Let's talk Prey (2022)
Prey is doing great! The critics love it, and the general audience reception has been ecstatic. When did you last see a creature sci-fi movie, especially one from the Predator franchise do well at Rotten Tomatoes, with over 93 per cent favouring it?
Genre: Sci-fi /Action
Table of Contents
A Quick trip down the Predator Memory Lane
Yes, Prey’s titular character has demanded many fans’ attention since the 1987’s Arnold Schwarzenegger original. Over the years, the franchise has churned sequels and spinoffs; decent attempts but barely touching the cult status of the original. Predator 2 and Predators are basically the 1987 version albeit in a different setting. The Alien v predator movies while very fan-pleasing barely had anything to provide to the larger storyline.
These movies though moderately successful are surprisingly rewatchable, as the Yautja, the Predator is still an intriguing character. Something is exciting about watching a space creature with very human-like features yet distinctly alien go on a slasher frenzy.
Basically, the average Predator movie
But that is all there is to a Predator movie. The first half introduces the “hunted”, the supposed prey as they meander their way through a plot that drives them towards the “hunter”, the Predator. This segues to the motley crew of mostly macho men getting picked off by an unseen entity that likes to hang their cadavers upside down and collect trophies. The last standing man of the hour quotes, “If it bleeds, we can kill it” and the final act culminates in a standoff that sees the Predator succumb to its prey.
All of this is plenty terrific, especially with the Alan Silvestri soundtrack that accompanies all the oomphs and aarghs! That’s the niche anyway, very oh so same every time. All of this was expected to change with the prodigal son of the Predator franchise, Shane Black returning to helm the Predator in 2017.
The Dud Before Prey, The Predator (2017)
The dark comedy-loving, neo-noir favouring director was also the first to die at the hands of the predator on screen way back in 1987 when he found himself not only starring in the film but also writing bits of the screenplay. Coming off the successes of Kiss Kiss bang bang, The Nice Guys and of course, the MCU Behemoth, Iron man 3, hopes were high. Shane Promised a different movie, in tone and plot.
Let’s cut to the chase, The Predator is an absolute mess of a film. High on Ideas and even “higher” on execution. The movie is as chaotic as it gets, with pure intentions of universe building all lost to muddled plot lines exaggerated with lowly comedy filled with “your mom” jokes.
Surely this was it for the franchise. It was good while it lasted, and fans of the genre and the predator alike submitted to the acceptance of having to live with the movies of old.
While all hopes seemed lost, around 2020 rumours floated of 10 Cloverfield Lane fame director Dan Trachtenberg helming a new Predator movie. As a Predator fan, I was psyched and covered my expectations for the supposed release a year ago here – Predator 5 is in the making! What should you expect?
And here we are, and Prey is already in the top 20 lists of the year across various sites.
What “Prey” has going for it?
Prey stars Naru, a teenage “Comanche” girl with a hunting dog that does “more” cute than hunt. The men aren’t really hardboiled muscled specimens and the film is set 300 years before Arnold’s version. The story takes us through Naru’s life as a wannabe warrior who is ready to take on her big hunt to cement her place in the ranks of her celebrated warrior brother.
The aesthetic of the movie is far distinct from its predecessors in that it doesn’t shy from zoomed-out shots panning across the northern Great Plains of what is now the United States. And there are more action shots of plain daylight than most of all the other movies in the franchise combined.
The Pre-release criticisms
Pre-release, the movie witnessed outcries against the film’s narrative of posing a girl child as a foil to the Predator’s hunt. After all, the judging fans deposed “a weak girl child taking over a monstrous Predator” to the movie harbouring snowflake-ian propaganda.
While the trailers were directed towards feeding words into the mouths of these naysayers, the movie is pretty devoid of any pandering undertones. Also bringing many of these harsh critiques on its side post the OTT release over at Hulu/Hotstar.
Does Prey clean slate the Predator movies?
The movie does indeed stake a nice take of David v Goliath where the Predator becomes the Prey. Naru ain’t no infallible figure like Arnold. Nor is she like any other predator protagonist to have that right from the start “if it bleeds will kill it” bravado!
But what he does have is resolve and fear. She is not going gung ho into a war of attrition with the predator. In fact, her fear keeps her alive – alive enough to eventually match up to the Predator.
And this is established across a character arc for Naru learning and bettering herself. Unto even needing others alongside to build up towards the climax – One that is a direct tribute to Arnold’s guerilla-centric solo battle with the Predator.
Prey is a welcome change for sure, a different movie to all the ones that have come and gone by in the Predator franchise. But is it really that unique?
Replace the characters, replace the setting, replace the steps in the hunting, and we are back to square one. We are doing Predator all over again.
For better or for worse, Predator works the best that way. The charm of the creature works in a specific plot. Change the players here and there? it works, do something historical? better.
But meddle with the scope of the film, it bombs.
We are yet to see a Predator movie that breaks the confines of limited land.
But the success of Prey does guarantee one thing… You can count on more Predator movies to come!