Dan Trachtenberg tries to do the impossible with Prey: make the Predator relevant again. Easier said than done, but Trachtenberg has crafted an immensely thrilling film, we think.
The first teaser trailer for Prey arrived suddenly, without any warning or much of an explanation. But it did arrive with plenty of excitement; seeing those three dots, indicating the Predator was taking aim, sent an electric shock through my body. The Predator is back and I am ready for it.
Then came the fear. What if Prey is just like The Predator from 2018, Shane Black’s needless, ill-advised attempt to revitalise a franchise? What if this is yet another disappointment?
Well, I am here to tell you Prey is good. Not just good, but excellent even. 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg skillfully balances all the different elements of Prey; innovative setting, interesting characters and the gore. So much gore.
The film follows Naru (Amber Midthunder), a Comanche woman who yearns to be a warrior and a hunter, like her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers). She finds huge, strange tracks in the woods, which others believe to belong to a bear, but Naru knows something’s wrong. Unbeknownst to the entire tribe, an alien has landed on Earth and it just wants one thing: to hunt.
Prey does pretty much everything right from the very first frame. It’s all about balance and Trachtenberg nails it. If you have a weak stomach, perhaps skip this one as Trachtenberg soaks his cast and the entire screen in fake blood. The Predator hacks his way through an impressive amount of people and it’s oh, so great to witness. The spectacle of violence here is glorious and satisfying.
Midthunder is very impressive as Naru. She convincingly creates a fascinating character with her own motives. At times, the script for Prey, written by Patrick Aison, gets tunnel vision and there isn’t room for anything but the plot itself. It can make Naru, and the other characters, feel shallow, but Midthunder effortlessly creates a bond between us and the character.
The limitations of Prey’s budget are most visible in the CGI. The Predator itself looks incredible; detailed and threatening, but clearly, most of the budget was (rightfully) used on his appearance, which makes the other CGI animals appear poor and unrealistic. They look like something out of a video game rather than natural parts of the world the characters inhabit. But then again, who cares when the Predator itself looks flawless?
Trachtenberg directs everything with a bold vision and confidence. He’s clearly studied exactly what went wrong with the previous sequels and keeps things streamlined. He also shows us only small glimpses of the Predator before the full reveal. I don’t like using the word ‘cool’ in reviews because it rarely conveys enough, but there isn’t any other word to describe the Predator. It’s simply cool. The new look, with a new mask of bone rather than metal, feels distinctively unique.
Prey is going straight to Disney+ here in the UK (Hulu in the US) and that’s a huge shame. Prey is visually striking with some inventive camerawork and the sound design is immersive; the thundering rumble of a spacecraft, the rustling of leaves, the electric crackle of the Predator’s suit. It all creates a world that feels real and more importantly, full of danger.
With great kills and superb direction from Trachtenberg, Prey is a worthy Predator film through and through. Gnarly, vicious and bloody entertaining, this might be the best Predator film there is. We finally have the Predator film we have been craving for and frankly, the one we deserve.
Everybody say thank you, Dan Trachtenberg!
Prey streams on Disney+ from August 5.