Prey Review: How Did It Take So Long To Get A Good Predator Sequel?

35 years since the release of Predator, and the franchise finally has found a worthy sequel that has cracked the code on how to continue this series moving forward thanks to the superb film Prey.

There is something very surreal about writing a review for Prey. One of the first things I ever wrote for With An Accent and the first full review I ever published was for The Predator in 2018, one that I wrote quickly the night after watching the movie as a way to process the sheer disappointment of that movie. The Predator had all the potential, with a great director and writer and a wonderful cast, and had everything it needed to be a great movie but just didn’t work.

At the time it felt like that would be the end of the Predator franchise for a long time, as the movie was a box office disappointment in a franchise that was never a guaranteed box office hit, and with the purchase of 20th Century Fox by Disney it seemed like there was no place for this franchise in the new corporate structure.

Yet just four years later, here we are with a new Predator film in the form of Prey, which not to bury the lead is excellent and just what this franchise needed. Four years feels like a lot, but also like nothing at all. After all, there was a 12-year gap between Predator 2 and Alien vs Predator, and it was an eight-year gap between Predators and The Predator. So The Predator’s damage to the larger franchise was non-existent as they were already developing Prey at the same time The Predator was in production, and now is released just a few short years later. In this age of modern franchise movie making, no franchise is ever truly dead and the resurrection cycle is accelerated.

Prey, from 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg, is set in 1717 and tells the story of Naru (Amber Midthunter), a Comanche healer who dreams of being a warrior but isn’t accepted by her tribe in that role. She eventually discovers that a mysterious creature she has been tracking is in fact, the alien hunter The Predator. Naru alongside her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers) find themselves coming into conflict with not just the Predator, but also the wilderness and French fur trappers. Naru must face off against this intergalactic hunter to not only survive but prove herself a worthy warrior.

Prey is simply incredible. It is well shot, has great performances by the lead actors with Midthunder herself sure to be getting calls from every studio come the Monday morning after this opens, and just an incredible minimalist script. It is bare-bones basic. There is not a lot of added fluff here. It gets in, establishes the characters, introduces the Predator, and then has a lot of bloody action. However, the script is not dumb but has a lot of thematic meat to it, particularly drawing a parallel between the Predator and the white fur traders showcasing the signature Predator move of skinning a carcass in this film done by humans. Prey is a great example of a script being simple but not stupid, and not needing to be over two hours to get across deep themes.

The Predator franchise has one of the simplest movie formulas: alien hunter comes down to hunt people. The 1987 film Predator starts out as a standard 80s action movie that quickly turns into a slasher movie. Instead of hunting teenagers like other slasher films, the filmmakers put him up against the biggest action heroes of the time to show how dangerous he was. The sequel Predator 2 decides to change the location, moving from the jungle and into a cop story. A good genre switch, but then the franchise lay dormant for 12 years until Alien vs Predator.

It feels like there should have been three or four Predator movies made in that time, just putting the Predator up against different targets. Hunting Aliens was a great pitch, and Predators found a great idea by investing in the original Predator formula by transporting various soldiers and killers from across the globe and bringing them together on an alien planet.

As mentioned in The Predator review, that film felt like four different Predator movie pitches rolled into one as a way to make up for all the lost time. It felt like for years everyone overthought how to make this franchise happen. But with Prey, it has been given new life.

Prey’s simple yet genius decision to set the film in 1717 against a Comanche warrior is the perfect way to expand the franchise and crack the code that many other films overthought. Predator movies work when the filmmakers are telling one genre of story and it is shifted by the arrival of a Predator, and the decision to not just change the story but also the time setting opens the door for this series to expand for years.

Despite taking place over two hundred years before the first Predator movie, Prey isn’t a prequel movie in the traditional sense. It isn’t about laying the groundwork or tying it into future films. It doesn’t expand the lore but instead is just a solid entry in the franchise, taking the premise and making a good solid movie.

That is really the most underrated aspect about Prey. The movie works on its own before the Predator shows up and the main conflict is established. Director Trachtenberg and star Midthunder help craft an engaging performance about a young woman who aspires to be more than what her society tells her, all set to gorgeous vistas and great visual storytelling with minimal dialogue.

They take the time to get the audience to care about Naru’s character and desires, so when the Predator does show up, there is an added sense of danger. Take the Predator out and you still have a compelling narrative, but the Predator’s existence shifts the story in a whole new direction and helps become a physical manifestation of the obstacle the character needs to overcome.

Really the biggest criticism about Prey is nothing to do with the movie itself but the studio politics behind it. While there is nothing wrong with sending a film to streaming and plenty of great movies have been released through streaming platforms, Prey does feel like a movie that was meant for the big screen to be seen with an enthusiastic opening night audience for that sense of discovery and feeling of not knowing what to expect and to be genuinely surprised.

With August being so low on big-budget spectacle films, it felt like Prey would have been perfect for theaters. One final big summer movie before kids go back to school. However, due to prior deals between 20th Century Fox and HBO, Disney did not want Prey to go their competitor and instead wanted the film as a big draw for Hulu which has not had the big eye-catching original films that Disney+ has had.

In spite of all that, Prey is an awesome bloody violent but also incredibly well-shot moving human story. Saying it is the best Predator movie since the original might be faint praise, but there is a chance upon further viewing it could be the best film in the franchise. Also, Prey means in addition to Predator and Predators, there are more good entries in this franchise than the Alien series which peaked after Aliens (the best one in that series). Prey is certainly worth your time and hopefully, Disney and 20th Century Pictures have learned the right lessons and continue the Predator franchise in this bold new simple direction.