‘Prey’ (2022) Review: Aliens, Hunters, and The Beginning of a New Hero

Dan Trachtenberg’s Prey calls itself a prequel. It is set in 1719 in the Northern Great Plains and follows a Comanche hunter named Naru (Amber Midthunder). The Predator franchise, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dutch, turns 35 this year, and what better to go back in time to focus on the hunt? It’s a fresh spin — a refreshingly fresh spin — on Native American representation, which doesn’t have a history of the most positive portrayals on big screens. But with the introduction of Naru, a female action character, who rises to the occasion to hunt down the predator. The movie shows her in a progressive light and changes the game when it comes to the representation of Native American culture. Prey goes far back in time to the basics and brings a surprising spin to the action hero no one has ever seen before.

The movie follows Naru, who is desperate to undergo training to become a hunter for her tribe against the wishes of her family. Her family doesn’t want her to undergo training since it is something that is not expected of her, and she constantly pushes against the expectations set for her. Her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers), a hunter and a leader of the tribe knows that his sister is not ready for her first big hunt, known as “kuhtaamia.” When Taabe leads a hunt to find a lion, he allows Naru to tag along with the rest of the group. A fantastic tracker, Naru listens and observes the details around her and notices some details that are disturbing. A green liquid and a skinned snake are found on the ground, which nobody else notices, and Naru tries to warn Taabe and the tribespeople that this predator is quite different, something that they have never seen before. A Predator (Dane DiLiegro) lands on Earth and explores the Northern Great Plains looking for small prey and when Naru comes across this giant alien, she is ready for her first big hunt.

Prey delivers an astounding portrayal of Naru, a female hunter who doesn’t want to conform to the expectations of her tribe. It’s not easy to face constant ridicule from everyone, but Naru sticks to her passion to hunt, just like her brother. No one around her, maybe except for her brother, sees that she has many skills, and is observant. Her biggest weapon is her critical thinking. She spends her time sharpening the blade of her self-made axe attached to a rope and trains in solitude and swings it around, targeting the tree trucks. It will be some time before she goes out to hunt the Predator. Naru is a well-written character, who is determined and sometimes stubborn, but she knows that her journey is as important as the male counterparts in her tribe. “Why do you want to hunt? her mother asks her in one scene, talking to Naru about the importance of the other skills, which she does better than hunting. “Because you all think I can’t.” This is a statement that rings true to a lot of young girls and women, who are constantly underestimated and ridiculed.

A crucial aspect of Naru’s character arc is what it takes for her to actively seek the alien. Through her observations, she learns how to outsmart the Predator by hiding behind trees and strategizing using nature against the alien. She uses the skills she learns as a hunter to battle the beast, but her path was quite different. In the beginning, Naru’s stubbornness didn’t allow her to see what else she could learn, and even without knowing she had helped Taabe hunt the lion by slowing the animal down and hunting from above rather than the ground. These mistakes eventually helped her to make smarter decisions when she came face-to-face with the Predator, and she was the only person who could do it. She overcomes the obstacle of not being able to fight in single combat with the hunter who defeats her prey without any trouble. This kind of narrative is not new to female action heroes but it is rare to see a Native American at the centre of this story, wielding weapons and killing aliens.

Prey has an unpredictability to it. In the killing sequences, Trachtenberg brings back familiar weapons and the signature thermal perspectives of the Predator, lurking above the trees and watching his prey. A game of patience is played among the Predator and his prey, and even in the original movie, it has a slow build-up to reveal the alien’s gruesome plans. Unlike the Predator, Trachtenberg chooses to show the predator in more unpredictable and dangerous situations. In one gruesome scene, the Predator kills and picks up a bear to show his victory and the blood soaks on top of the alien, while Naru runs away before he catches her. Every part of the Predator is menacing and he knows how to play the cat-and-mouse game, waiting patiently for Naru to make her move.

There’s violence and tension, and even a well-written character who turns from a stubborn young woman into an undefeatable and ferocious hunter. Prey doesn’t stray away from the franchise’s trademarks and signature elements, and Trachtenberg introduces a surprising new lore to Predator. The fight sequences are creative and extremely fun to watch and it uses futuristic gadgets and weapons to beat the Predator. It commits to centre Naru’s journey and the obstacles she faced throughout the movie, and their final encounter, which results in a satisfying conclusion.

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