REVIEW: Thanks to a low bar, Prey is the best Predator movie since the original
The prequel arrives on Disney+ this week...
Predator arrived in cinemas 35 years ago, and despite the best efforts of some (mostly) decent filmmakers, it is yet to have a decent follow-up.
Predator 2 successfully switched up the setting, but got the tone all wrong. 2010's Predators got the tone right, but dropped the ball in terms of actual action and horror. The Predator... was a complete and total mess. And the less said about the AVP movies, the better.
So heading into Prey with some trepidation is the wisest course of action. On the one hand, we get a very interesting setting, paired with a very good director. On the other hand... historically everything to do with the Predator franchise post-1987.
The good news is that it is this is the best movie in the series since the original. The bad news is that it gets so bogged down in trying to be about something, that the whippet-thin appeal of being chased by the universe's greatest hunter gets a little bit lost.
Set in the 18th century, we meet Naru (an immediately likeable Amber Midthunder), who wants to break with the tradition of her Comanche tribe and become a hunter. What she lacks in strength she more than makes up for with speed, agility, tracking abilities and a snazzy axe attached to a piece of rope, giving her a God of War-esque returning weapon.
The plot itself is fairly simple, with fellow young hunters believing a rogue bear is the cause of a spate of random nearby attacks, but Naru reckons it is something much more dangerous. From there, it is a number of stalk 'n' kill scenes, with director Dan Trachtenberg clearly having a blast being as inventive as possible with the viciously violent deaths.
It is the stuff in between that doesn't land quite as well. When asked why she wants to become a hunter, Naru responds with the painfully on-the-nose "Because you all don't think I can do it." While it is admirable that they want to place a strong female character front-and-centre of a Predator movie for a change, and Midthunder is more than up to the challenge of the role, the message lands with a bit of an obvious thud.
There are other elements of the time period that do work well, such as seeing the more-basic-but-still-very-futuristic weaponry that the Predators wield, and some great usage of the setting, as nature and all of its elements work both for and against hero and villain.
Plus, at a scant 97 minutes, the film absolutely knows not to outstay its welcome. This is built as a little thrill ride, and when the production gets out of its own storytelling way, those thrills absolutely arrive. Just not quite as often as you might hope.
Prey is available to watch on Disney+ from Friday, 5 August.
Clip via 20th Century Studios