Skip to main content

"Prey": The Rise of Amber Midthunder

Part-time Indigenous media critic, but full-time Indigenous professional.

Amber Midthunder (Naru) in Prey

Amber Midthunder (Naru) in Prey

Now that my direct family and friends have finally gotten around to watching Prey I can release this review. When I first watched the movie over a week ago—you can look at my non-spoiler initial thoughts in my previous article—I was excited to see how my fellow Indigenous people would react to it.

“Set in the Comanche Nation 300 years ago, ‘Prey’ is the story of a young woman, Naru, a fierce and highly skilled warrior. She has been raised in the shadow of some of the most legendary hunters who roam the Great Plains, so when danger threatens her camp, she sets out to protect her people. The prey she stalks, and ultimately confronts, turns out to be a highly evolved alien predator with a technically advanced arsenal, resulting in a vicious and terrifying showdown between the two adversaries.”
—Rotten Tomatoes

Prey has done a phenomenal job of research on the Comanche people portrayed in the film. 20th Century Studios did a great job getting a team together to tell an Indigenous story. I had the opportunity to watch it with the Comanche dub and I recommend you do the same.

Producer Jhane Myers (Comanche/Blackfeet) wanted to have a version of this film available in Comanche, and a story like this deserves to be watched in its native language. If you have not yet watched the movie, do it now before I start going into my in-depth review. It's a short watch, timing out at 1 hour and 39 minutes.

What Worked

Please Note: Spoilers Ahead!

Stunning Cinematography

From the get-go, Prey is visually stunning. The film was shot on location in Alberta, Canada, and according to Myer, the Comanche camp was historically on point. She said in the Q&A at the Comanche dub premiere that “we (set designers) made sure everything was accurate to the time period and what you may find at a (Comanche) camp.”

The Predator's (Dane DiLiegro) suit was largely created using practical effects, so there is not too much CGI funny business. The combination of practical effects and location shooting makes this film one of the more natural looking I've ever seen. (This is why I find it a crime the film did not get a theatrical release.)

The Thrill of the Hunt

When we're first introduced to Naru (Amber Midthunder, an enrolled tribal member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribe), we see her and the other Comanche women portrayed as gatherers. Meanwhile, her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers, of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, Mexican, and Scottish descent) is out hunting, which is where she wants to be.

Naru sees the Predator’s ship in the clouds and interprets it as a Thunderbird telling her she is ready to start her hunting trial. With her trusted dog Sarri (Coco, a Carolina Dog breed), she sets out to find the creature that attacked one of the Comanche men.

The creature turns out to be a mountain lion, but as Naru tracks the animal she finds more evidence that there is another creature. She is convinced that this is her proving ground to be a hunter along with Taabe.

Itsee (Harlan Blayne Kytwayhat) unknowingly being targeted by the Predator

Itsee (Harlan Blayne Kytwayhat) unknowingly being targeted by the Predator

Predator Moves Up Food Chain

Throughout the film we find that the Predator is slowly moving up the chain from a snake (sorry I didn’t warn my fellow Diné peeps in my last article) to a bear. We see Naru come close to the Predator while running from the bear, and this is where the film does a phenomenal job of slowly revealing the invisible Predator through the blood of the bear it just killed.

We go through the rest of the movie on edge as Naru navigates land and water while being chased by the Predator—only heard through its ominous clicking noise. We see everything from Naru’s perspective, her thought process as she continues to evade and observe the Predator’s hunting habits.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Reelrundown

When she runs into a group of French trappers we learn that they are aware of the Predator, but unlike Naru, they do not know its hunting habits—specifically, the fact that it does not attack unarmed prey.

Gore Control

When the Predator attacks the French trappers, this is where things get really fun because the Predator just tears through everyone. While many slasher flicks would focus on the gore of the kills, Prey shows you the Predator’s deadly arsenal in a firefight against the French trappers without going over the top.

You still get a sense of how powerful the weapons are, but in a natural way that does not take you out of the fight too much. Don’t worry, though, you still get to see some gory kills and they feel organic within the flow of the movie.

Naru (Amber Midthunder) fighting the Predator (Dane DiLiegro)

Naru (Amber Midthunder) fighting the Predator (Dane DiLiegro)

Naru's Perspective

The movie cuts away to the side characters very little. This is all about Naru’s journey to confront the Predator. This allows us to invest in Naru’s character, understand her knowledge of not only the land, but the animals that live there, and get close to her dog Sarri.

A fun fact that came from the Q&A was about Naru’s encounter with the French trappers. In the film, we get French subtitles when the trappers are speaking instead of the expected English translated subtitles.

Amber Midthunder explained, “We (the Prey production team) wanted the film to be in the perspective of the main character (Naru) so whatever she can understand we printed in English on the bottom. So, if she can speak French, it would have been in English.”

This was a great detail that they included in the film, as it showed their commitment to making sure this was Naru’s story from beginning to end.

Strong Female Lead

From the start of the movie we understand that Naru is trying to prove to her tribe that she is as capable a hunter as Taabe. Her ability to understand the land and wildlife is far greater than even some of the hunters that travel with her brother.

The movie does a fantastic job showcasing her strengths as a tracker, her keen observation skills, and her understanding of healing practices (which she does with her mom). We see Naru innovate on the fly in order to improve her own hunting abilities—let's hope we don't see any Indigenous TikTok fails of people playing with a tomahawk with a rope attached to it!

With all that she goes through in the movie, it makes her war cry at the end even more powerful because not only did she avenge her fallen brothers, she earned that war cry. She is a warrior.

Taabe (Dakota Beavers), Sarri (Coco), and Naru (Amber Midthunder)

Taabe (Dakota Beavers), Sarri (Coco), and Naru (Amber Midthunder)

My Biggest Nitpick

The priority of telling Naru’s story through her perspective has its limitations. Through the film we see her interact with Taabe and his hunting group, who are basically portrayed as the bullies—and more meat for the Predator to slice up!

Although Taabe acknowledges that Naru is a great tracker and healer (from her time helping her mom heal her tribe’s people), he still dismisses her claims of the Predator hunting animals in the area.

Not Enough Time with Taabe

We also don't get enough time with him alone to invest in his story, but I still can’t ignore that I almost shed a tear when he sacrificed himself so Naru could live to fight the Predator.

Verdict

Amber Midthunder proves she is a rising action movie star and I really hope she gets more roles that showcase her talents. I also hope the Predator franchise builds off what Prey established by setting itself in the past.

Seeing Twitter users pitch different warriors, like samurais or Vikings, to take on the Predator is cool to read because it shows that more movies may follow with setting an iconic movie villain in a different period.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. It was a true thriller with satisfying payoff and the dog got to survive! Checks all the boxes for what I look for in a Predator movie. The fact they were able to get a Comanche dub for this movie is a game changer. I really hope we get to see more Indigenous movies and TV shows with native dubs moving forward—or shot in the language itself!

Further Reading

Related Articles