Photo by: Disney Plus
SPOILER WARNING: includes spoilers for Prey
It’s not often that a new release from a long-standing franchise released by a major studio goes relatively under the radar. When I first heard about Prey, I had no idea it was another installment in the Predator franchise, or that it had already been released. This may have been a result of 20th Century Studios’ decision to forgo a theatrical release, instead premiering it on Hulu and Disney+.
Prey, set in 1719 in the Great Plains, takes place well before any of the previous Predator movies. The movie follows Naru, a young Compache woman on her journey to prove herself as a hunter. This leads her to face one of the Predators, a species of aliens who travel to other planets and kill strong beasts for sport. This is a radical change for the series thus far, and it works really well.
Prey’s Predator highlights Naru’s growth throughout the movie. Early on, we see the Predator use a rat to trap a snake and then kill it; the very next scene, Naru hunts a rabbit while being framed on the screen just like the snake before her, comparing her to the Predator’s victim. Later on, as Naru becomes a more adept hunter, there are scenes of the Predator hunting followed by Naru doing the same things as the alien, comparing her prowess as a hunter to this killing machine.
The Predator also works as a metaphor for the colonization of the Americas. The Predator is shown hunting various American animals, skinning them and taking their skulls. Later, Naru comes across a herd of bison, all of whom have been skinned and left to rot. Naturally, the audience assumes that the Predator was responsible, but then the movie reveals that these bison were killed by French settlers. The Predator’s senseless violence is linked to the haphazard ravaging of the New World by colonialism.
These comparisons help Prey stand out as more than just another entry in the Predator franchise. By using the Predator and the traits it’s associated with to comment on brand new characters and setting, the movie makes this decades-old beast feel fresh again. But enough of this nerd crap, let’s talk action.
The action scenes in Prey are phenomenal, with Naru’s scenes having incredible tension and the Predator’s scenes being cathartic, brutal beatdowns. The scene that best depicts this is the bear scene halfway through: Naru’s desperate fight for survival versus a grizzly bear comes to a halt as the Predator starts attacking it, ending with the bear being gutted as the Predator holds it above its head and dousing itself in the grizzly’s blood. And while I’ll spare the details here, the final confrontation between Naru and the Predator was spectacular, doing a great job showing just what Naru is capable of.
I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed Prey; I can’t think of a single thing to take issue with. I just hope that future Predator movies (or any of the inevitable continuations of long-standing action franchises) put in this level of care and depth into whatever they produce.