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Prey (Christian Movie Review)

About The Movie

Arnold might not be back, but one of cinemas most iconic creatures makes its return to earth and onto the big small screen. A Hulu exclusive, Prey is a prequel set 300 years before the original Schwarzenegger-led Predator (1987). There have been several other lackluster entries in the franchise, but the series has mostly languished in mediocracy. Prey is a fresh, violent, and well-crafted sci-fi horror/action thriller that breathes new life into a classic franchise.

The movie is directed by Dan Trachtenberg, whose only previous feature film is 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016), which was also an entertaining new entry in an existing sci-fi horror/thriller series. He doesn’t fall into the trap of leaning too heavily into nostalgia, and no prior knowledge of the character is needed to understand the story. He also brings something new to the series by setting the film in the Comanche Nation in the year 1719. This unique and fresh narrative framework is an intriguing deviation from the typical template of modern military versus advanced alien technology. Notably, it is allegedly the first franchise movie to star an all-Native American cast.

Speaking of the cast, Amber Midthunder (a relative newcomer) stars as Naru, a young warrior who is consistently overlooked by her tribe and driven by the desire to prove herself. Midthunder excels in the role. She is already a capable hunter/warrior when the story begins, but is also inexperienced and vulnerable. She struggles, fails, and learns from her mistakes. On several occasions, her mistakes and failures from earlier in the film are put to later use, making her character growth feel earned, rather than contrived.

Prey also takes cues from other classic monster/alien flicks, electing for a slow burn of rising tension rather than noisy spectacle. The Predator itself isn’t fully engaged until 35-40 minutes into the runtime. The more methodical pacing allows room for the human characters to breathe and leads to a better payoff when the inevitable showdown with the Predator begins.

Visually, Prey is a bit of a mixed bag. The cinematography is gorgeous, with stunning landscapes and some brilliantly framed shots. On the other hand, it still maintains a B-movie feel, amplified by the straight-to-Hulu release (and budget). The CGI of the animals, such as a bear, is particularly cartoonish. The characters are also far too clean and polished. The lack of dirt and grime makes the characters look more like people in costumes, rather than feeling authentic.

In the end, many Christians will understandably be turned off by the brutal violence and horror tone. While it won’t be for everyone, I enjoyed Prey as an engaging horror/thriller.

  

On the Surface

For Consideration

Beneath The Surface

Engage The Film

Colonization

The film asks viewers to consider the question: “Who is predator and who is prey?” The movie beings with a voiceover, “A long time ago, it is said, a monster came here.” While the immediate meaning is the Predator, it eventually becomes clear that the alien is also a metaphor, or at least a contrast, for colonization. The appearance of French colonists midway through the film serve to recontextualize the Predator. In fact, although adversaries, the Predator and the Comanche people share a sort of kinship. They are hunters, desiring to prove their worthiness by vanquishing the most formidable prey. In this way, the Predator is the main threat, but not necessarily the villain. At the end of the film, a character returns with a pistol from the colonists and declares, “There is danger nearby. We need to move to easier protected ground.” The implication is that while one predator is defeated, another‚ perhaps more devastating one, remains.

Worthiness

Another theme is about what makes a person worthy. Naru is discredited primarily because she is a woman. This aspect can be fairly on the nose. When Naru attempts to tag along with a band of male hunters, one snidely says, “Who invited you? We won’t be gone along enough to need a cook.” Moments like this feel a bit too much of a modern “woman in a man’s world” message. But the filmmakers have also described it more broadly simply as an “underdog” story that is applicable to all types of people who overlooked and counted out. In a sense, this is even the driving force for the Predator, who seeks to establish itself as the apex predator by slowly working its way up the food chain to bigger and more challenging prey.

For Christians, the application is twofold. On the one hand, Naru is clearly capable and not given her fair chance, and the film offers a lesson against prejudice. On the other hand, Christians know that while they should strive for excellence in all things, true worth does not depend on others or receiving public recognition. Scripture says, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7), and “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7). It is not wrong for Naru to desire fair treatment and recognition, but neither is her all-consuming mission for validation one that Christians must follow.

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