Review: Prey – Stylish but disjointed ‘prequel’ lacks believability as a Predator movie

Watching this movie with an open mind is the key to landing a level-headed understanding.

VERDICTS:

For movie lovers:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

For sci-fi fans:

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

For Predator fans:

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

This review contains spoilers

PROS:

  • Amber Midthunder
  • Comanche cast
  • Comanche dub
  • Better than ‘The Predator

CONS:

  • Underwhelming effects & CGI
  • Dan Trachtenberg
  • Predator revealed too early and too often
  • Lackluster screenplay
  • No atmosphere

Firstly, let’s get a few things straight, Predator is a cheesy action movie and was not intended to be anything more than that. Filled with corny one-liners and cartoonish muscle men, Predator has been misunderstood by many, including the director of ‘Prey.’

The movie follows a Native American tribe with the protagonist ‘Naru’ played by Amber Midthunder suspecting there is something more than local carnivorous fauna on the lose.

Without attempting to deconstruct too much, Prey remixes the brand’s identity and is a good start for turning the tide on a staggered and tired franchise by renaming it and injecting a much-needed change of warrior. Amber Midthunder is the perfect remedy for a movie that has constantly cast big muscly Arnie-like figures in its leading role. In contrast, the Alien franchise has hung on to the need for Ripley to be at the centre of events for the saga.

Casting got it right by signing Midthunder into the role, so what went wrong do you ask? A lot.

Any franchise must thread a theme of formula through its movies to parallel a world that came before it, to communicate an franchise identity and this is what director Dan Trachtenberg fails to comprehend.

Firstly, the clue is in the title – Predator. In the animal kingdom, predatory creatures are almost invisible to their prey and like the beginnings of this intriguing yet hard to get right movie, Prey shows us our extraterrestrial visitor too soon and continues to do so almost every 5-10 minutes offering the antagonist’s persona up like a wrestling match rather than a creature that likes to hunt.

Many filmmakers fail to grasp suspense, though to their credit, it’s essentially the studio machine interfering and pushing production to wrap as soon as possible. This leaves directors, cinematographers and effects departments in an under-pressure position or redundant capacity. So, like a circus, we’re given 5 minutes of build-up until the roaring lion is unveiled. 5 minutes later, the mystique and atmosphere have wilted, characters have said too much and the story becomes increasingly predictable. Predator is handed to us almost right away without any build-up leaving us underwhelmed by its presence.

More problems unearth themselves the longer we sit to watch as I increasingly feel sorry for Midthunder who is thrust into a movie that fails before it has begun. To add insult to injury, Prey is given the curse of standardized CGI lacking any effort, texture and believability. The screenplay seems bent on showing us animals, (no less than CGI animals) that look to be ripped from a video game.

I know what you’re going to say – that this movie is set in a Native American arc and animals are integral to the screenplay. My retort? If you can’t do it right, don’t include it at all. Fighting an obviously falsified bear, wolf and cougar (yes all three of these fights actually happen) only serve to retract the viewer’s mind from the very nature of movie escapism. Real animals could have been used sparingly, and our protagonist need not have interacted with them because the only threat and one to fight should be – Predator. Yet, even our poor Yautja was forced to engage a wolf. A simple cut scene of our ugly off-world friend polishing a skull to activate a sense of mystery as to what s/he has been doing off camera would suffice.

The end scene of this movie bugs me. I know someone who lives with survivors’ guilt and depression brought on by it, and how Trachtenberg dealt with Naru’s return was rather disconcerting considering she had just lost relatives and friends. Instead a celebration of her return with her joining in commenced.

Anyway, other than that, Midthunder was an excellent choice, her colleagues too and the inclusion of Comanche dub is first class. I’d have preferred the movie to have been completely shot in Comanche, considering dialogue does not completely fill this movie’s picture.

Unfortunately, the inclusion of too much in too little was the problem here, and Amber Midthunder deserves better than to be included in what felt more like a director recreating a lacklustre effort in his head but not fully understanding how to do it. If Disney wants things to go right, they need to recruit the right director to ensure flawless production and offer enough time to pull it off.

Photo: Disney corporation

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