Matt Doyle Media Monthly: Issue 1

HEADER FILM PREDATOR PREY

A skilled Comanche warrior protects her tribe from a highly evolved alien predator that hunts humans for sport, fighting against the wilderness, dangerous colonizers, and this mysterious creature to keep her people safe.

Prey is the latest installment in the long-running Predator franchise, and is set around 268 years before the original. Or it is if we assume the original was set in 1987 (the year it was released). It’s a film that I’ve been looking forward to since it was announced too, though my hope for it was that it would simply be better than 2018’s The Predator.

I want to open up by stating that it is far, far better than the franchise’s previous outing. You can tell that Patrick Aison (writer) and Dan Trachtenberg (director) were fans of the original film, and they really aren’t ashamed of showing that. Both the nature-based setting and the general set-up make that very clear. If that weren’t enough, a couple of lines that pop up are obvious callbacks to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch.

Where this sets itself apart is that our lead, Naru, is not treated as an elite warrior in the way Dutch was. She’s smaller, and though very skillful, she is most definitely not the person those around her would turn to if they knew what they were facing. So, we have an underdog story. In that regard, it places itself in between Predator and Predator 2 in terms of overall feel.

Naru’s arc is great. She has drive from the get-go, and you naturally want to root for her to succeed in proving herself. Her dog, Sarii, was adorable too and served perfectly as a combination of a loyal companion and a constant source of worry for the audience. As she grows in comfort with the concept of what she’s facing, Naru also becomes more resourceful, which becomes important later on.

I know that, prior to release, there was a certain end of the internet that was very vocal about how they viewed the idea of a woman trying to do what Dutch did. Here’s the thing though. Naru doesn’t tackle this like Dutch. Her brother, Taabe, does take a more face-to-face approach, though again, different from what we’ve seen before. Naru’s approach though is entirely based on her intelligence. She thinks things through and plans what she’s going to do. That was a smart approach that makes sense given the size difference between our hero and villain here. And hey, if you want Predator vs. firepower again, the French give it a try.

The predator itself had a really nice design. Much like the combat approach, it was different from what we’ve seen before, and in a good way. Being set before the first film, it uses some similar but different tech, right down to the iconic helmet. And boy does that helmet stand out. It’s a thing of beauty, honestly. One thing that hasn’t changed about the titular alien hunter though is its brutality. The kills in Prey are graphic, nicely framed, and come across as the right side of jarring when set against the picturesque scenery.

I believe this is the shortest Predator movie to date, and that actually serves it well. The running time means things don’t get bloated. Instead, we get a slow build at the start, and then a nicely paced ride once everything kicks off. This felt just right in terms of runtime.

One thing I wasn’t a fan of though was a few of the visual effects. The animals weren’t too bad; in particular, I did enjoy the bear. There were times though when the CG work was so visibly CG that it made it hard to maintain my suspension of disbelief. For example, when the Predator jumps from trees late in the movie, it looked terrible to me. Given the amount of emphasis that was placed on the practical effects for the Predator in the pre-release hype, that really disappointed me.

That is a minor gripe though. I tend to find that the movie end of the franchise is at its best when it feels like it’s ‘of its time’. Predator felt very 80s, Predator 2 felt very 90s, and Predators was a perfect fit for the 2010s. What we have with Prey is everything you expect with modern releases for older franchises. It’s full of nostalgic callbacks, it looks more modern, and there’s a focus on diverse casting. Much like the first three films, it does it well. What more could want?

TL;DR

PROS

  • From a visual standpoint, it’s beautifully shot
  • The kills are suitably brutal
  • We have a likable lead in Naru, who also has a decent character arc
  • The combat is smartly set up
  • The nostalgic callbacks are well-placed

CONS

  • The CG is mixed and leans far more towards bad than good

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