I’ll say it here and echo what others have already said about Dan Trachtenberg’s Prey: it should’ve been released in theatres.
I’ll forgive Disney for not being one hundred percent confident in thinking that another Predator film would do well at the box office, considering the disastrous critical and commercial response that Shane Black’s The Predator got, but Prey is an entirely different film than the previous installment and would’ve played impeccably with a midnight crowd.
There’s an incredible scene about halfway through the movie where The Predator (Dane DiLiegro) goes on a killing spree, decapitating a gang of French Canadian trappers one by one inside an ash-filled forest. That scene alone deserves to be experienced on an IMAX screen—it is not only gorgeously shot, from a purely aesthetic point of view, with the scatters of ash filling the frame, which The Predator uses to his advantage, but also impeccably cathartic.
There is no greater feeling than seeing an action movie on the big screen, where the audience is entirely on board and reacts most energetically when they know that Trachtenberg and screenwriter Patrick Aison will craft a film based on what The Predator does best: kill people.
We’re All Prey For The Predator
And, boy, does this ugly mother– know how to kill people in the most brutal fashion possible. The kills are as equally senseless as when The Predator haunted the streets of Los Angeles in Predator 2 (a highly underappreciated sequel, I might add), but the cinematic splendor of Trachtenberg’s film cannot be unmatched. Prey is the most visually stunning Predator film yet.
Cinematographer Jeff Cutter consistently pushes the film’s visual envelope through its staggering setpieces. Whether it’s to establish tension by making The Predator camouflage inside the environment and have the camera focus on the protagonists, Naru (Amber Midthunder) and Taabe (Dakota Beavers), or add visual flair to every setpiece by having The Predator’s bright green blood contrast with the dark grey clouds filling the frame, there’s always one element that will make the action scenes stand out above the rest.
Because of this, Prey soars more than any other Predator sequel made in recent memory. Is it the best Predator film since the original? No, that award is still given to Predator 2, whose wild setting allows our titular character to come up with the most gruesome kills in the franchise. But as a Predator film that wants to course correct the franchise and get fans excited again, Prey does an excellent job at keeping the plot simple and the carnage at its maximum.
However, it does take a while to get going, with its first forty minutes or so spending lots of time with Naru before she discovers that something is wrong and that the beast hunting their tribe isn’t a bear, nor a lion, but something far worse.
And when that discovery is made, with Naru getting a firsthand glimpse at what The Predator looks like as it is covered in the blood of the bear it killed, the movie goes hard in more ways than one. It delivers a maximalist spectacle to which your TV screen does not do justice. You may have the best TV screen and home cinema system in the world, but nothing beats seeing the last act’s bloody carnage on an IMAX screen.
I will do anything for the film to have a proper theatrical re-release so that audiences can bask in Prey’s gorgeous cinematography and impeccable sound design (& score, which recalls Jerry Goldsmith’s compositions in the first Planet of the Apes film) so they could experience it the way it was meant to be seen.
All of these elements amplify Prey’s viewing experience, alongside a fierce leading performance from Amber Midthunder, whose portrayal of Naru is a career-best. Naru is the film’s emotional core, figuring out how to kill The Predator while others from her tribe attack it head-on. She knows it doesn’t work and desperately tries to tell them that nothing will work, but they don’t listen to her. The film comes full circle during its climax, where it becomes a one-versus-one fight between Naru and The Predator, and it’s as electrifying as when Arnold Schwarzenegger confronted it back in 1987.
While Prey’s pacing issues hinder the film, once it gets going, it never lets up and delivers one of the most impeccable bouts of franchise filmmaking I’ve seen in recent memory. Amber Midthunder and Dakota Beavers are terrific together. The action sequences are impeccably staged and choreographed, delivering audiences a spectacle they have been clamoring to see since the first Predator.
In my opinion, I think it isn’t as good as Predator 2, but what do I know? I’ve always been defending the wildest films since I was a kid, but Prey is still a damn good piece of entertainment that more than deserved a wide theatrical release.
While Prey’s pacing issues hinder the film, once it gets going, it never lets up and delivers one of the most impeccable bouts of franchise filmmaking I’ve seen in recent memory. Amber Midthunder and Dakota Beavers are terrific together. The action sequences are impeccably staged and choreographed, delivering audiences a spectacle they have been clamoring to see since the first Predator. In my opinion, I think it isn’t as good as Predator 2, but what do I know? I’ve always been defending the wildest films since I was a kid, but Prey is still a damn good piece of entertainment that more than deserved a wide theatrical release.
Prey is now available to stream on Hulu in the United States and on Disney+ internationally.
Score: 4 out of 5 Stars