The film is set on the eighteenth-century Great Plains and the setting gives Prey a different feel from its predecessors. As a period piece, Prey comes across authentically of its time and place. The native characters are portrayed with nuance and intelligence and the art direction looks organic. Prey is the story of Naru, a Comanche woman who wants to prove herself as a hunter but must overcome the prejudices of her tribe as well as her own inexperience. The filmmakers spend quite a bit of time on Naru’s tribal life and effectively establish her character. Naru is well played by Amber Midthunder. She has the right combination of toughness and vulnerability to make for a compelling hero. Prey is a very good example of unified storytelling. Everything in it is built around the concept of predator-prey relationships and the techniques and adaptations that animals use to trap their next meal or avoid becoming one. Prey is full of these kinds of details and they enrich the film but they are embedded into the story so that it remains a lean and streamlined experience which makes Prey a relief from many of the bloated and overlong franchise films currently being made. It is also extraordinarily well crafted. The picture is beautifully shot but in a way that accentuates the harshness and difficulty of the land. The action sequences are ferocious and are executed on a modest scale that makes them credible and therefore exciting.
What Doesn’t: Sarah Schachner wrote a very good score for Prey. However, the music does not make much use of the Predator themes created by Alan Silvestri for the first movie and repeated in the sequels (although not in Alien vs. Predator). This is unfortunate. Silvestri’s Predator score was a key part of the franchise’s identity in much the same way that John Williams’ Star Wars themes were associated with those characters and stories. The filmmakers clearly wanted Prey to forge its own identity separate from the other Predator films but in this particular respect they drifted a little too far.
Bottom Line: Prey is one of the better entries in the Predator series. It does not develop the larger story world the way some of the other sequels did but Prey does offer the primal survivalist thrills that made the original Predator a classic.
Episode: #913 (August 14, 2022)