Sunday, 14 August 2022

Prey (2022)

Prey Detour

USA 2022
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg
20th Century Fox

Warning: Some minor,
four legged spoilers within.

Okay, so Prey is the seventh film in the much loved Predator franchise. Well... much loved by Predator fans that is, I’ve always been a bit hot and cold with the series myself. If I had any previous favourites they would be, for the record... Predator 2, AVP - Alien VS Predator and the previous installment, The Predator (reviewd here). Those three were all okay. So I’m very happy that, with Prey, I now have a Predator film I think is really good. It’s a breath of fresh air to the series and this one, also, happens to be a prequel... set in ‘The Northern Great Plains September 1719’. That’s the Wild West to me and you.

This one tells of a young Comanche girl called Naru, played brilliantly by Amber Midthunder. She knows medicine and expectations of her are to dig vegetables and prepare food for the tribe, like the majority of the women there. However, her aspirations are to become a warrior and prove herself in a hunt, something that her brother Taabe, played by Dakota Beavers, tries to kind of encourage her with, while still holding her back and getting caught up in the negative attitude of some of the other male tribal hunters.

But then, when one of their number is taken by a tiger, the hunters (including Naru) go to try and find it and bring the human victim back alive, if possible. And, of course, right into the middle of the hunt comes... a Predator. Dropped in to prove itself, as is the way with its own tribe/species, possessing much of the superior technological weapons and stealth cloaking of future generations of its war mongering race. So it’s bows, arrows and tomahawks against the alien... not to mention a few scenes of musket ball mayhem from a group of French buffalo slaughterers, thrown into the mix.

And it’s a surprisingly good movie. It’s been said that Prey is a more intimate Predator movie and, because of the lack of technology on the part of the humans in the film... yes, it does give off that kind of vibe. It’s certainly more of a ‘close combat and survival’ kind of movie, with all the violence and tension that implies. It also looks beautiful, making the most of the natural landscapes, forests, water falls and open plains that come with the territory.

Throughout there are various nods to the previous movies and I’m certainly not familiar enough with the franchise to spot that many of them but I will address one of them here because it’s been called a mistake and, I don’t think it is. In Predator 2 (1990), Danny Glover’s character is gifted a pistol by one of the aliens. Well, that same pistol is used here and is presented by one of the characters (I won’t say which one) to the Indian chief at the end of the movie. However, people have been pointing out, perhaps rightly (or not as I’ll go on to say in a second) that the pistol would surely be in the hands of the alien species by the end of the movie, in order for it to be gifted to Danny Glover’s character a couple of hundred years later. All I will say about this ‘possible error’ is... you didn’t stay on to watch the beautiful end credits animation, did you? The end credits sequence does what a few films have been doing over the last five or so years, retelling the story you’ve just seen in small, animated vignettes to accompany the credits. However, it does go very slightly past the point where this story ends and gives audiences a very brief preview of what happens next in the tale... in which case, it does kind of make sense that the aliens would find themselves in possession of the pistol at some point. Maybe in... you know... the next film in the franchise, hopefully continuing on from where this one left off? Which I’m sure, given the success of this one (and the fact that people are rightly angry that a film this good didn’t get a proper cinema release... and will we see it on Blu Ray please?), is definitely on the cards.

Another nice thing about the film is it also bucks a cliché which I was expecting to happen and was pleasantly surprised when it didn’t. So I will say, for those of you who will worry throughout the whole film about these things (like me) that... Naru’s dog survives. Yay! Never saw that one coming.

But talking of clichés... there are two big ones in the movie, apart from the normal baggage you get with the sexual politics of the protagonists. One of them being... the use of a ‘smaller thing gets killed by the next biggest thing, gets killed by the next biggest thing, gets killed by etc”. There’s always a bigger fish, so to speak. I usually hate these kinds of sequences but, there’s a scene like this in the first quarter of an hour or so of the movie where it’s nicely executed and, while it’s a little indulgent in making the obvious point, I have to say that it sat quite well with me. I was perfectly fine with it.

The other cliché, of course, is the ‘invisible tension’ cliché which, to be fair, fits the Predator movies like a glove and has certainly not outworn its welcome here. That being, since you know the Predator is a) a lethal threat and b) can’t be seen by the naked eye... the camera gets away with focusing on empty space ‘where things aren’t’ to create false tension in the viewer, as you never know when that empty space is suddenly going to jump to life in an aggressive, gory attack on a character who you have become attached to. To be honest, it would be kind of odd if the director wasn’t doing that with the camera a lot and, it’s certainly a trick that serves him well here.

One last thing I should mention is the beautiful score by Sarah Schachner, a composer I’d not heard of until now. It’s a gorgeous score, fully appropriate for the milieu of the film and the sweeping beauty of it fits the whole package well, especially since there are a lot of dialogue-free passages and so the music has the opportunity to add so much... and Schachner doesn’t miss a trick. I didn’t hear any specific references to Silvestri’s classic scores to the first two movies but, I might if I had the opportunity to listen to this one on a proper CD. Alas, it’s only been released on one of those horrible electronic downloads so, yeah. Looks like I won’t be getting to explore this one away from the movie, which is a shame. I’d like this one.

One last oddment... if this is a film put out by 20th Century Fox (sorry, 20th Century Studios now... as nobody I know calls them and never shall) then what is it doing on the terrible channel it’s ended up on as opposed to the even worse, very high profile channel owned by the company who owns Fox now? Did I miss something?

Anyway, who cares. I just wish this thing was at the cinema and on Blu Ray. Prey is an absolutely wonderful entry in the Predator series and, for my money, it’s the very best one, far exceeding the original movie. If you like the Predator franchise anyway, you should probably have a good time with this. If you don’t, well, this is a pretty good jumping on point because it’s set back in time before any other Predator film so, yeah, aside from the references (most of which I wouldn’t notice anyway), it’s pretty much a good place to start. Have at it.

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