Unlike previous Predator films, Prey went straight to streaming in 2022 with no theatrical release. I must admit after rumours over the past few years of Disney abandoning Blu-Ray releases in favour of their streaming platform, I’m relieved we are finally getting a physical release for Prey, albeit over a year later. Here’s AvPGalaxy’s review of the Prey 4K Blu-Ray set.
I remember commenting in my review of 2018’s The Predator, that it wasn’t a bad movie but I wasn’t fond of the setting. I always wanted to see a Predator film set in the distant past. Well, it seems Disney has listened and here we are at long last. The newest Predator film, Prey, is a Predator prequel set in the Northern Great Plains in 1719. It features a young Comanche woman called Naru who aspires to become a great warrior.
Prey was directed by Dan Trachtenberg who is known for directing the excellent 10 Cloverfield Lane and was written by Patrick Aison. The movie was shot around Calgary, Alberta, Canada and is easily the most visually impressive Predator film in the series. There are numerous stunning sweeping shots of the landscapes and mountains.
Prey is made up of a mostly First Nations cast. The film is very much all about Amber Midthunder’s Naru and her quest to follow in her brother’s footsteps and become a great warrior. Dakota Beavers plays her brother Taabe who is supportive of her desires to a point. We see Naru with her Comanche tribe at the start but there are long scenes where it is just Naru and her dog Sarii exploring the wilderness with very little dialogue. Midthunder is the highlight of the film and is wonderful in the role of Naru. We have at last a worthy heroine in the Predator franchise. Her adorable dog Sarii plays a significant role and is part of many key scenes.
I always felt with 2010’s Predators and 2018’s The Predator, they were just re-treading the same ground but the story in Prey brings something unique and different to the Predator franchise. I think they made the right choice to keep the film focussed on Naru and her journey and not get bogged down with side stories. Once Naru encounters the Predator, the film moves at a quick pace moving from one set piece to the next.
The film’s dialogue is mostly in English with a bit of Comanche dialogue here and there. I think they made the right choice there. I did listen to the Comanche dub with English subtitles but I do struggle with films when I have to read subtitles.
Franchise veterans Amalgamated Dynamics, who previously worked on the AvPs and The Predator, were again hired to handle the special effects. Nicknamed the Feral Predator, this Predator was designed to be more animalistic and scarier and to take advantage of actor Dane DiLiegro’s leaner physique. The most unique design aspect is Feral’s bone mask which covers the upper part of his face and the bones extend into his wrist gauntlet. The idea is that he used the bones of a trophy to make them.
As with every new Predator film, we get to see some new weapons. Laser-Guided Arrows, the Cut Clamp and Wrist Shield are new additions while old ones like the Net Gun and Combistick have been tweaked. One weapon that isn’t there is the iconic shoulder cannon which is understandable. The film is set 300 years ago and it would be too easy for Feral to kill people with it.
There has been a lot of criticism directed at the design of Feral’s head when he takes his mask off. It is very different to the classic Predators we’ve seen before – it was changed to make the Predator less humanoid or more alien-like. I’m not overly fond of the design but I get the intentions – this is a Predator from the distant past so he is going to look different.
The visual effects were made by Moving Picture Company with additional work from Industrial Light & Magic, Track VFX and Pixel Light Effects. I thought the effects were pretty good and there are a lot of animal effects. We see Feral slowly working his way up the food chain by fighting a wolf and a bear, the latter was really fun to watch and was such a great entrance. Feral takes one hell of a beating throughout the film.
Naru and Taabe get captured by the French Trappers who use them to lure the Feral Predator into a trap. When Feral shows up and gets caught, he goes on the rampage killing everyone in his path with all the tools he has. The movie doesn’t shy away from blood and gore either. There are so many graphic kills in the film.
I thought it was great how they worked the Flintlock pistol from Predator 2 into the story. It was sort of obvious given the time period and the gun’s engraving “Raphael Adolini 1715” that it would make some sort of an appearance.
The pistol’s owner Raphael Adolini, played by Bennett Taylor, is recruited by the French Trappers and ends up giving the pistol to Naru. There’s still obviously more story to tell with the pistol as it eventually ends up with Greyback who gives it to Harrigan at the climax of Predator 2.
Naru realises eating orange flowers lowers the body’s temperature, making her invisible to the Predator’s thermal vision. It’s a nice contrast to the first Predator film where Dutch uses mud to hide his heat signature. Naru sets a trap for Feral and what follows is a ferocious battle between the two of them.
Cinematographer Jeff Cutter did a sterling job with the lighting. The final battle is in darkness under the moonlight but you can still see clearly what’s going on. The green fluorescent Predator blood pouring out of Feral and covered on Naru accentuates the scene. One of my favourite moments is when Feral accidentally severs his arm and he just turns and looks at his severed arm lodged in the tree and then looks at Naru with rage. Naru ultimately kills the Feral Predator and takes his head as a trophy back to her tribe, proving herself as a true warrior.
Sarah Schachner’s score was just fantastic and fits in perfectly for the type of film. I immediately sought the soundtrack after I saw Prey and listened to the tracks numerous times. It is very different to any other Predator soundtrack – it’s very strings-focussed with tribal percussion and woodwinds. It’s definitely a darker, malevolent theme.
The first track “Predator Instinct” incorporates a darker version of Alan Silvestri’s main Predator theme. I very much like the tracks that are rooted in Native American culture – the likes of “Naru and Sarii” and “Naru’s Way”. They start off very soft and slow which builds into a sense of grandeur to match the journey that Naru is on.
Given how great the film is, I am surprised that Disney chose to send this straight to streaming. It thoroughly deserved a theatrical release. I think the general audience will definitely rank Prey as the best Predator sequel but I will always have a soft spot for Predator 2. I’d give Prey 9/10. There really wasn’t much I didn’t like about it.
Where does Disney go from here? We’ve never had a direct sequel to any Predator film before that includes the same characters. It would be an awful shame not to see the character of Naru in another story and the end credits definitely indicate that more Predators will visit her and her tribe.
The Picture and the Sound
Prey is presented in 4K Ultra High Definition with an HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p transfer in a ratio of 2.39:1. The film was shot using Arri Alexa Mini LF cameras and finished at native 4K. The image quality is excellent, with impressive skin detail on the Comanche tribespeople and you can see the scaly textures on the Predator’s cloak.
The forest looks superb and the distant mountains and vistas look breathtaking. The nighttime scenes have deep blacks and are very clear and detailed. Even though the final battle is in darkness, you can clearly see what’s happening. Prey is the most visually impressive Predator film I think and the 4K release definitely captures that.
The 4K version comes with a Dolby Atmos track, 5.1 English, 5.1 French, 5.1 Spanish, a 5.1 Commanche dub, and a 2.0 Descriptive Audio track. The 1080p version swaps out the Atmos track for an English 7.1 DTS-HDMA track and includes the Commentary track. I don’t have an Atmos system so I can’t listen to that track – I’ve still got my excellent 9.1 Surround System. Like the picture quality, the dialogue is clear without any issues.
Surround sound is immersive. When there are forest scenes, you can hear trees rustling and birds chirping behind you. In a lot of scenes, you can hear the faint clicking or snarling from the Predator watching from the treetops. Sarah Schachner’s score is just outstanding with the strings and percussion and really goes all out in the Predator combat scenes.
The set also has English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
The Special Features
The 4K disc doesn’t come with any special features. Instead, the features can be found on the accompanying 1080p disc.
There’s an audio Commentary with director Dan Trachtenberg, actress Amber Midthunder, cinematographer Jeff Cutter & editor Angela M. Catanzaro. Trachtenberg and Midthunder do most of the talking. The director goes into what scenes were envisaged or filmed but ultimately not used. Jeff Cutter talks about what went into lighting the scenes. The commentary does provide lots of interesting trivia bits that I’d not heard about before. There are a few moments of silence but on the whole, I’m glad the studio provided a commentary.
Making of Prey (12:17)
This is a short 12-minute behind-the-scenes featurette where the cast and crew talk about the project, the cast’s physical training and special effects work. There’s quite a lot of behind-the-scenes footage that I’ve not seen before. I just wish the feature was longer.
Prey FYC Panel With Cast & Crew (29:01)
This panel was a Q&A discussion that took place after a screening of Prey. FYC – For Your Consideration. On the panel, there was director Dan Trachtenberg, actress Amber Midthunder, producer Jhane Myers, director of photography Jeff Cutter, film editor Angela M. Catanzaro and creature effects designer Alec Gillis. Trachtenberg explains the origins of the project, and why it’s important to have it rooted in Comanche culture.
There was very little material on the cutting room floor so deleted scenes were always going to be hard to come by. However, the Blu-Ray does contain an alternative opening and two deleted scenes. Strangely, the scenes have forced commentary from director Dan Trachtenberg so you can’t actually hear the original audio tracks.
Alternative Opening (1:58)
The scene where Naru attempts to kill the hawk with her brother Taabe was actually going to be the opening scene of the film. It was shot entirely in Comanche when the filmmakers thought the whole movie would be shot in Comanche. It would have transitioned into English when Naru reached the tepee. In the alternative opening, we’re introduced to her brother Taabe and the War Chief’s son Wasape.
Big Warrior, Little Warrior (1:01)
This scene features Naru fixing a little girl’s bow and it sets up a scene later when Naru’s bow breaks when attempting to hit the bear. It reinforces that the bow needs to be clean so it can function properly. It was cut as it was slowing the pace of the film and wasn’t necessary information.
Treetop Chase (1:57)
Finally, the Treetop Chase is a purely pre-vis animation sequence of when Naru and Feral fight in the treetops. It takes place after Big Beard is killed but before the final fight. Trachtenberg said it was cut for time and budget reasons. It was nice of them to include this as studios don’t tend to supply pre-vis animations of deleted scenes on discs.
Prey has revitalised the Predator franchise and Trachtenberg has crafted the best Predator sequel since the originals. It’s visually stunning, action-packed and Naru is a character I’m eager to see more of. As expected with the 4K release, the picture and sound quality is outstanding.
The extras, on the other hand, are very lacking. There are fewer features here than there were on The Predator. I’m thankful we got a commentary as that’s one of the easiest things to produce really and you find out a lot of trivia listening to that. It would have been nice to have some longer featurettes, particularly Special Effects features with ADI or some concept art galleries. Still, I’m glad Disney has released the film on home media so fans can finally have a physical copy of it in their collection.