PREY is directed by Dan Trachtenberg. The film stars Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Michelle Thrush, Stormee Kipp, Julian Black Antelope, Bennett Taylor, and Dane DiLiegro. This is the fifth film in the PREDATOR franchise, (seventh if the ALIEN VS PREDATOR crossover films are counted), serving as a prequel to the earlier films.
Naru is a young Comanche girl living in the early 1700s with her tribe. While knowledgeable as a tracker and for concocting life-saving medicines from plants, she wants nothing more than to be a hunter, and is scoffed at by her fellow tribespeople despite her potential. Before long, the young girl finds herself face to face with danger from threats that include a lion, a bear, greedy French fur trappers, and a strange new hunter unlike anything she or her tribe has ever seen. Will Naru and her tribe triumph over the Predator, or will they be its latest victims?
It's been an interesting ride for the PREDATOR franchise, though none of the films since the original 80s classic starring the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger have come close to recapturing what made the original so great. I had my doubts about PREY; this isn’t exactly a franchise where the sequels have shown great promise, and with Disney having taken over 20th Century Fox (resulting in the division being renamed 20th Century Studios), I had my doubts as to how yet another sequel (the fifth core film in the franchise) could turn out.
Sometimes, it’s good to be proven wrong.
PREY is easily the best movie in the franchise since the 80s original. Its largely Native American cast, fronted by a career-defining performance for Amber Midthunder, triumphs largely, and it gets the series back to its roots at long last, giving us an interesting new setting and intriguing elements. Oh, and don’t worry about Disney having taken over the franchise. There’s gore galore, with the latest PREDATOR film easily earning its R rating from the MPA.
Where PREY shines brightest is its young heroine, Naru, played by Amber Midthunder. She’s a sassy fighter yet also brings an innocence to the role, shining brightly as the best of both worlds. Every scene she’s in and every interaction she’s a part of is a delight, rising above cliches and common cinematic tropes. I truly hope to see this young lady in more films; she’s the human heroine I didn’t even know the PREDATOR franchise needed!
The cast is almost entirely made up of Native American actors, and the tribal atmosphere gives the film something truly special. While I admit a lot of the side characters do feel somewhat shortchanged and one-dimensional compared to Naru, these actors really do a fantastic job with what they’re given. Their reactions to the events at hand are certainly believable, given the unheard-of nature of what they encounter. They ultimately sell the movie, giving us a solid supporting cast.
The setting the movie creates is a believable early 18th century landscape on the North American continent, with plenty of threats that range from deadly wild animals to French fur trappers who have no reservations skinning animals for a profit. Moving away from the modern world may have been the smartest move this franchise ever made; it’s a prequel in the best sense of the words even if it doesn’t have any direct impact on the future set stories we know and love. It’s also great to see that the characters are more than just cannon fodder for the Predator; some of my favorite scenes of the film involved watching the French fur trappers wage war on the beast (with understandably predictable results). But at least here the humans don’t just feel like lambs lined up for the slaughter. I’d most definitely want to see another movie set in this era with Naru and company, even if it isn't specifically a PREDATOR film.
While PREY doesn’t quite dethrone the classic original 80s film, I have no reservations at least giving it the silver medal in the PREDATOR franchise, easily outclassing the other sequels and crossovers the series has given us. Amber Midthunder doesn’t fail to please, and the supporting cast, plot elements, and setting make for a gory good time I didn’t even know I wanted! The hunt is back on… and it’s entertaining as hell, though certainly not for the squeamish. Highly recommended!