Reviewers praise the “ferocious, star-making turn” from the Native American up-and-comer.
Not exactly a surprise, but still great to hear: Prey, the intensely suspenseful Predator prequel starring Amber Midthunder as an 18th century Comanche warrior who battles an extraterrestrial huntsman, was a spectacular success during its Aug. 5-7 premiere weekend on the Disney-owned Hulu streaming network.
And mind you, we’re talking about history-making, record-breaking success.
Disney announced Tuesday that the film “scored the No. 1 premiere on Hulu to date, including all film and TV series debuts,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Additionally, [Prey] was the most watched film premiere on Star+ in Latin America and Disney+ under the Star banner in all other territories, based on hours watched in the first three days of its release.”
Social media was abuzz all weekend with favorable reaction to the movie — and to what critic Tom Jorgensen described as Midthunder’s “ferocious, star-making turn” — although some expressed surprise, if not disappointment, that Prey did not have at least a limited theatrical run before the Hulu premiere, so it could be savored on the big screen.
But as The Hollywood Reporter explained, 20th Century — the studio formerly known as 20th Century Fox that produced Prey — was contractually obligated to keep the film out of theaters: “It is important to note that 20th Century movies that do receive a theatrical release have an output deal with HBO Max that was engineered before Disney acquired 20th Century Fox.” In other words, it was now or never for Hulu to stream the thriller.
Already, some are asking if Prey will spawn a sequel. Film critic Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times certainly hopes it does. “Against all odds,” he wrote, “we actually find ourselves looking forward to another Predator movie — if it’s a direct sequel to this chapter, and it features the return of Amber Midthunder, who gives a captivating, live-wire of a performance as the driving force of the story.
“Just a few weeks ago,” Roeper added, “we saw Amber Midthunder give an authentic, impactful, moving performance as a very modern 24-year-old in the gripping romantic drama The Wheel. With Midthunder’s blazing screen presence in Prey—moving with athletic grace through the wild, delivering her lines with power and wit and style — there’s little doubt we are witnessing the ascension of a true star.”
Count David Fear of Rolling Stone among the many other critics wowed by Midthunder, whom he praised as “a young actor with Sioux ancestry, silent-cinema-starlet eyes and a physical presence that can project vulnerability or steely self-assurance. If you’ve seen her work on Legion, the surreal FX TV show that took the X-Men universe into uncomfortable, uncharted territory, then you know she can ground fantasy while still adhering to an anything-goes genre’s playbook. A team player, but someone who can handle an action scene or three on her own if need be. Here, as Naru, Midthunder gives you a woman who’s a true fighter and a tracker, handy with a thrown tomahawk and resourceful enough to customize it with a return-delivery service via a rope.
“She’s also consistently underestimated by everyone around her because, well, she’s a she. Even when the creature starts picking off her Comanche war party after dominating some of the area’s natural apex predators (a rattlesnake, a bear, European interlopers), he leaves Naru alone — why bother with someone who isn’t, in his beady eyes, a threat?”
“It turns out that her combat skills have indeed been honed and refined more than everyone realizes,” Fear wrote, “and while Midthunder doesn’t turn this young Native into a superhuman — Naru is barely able to extract herself from a quicksand pit — she does make you believe this woman is superior when and where it counts. Watching Midthunder jump, slide, sprint, notch arrows with lightning speed and eventually go from hunted to hunter, you get the sense that you’re seeing the actor become a full-fledged action hero as much as you’re seeing Naru come into her own; it’s such a kinetic performance, and yet still so attuned to who this woman is and the world she navigates.”
Kate Erbland of IndieWire put it simply, and gratefully: “Midthunder, a longtime actress who is the daughter of actor and stunt performer David Midthunder and casting director Angelique Midthunder, makes for one hell of an action star.”
Photography: David Bukach/Hulu.