“If it bleeds, we can kill it.” That famous phrase from 35 years ago rings as true today as the fifth iteration of the Predator film series, Dan Trachtenberg’s Prey, makes its debut on Hulu.
Trachtenberg’s film serves as a prequel to the original film. While Prey doesn’t paint the origins of the Predators as Ridley Scott intended with Prometheus, it does offer a unique and excellent look at human’s first encounter with the species. Gone are the horror elements of McTiernan’s original film while retaining the action elements that made the original a hit.
Set in the Comanche Nation in 1717, parallels develop between Naru (Midthunder), a young Comanche warrior in the making, and the Predator (DiLiegro). Both are out to prove their worthiness, and as Midthunder gets deeper into the role, her poise gets much more defensive. Naru has people to look over her, namely her brother Taabe (Beavers), who is determined to protect his sister, going so far as to put her down and remind her of her place while understanding that Naru is her own individual.
The story makes it a point to use the Comanche culture as a basis for the story: the community, the family structure, the rights of individuals, and the competition for recognition. Naru seeks none of this.
Eventually, Naru will go against the Predator, mano a mano. Like Schwarzenegger’s Dutch in the classic film, Naru and the Predator use their skillset to their advantage because it is or was all they had to work with. This is Prey‘s strength, just as it was Predator‘s. Even knowing what we know about the Predator at this point, we’re still surprised by its actions.
Prey‘s story also lives up to its name – it isn’t so much that the humans are being hunted. In fact, one of the critical elements of this film is that the characters all prey on one another.
The film’s designers modified the Predator just slightly from “future” iterations, and it is those details that the team from Amalgamated Dynamics Inc (Tom Woodruff, Jr, and Alec Gillis) captured in Prey that bring the film closer to the original. ADI has been on various Alien and Predator projects since the mid-80s, and each time their work appears on screen, my jaw drops.
Tractenberg injects a few future elements from the franchise into Prey either as easter eggs or deliberately, bringing a smile to this fan. The CGI elements weren’t as vital as they could be; however, that’s a minor nitpick for a fan who wasn’t sure we would even get another entry in this franchise after Disney bought it.
Prey is as good as Predator was 35 years ago. This film is determined to get the franchise back on track, and it does so adequately. I say adequately because it is a film screaming for a big screen release. This isn’t the film’s fault; however, you really feel the limited scope of a product made for a streaming platform rather than being made for a theatrical release (yes, I’m looking at you, WBD; good call!) Jeff Cutter’s cinematography, especially during the scenes at night, is breathtaking. Trachtenberg’s direction also screams to be seen on the most giant screen possible for its detail. I’m hoping that Disney will see fit to give the film a release on physical media since the Hulu platform here in the U.S. isn’t set up for Dolby Vision or Atmos. It is, however, in 4K.
Sure, I’m getting techy on you. Still, when the origin of your franchise features the best technology can deliver for the time, its prequel, Prey, should live up to the challenge, and its only limitation is the speed at which the data reaches your TV will allow it to.
Directed by Dan Tractenberg
Screenplay by Patrick Aison
Story by Patrick Aison and Dan Tractenberg, based on characters created by Jim Thomas and John Thomas
Starring Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro, Stormee Kipp, Michelle Thrush, Julian Black Antelope
R, 99 mins, 20th Century Studios/Hulu