I spent last week watching most of the previous Predators movies in preparation for Prey’s release. Dan Trachtenberg’s big swing at revitalizing the franchise brings the story back to the 1700s. Focusing on Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young Native American woman trying to prove her worth as a hunter, Prey elevates the franchise into what it should’ve been all along.
The change in the title represents the change in approach. A real flip of the script. No longer is this franchise just damned to be constantly remaking itself, running in place, and struggling to come up with something new and exciting. No longer are they just dumb creature features, but now a real insightful character study. Finally bringing the predator’s Prey completely into focus.
[Warning: Spoilers from Hulu’s Prey are below!]
The simple things in Prey make it all the better
The biggest and most egregious thing missing from the previous films in the franchise was the characters. 2010’s Predators got the closest but still failed to give me characters that I related to or rooted for. Prey excels with its characters, and the entire story is actually driven by the actions and ambitions of Naru (seems crazy, right?). Naru is inexperienced, and she constantly wants more than what she’s given. She wakes up every morning, wishing she could go out and hunt rather than gather with her mother.
But there’s a turning point in each of these hunters’ lives that she has yet to reach. A moment where you must solidify yourself and prove your worth alongside the other hunters of the tribe: kühtaamia. Naru fails her kühtaamia the first time, and she spends the rest of the movie punishing herself because of that fact. Going out hunting on her own, looking for any chance to become who she wants to be. Or more accurately, to uncover who she’s really been all along.
Naru is endearing and easy to root for. A daughter who has lost her father, who wants to be different from her mother, and who feels lost in the shadow of her brother. She’s clearly defined and Amber Midthunder brings so much warmth and experience to this role. In the end, there is no question that Naru is a worthy adversary for the visiting Predator.
The beauty of Prey
Prey follows in the footsteps of Predators. They have fun with the cinematography, using wide shots to allude to the presence of the beast somewhere in the trees. But that’s where Predators interesting use of camera work ended, and Prey once again takes the franchise to another level. Every frame feels like a painting, and every shot feels intentional and meticulous.
When Naru is sitting high on a tree, frantically trying to keep track of a beast below her, the camera is spinning with her movements. When she and the beast have even ground, the shot focuses on the profile, with the tree sitting between them. The movie is electric and satisfyingly rhythmic, and the cinematography does its job of making sure you never want to peel your eyes off the screen.
Hearing the world
Prey is living proof of how underrated sound design can be in making a movie work. The movie is great, and I’m sure it’d be fine without it, but the way the sound and score are used in this movie just brings it to a completely new level. The crunch of every step felt, and the release of every arrow heard – the movie just feels alive. Like resting your ears on the chest of a living, breathing being.
Blood, Blood, Blood in Hulu’s Prey
Prey does not shy away from the brutality of the premise. The other films showed various skinned people and body parts being blown off. But there’s something about the way that Prey presents it. Contrasted to the realistic way that Prey has created its world, it’s all the more terrifying. When you believe in the story being told, and the characters within it are rootable, everything feels so much more intense. The stakes are higher and the violence is bloodier.
Prey feels like the next step for the Predator franchise that I really hope they take advantage of. It honestly baffles me that it took them this long to say “what if predators but in the past?” I would love to see them follow this up with not only a sequel but multiple films that span other eras in history with well-known warrior cultures. Give us predator vs samurai, predator vs vikings, or predator vs pirates. As long as you give us characters to root for, I’ll take whatever they bring up next.
My Prey film review rating:
Hulu’s Prey is now available on the streaming service. So what did you think of Prey? Did it stand above the other entries in the franchise? Let us know over on Twitter! If you haven’t already, check out my in-depth review of Nimród Antal’s Predators!