Review: ‘Prey’ is a welcome revelation for a once-tired franchise

There are many moments in Preythe last entry in the Predator franchise that make you forget you’re watching a franchise movie, and in the best way possible. Too often, in contemporary blockbusters, a movie’s style and bombast can outweigh its substance (if any).

With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised at how Dan Trachtenberg’s latest uses quiet moments to his advantage, building characters through efficient yet thoughtful writing. Take, for example, a scene early in the movie where we’re sitting with our hero Naru (Amber Midthunder) and his mother Aruka (Michelle Thrush).

They have an exchange about Naru’s desire to be a hunter, to the protests of basically everyone in the story, and about the medicine Aruka is making (which may or may not come in handy later). Perhaps it’s just our current state of blockbusters often valuing hollow imagery over substantive character development, but moments like these, with character building and exposition done right, feel like a bit of a revelation.

Prey takes place in 1719 and follows Naru, whose clear talent and drive are shunned by members of his community, as he discovers the first Predator to land on Earth. She decides to take matters into her own hands and hunt down the alien intruder, protect the people from her and prove that she is a worthy and capable warrior. There is also much more that unfolds, including a section that touches on the horrors of colonialism through a French hunting party, one that is scarier than the actual Predator with its capacity for cruelty.

This premise could have been done wrong in so many ways, but thankfully, it all comes together to create a new classic in the sci-fi/horror genre. This is due in no small part to the stellar performances of the largely indigenous cast, especially Midthunder, who brings fierce determination and a pounding heart to Naru, making her as compelling an action heroine as the best of them, perhaps even better due to his clear love. for her family and community.

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His supporting cast is also excellent, with Dakota Beavers as Taabe, Naru’s older protective brother, and the aforementioned Thrush. The script is also something to celebrate, keeping the story compelling. It is the work of Trachtenberg, who gave us 10 Cloverfield Streetand writer/producer Patrick Aison, who clearly know how to breathe new life into a tired genre concept.

Where most action franchise installments can be disorienting for a new viewer, Prey is mercifully easy to follow and understand, even if this is your first trip to the Predator universe. In fact, the story here is so strong that it could easily have been a fresh and original film if we didn’t live in a media landscape that prioritizes established IP over the new and exciting.

Overall, though, I’m happy we got this: It’s very rare to find an action blockbuster that delivers the thrill of the genre without feeling hackneyed. That’s just something to celebrate. Hopefully, the strength of a film like Prey it can open the door to newer, more creative and more diverse versions of the franchise movies, or better yet, more original movies and opportunities for everyone involved.

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