Movie review: Latest ‘Predator’ entry ‘Prey’ is suited for the small screen
Some of the people involved with the making of “Prey” are very proud of the science-fiction action movie’s Native American representation.
Set 300 years ago in the northern Great Plains, “Prey” is a prequel to the first four entries in the “Predator” movie franchise. The effort from Disney-owned 20th Century Studios recently made its debut on Hulu.
In it, we are treated to a strong young female warrior in the Comanche Nation, Naru (Amber Midthunder), raised — as the production notes say — “in the shadow of some of the most legendary hunters who roam the Great Plains.”
She’s surrounded, however, by young arrogant males, including her brother, Taabe (newcomer Dakota Beavers), who at least is a more skilled hunter than others.
And although the production worked with a Comanche educator and consultant and sprinkles in bits of the Comanche language, mostly we get the characters speaking in English, for our convenience, sounding not entirely unlike American teens of today.
On the other hand, the casting of Midthunder, Beavers and myriad other actors from the Native American and First Nation talent pool in itself is laudable, “Prey” following in the footsteps of recent TV shows “Rutherford Falls,” “Reservation Dogs” and “Dark Winds.”
Really, though, none of that changes that “Prey” is an average action movie, one that suffers from being part of a franchise that doesn't seem to have much of anything interesting left to give.
As with its first installment, 1987’s “Predator,” and its first sequel, 1990’s “Predator 2,” “Prey” involves a violent, often-invisible, hard-to-kill alien visiting Earth to do a little hunting and a small group trying to stay alive long enough to somehow take it down.
Initially, Taabe and pals such as Stormee Kipp’s Wasape believe they’re hunting a big cat such as a lion — or maybe even a bear. Naru, though, believes it’s something else, something dangerous, something she comes to believe is hunting them.
Although she at first travels with the males — who, you know, tell her she should not come, that they don’t need a cook — she is brought back home by Taabe after suffering a setback in her efforts to show them she’s a better hunter than all of them.
Even Naru’s mother, Aruka (Michelle Thrush, “The Journey Home”), does not understand her daughter’s desire to embrace danger outside the home.
“My girl,” she says, “you are good at so many other things. Why do you want to hunt?”
“Because all of you think I can’t,” Naru says.
Later, as she’s on her own, she runs afoul of some quicksand, as well as some humans from another land, but we suspect she is the best hope to rid her world of this alien threat.
Midthunder (“The Ice Road,” “Roswell, New Mexico”) is the best thing going with “Prey.” In her hands, Naru is impressive but imperfect, a relatable heroine and one for whom you’ll enjoy rooting.
That “Prey” offers little beyond her and some reasonably well-executed action sequences is disappointing considering it is the second feature from “10 Cloverfield Lane” director Dan Trachtenberg, a fan of the first “Predator” since its arrival when he was in the third grade. (In the press materials, he says Billy, the Native American scout from “Predator” portrayed by Sonny Landham, served as the inspiration for this movie.)
Sharing a story-by credit with Patrick Aison (“Treadstone,” “Jack Ryan”), who wrote the screenplay, Trachtenberg has failed to deliver on the promise he showed in 2016’s much-more-engaging “10 Cloverfield Lane,” a horror-thriller also dealing with an extraterrestrial encounter. While he is, perhaps, somewhat constrained by the limits of what the “Predator” franchise has to offer, you’d be forgiven for expecting something more than “Prey” delivers.
Longtime fans of the series may find more to love in the film than those of us who could take it or leave it. And if you simply can’t wait to see the Predator (Dane DiLiegro, “American Horror Stories”) score some gruesome kills, you’ll get those.
From here, though, “Prey” plays like what it ultimately is — a made-for-TV “Predator” affair.
2 stars (out of 4)
MPAA rating: R (for strong bloody violence)
Running time: 1:39
How to watch: On Hulu