by George Wolf
Well-crafted memories of the mid-80s helped Top Gun Maverick blow up the box office this summer. And while Prey skips the big screens for a rollout on Hulu, the film is not shy about its plan for more crowd-pleasing nostalgia.
It’s also not shy about the carnage.
Director Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) takes the reins for installment number five in the Predator franchise, teaming with writer Patrick Aison to rewind 300 years, when a tribe of Comanche hunters suddenly found themselves among the hunted.
Naru (Amber Midthunder) thinks she has the skills to join the hunt and help provide for her tribe, but her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers) isn’t so sure. And when Taabe has to come to Naru’s rescue in the wild, she’s urged to stand down.
But Naru has glimpsed something large and lethal in the woods, and when that something begins making bloody sport of Comanche nation, she’s eager to prove just how lethal she can be.
Midthunder (The Wheel, TV’s Legion) is a fine heroine, more than capable with the role’s physicality and Naru’s stubborn resolve. And she’s able to keep the character compelling when Aison’s character arcs and “the hunter is now the prey” themes seem hurried and obvious.
Trachtenberg compensates with a string of arresting visual set pieces. As his camera dives deep into the trees and then high above, Trachtenberg crafts the Predator’s first Earthly battlefield as a home suddenly and violently unknown to its natives, a metaphor for the Native American experience that lands with resonance.
Those well-known monster calls fuel the tension, the action is thrilling, and the blood is splattered with pride, complete with unmistakable callbacks to the original 1987 film through both movement and dialog.
And about that dialog…
Trachtenberg and producer Jhane Myers (of both Comanche and Blackfeet heritage) have clearly taken great care with the film’s cultural representation and depiction. In fact, you can choose a version of Prey that is dubbed by the cast in the Comanche language (becoming the first film to offer this option).
It’s a wise choice, because as distracting as dubbed audio can be, the English dialog in Prey is even more so. It’s not just that the Comanche characters speak English, but the phrasing and delivery is so very present day, it’s hard to stay grounded in the film’s otherwise impressive world-building.
Word is that before making the decision to dub, Trachtenberg and Myers considered filming exclusively in the Comanche language. Damn, that would have been a great action film.
Prey is a good one.