Prey | movie review
The hunter becomes the hunted becomes the hunter.
Movie summary: The origin story of the Predator in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. Naru, a skilled female warrior, fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth. (IMDb)
Before I watched Prey, I kept seeing people compare it favourably to the original Predator movie and thought that it was probably being over-hyped. Like the Terminator series, this action franchise had been pretty much run into the ground over the years and I assumed that all the praise was an over-reaction to what would probably end up being a solid, but unspectacular movie. Wow, was I wrong.
This is a fucking fantastic film and my biggest complaint is that I couldn't watch this for the first time on a cinema screen. Seriously, some of the shots in this movie look jaw-dropping when watching it at home, so can you imagine how incredible it'd look on an Imax screen? This is a gorgeous movie and it sounds great too, so make sure you watch it on the biggest screen you have with the sound turned up.
So let's get the actual criticisms out of the way, of which I have two: the first being that some character spots (namely the men not respecting Nuru, played by Amber Midthunder) do end up feeling somewhat repetitive because there's very little variety to those moments, and the second is that some of the CGI animal work is a little off in places and did break my immersion in the movie's story more than once.
And that's about it. I do want to say that the majority of the VFX work is stellar, and I'm sure most - if not all - of the shots have been touched up to some extent making changes the snobbiest VFX critic won't even notice, but it's a risk you take when putting a CGI creature front and centre that it might not hold up to scrutiny. It's also by no means a serious flaw, as I'm sure a lot of people won't even notice.
The reason they won't notice will mainly be due to the excellence of Midthunder, who completely owns Prey similar to Predator belonging to Arnie. I absolutely loved Nuru as a character and would happily see as many sequels to this movie as she is willing to make - and as long as director Dan Trachtenburg and writer Patrick Aison can come back too. Give me intelligent, resourceful leads who don't pull solutions out of their arses to gain the upper hand any day of the week.
I'm sure there'll be some men out there fuming that a young woman was able to take on a Predator when they're so used to big tough manly men struggling to do so, but Nuru is so well-written that I can't see any room for complaint. She starts the movie determined to become a hunter and displays all the skills she'd need to do so - especially observation and improvisation.
And I love the design of the Predator here too, looking very different and yet immediately so recognisable, with less advanced technology than the alien from the original due to the timeframe of 1719. It's mask, weaponry and physical appearance are great, giving it a unique look, but it's really its behaviour that truly makes it stand out, feeling like a far more aggressive, hot-headed (maybe younger?) being than the one which took down Arnie's team.
There's so much more that I want to praise, like Dakota Beavers as Taabe, Nuru's brother, who could very easily have been a more annoying, antagonistic figure but turns out to be much more complex person with more depth than most supporting characters in an action movie. He and Midthunder make for a great pairing and feel entirely believable as siblings caught up in a mess way outside of their understanding.
There's also the action which is paced to near-perfection, with a slow build as the Predator takes on the local wildlife first, before the carnage really begins when the action becomes alien vs human. Then the blood really starts to flow as limbs and heads are removed on a pretty regular basis, along with impalements by razor-sharp weaponry (including a nice callback/forward to Predator 2 and the razor sharp netting there.
I'm going to have to wrap it up here despite the fact that there's so much more in Prey that I'd love to gush over, but that would be heading into spoiler territory, even if you might know how these movies usually work. I'll just repeat my love of Midthunder as Nuru, the new design and behaviour of the Predator and a story that has cut off almost all of the unnecessary fluff to keep it easily enjoyable for anyone to watch.
Prey is an excellent film and easily the second-best Predator movie after the original with Schwarzenegger. Amber Midthunder is brilliant as the ingenious Nuru, finding her way out of every tricky spot thanks to both her fierce intelligence and combat prowess. The movie looks fantastic; sounds fantastic; has a simple, but highly enjoyable plot; the action is great and I desperately want more of it now please.