Earlier this month we got to hear director Dan Trachtenberg, producer Jhane Myers and stars Amber Midthunder (Naru) and Dakota Beavers (Taabe) discuss why to watch Prey, their experience making it, connection to Comanche culture, the intense physicality of the film’s heavy action pace.
Hulu Original Prey is the newest entry in the Predator franchise. An all-new action-thriller set in the Comanche Nation 300 years ago, Prey tells the story of a young woman, Naru. She is a fierce and highly skilled warrior who has been raised in the shadow of some of the most legendary hunters who roam the Great Plains. Pushing her community to see her more than a woman who can use medicine or cook, she has her heart set on proving herself while hunting. 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.
Here are three reasons to watch Prey from the people behind bringing it to life.
The first reason to watch Prey is of course, the genre fun to be had in this fast-paced action-thriller. On building the film, director Dan Trachtenberg said, “The main inspiration behind it was sort of a confluence of a couple things. One was really wanting to make a movie that was primarily action-driven, mainly told visually, but not wanting to that just be fun, just be a good time, to wanna inject that with heart and emotion.” He added, “the idea to pair the, like, engine of a sports movie, of an underdog story with an action movie was a part of the genesis of this. And then, it became, like, well what if the story could focus on characters that normally are not the heroes of the movie that they’re in? So that, the watching of the movie could be linked to the experience that the characters go through.” And the underdog here? Naru, played by Amber Midthunder who, who is continually dismissed and underestimated by the men around her, and well the Predator.
He expanded on creating the film, “It came from the things I spoke about earlier, in wanting to make this an emotionally engaging action movie, inspired by movies like Gravity, and 1917, Revenant of course, like real survival tales. And always loving the idea of doing period sci-fi, always sort of seeking that out. And I think also, you know, I was also thinking about making a Western with no cowboys in it.”
This focus on highlighting Comanche means that their fighting style and weaponry becomes one of the film’s largest strengths when it comes to action. Trachtenberg added, “Obviously, you can’t really go super hand-to-hand with this big old space alien ’cause it’ll just level you. So it’s a lot of precision. It’s a lot of speed. It’s a lot of physical movement. And just the way it came together I think was like absolutely wicked. And you know, it shows you what them Comanches can do.”
And man do we see what Comanches can do in Prey. Lead Amber Midthunder explained the film’s physical elements, “The movie was, I would say, entirely physical. We
did a four-week Boot Camp, Dakota, and I, and the other boys in the movie all did a four-week camp before we started shooting. And it had, I mean, like, weapons training. So you know, Comanche-style archery, spears, tomahawks.” But the immersion into fighting and action didn’t stop there. Midthunder added, “Also, the stunt team was there, they were putting together the fights. We would all go work for them. We also had a personal trainer, stuff like that. So we did all those things.”
With this immersion came a focus from the actors do their own stunts. Midthunder shared her scariest moments filming, “For me, probably the scariest thing was the river. Because the idea of like live water, it’s both very exciting to me and also terrifying. And it was summertime, but it was glacial runoff water. So it was so cold.” For his part, Dakota Beavers who play Taabe added, “Luckily I told Steven McMichael, the stunt guy, I told him I wanted to do all my own stunts if I could. And thank goodness, he let me. So just the working out and for me the horse riding, that was just the best thing ever.”
Getting it Right
With the Comanche in the spotlight, one of the questions around Prey is how will they represent the community at the center of the film. Producer Jhane Myers explained the importance of accuracy was to her both in a professional sense and as a Comanche herself. “It was as historically accurate as we can get it because if you think about the time when this was, this was, you know, there weren’t a lot of photographs and you know, paintings….So for me, that was amazing, because it gave us a little bit of leeway. But being a traditional artist as well, you know, as a producer, and all my many hats I was able to really infuse it with all things Comanche, you know, whether it’s the color of the earth paints that we use, whether it’s the designs, whether it’s the twisted fringe, you know, whether it’s fighting style, whether it’s language, you know, all of that just came together. And while authenticity was important, so was Myers embracing her love of the project. “There will never probably be another project unless we do a sequel, Dan, a sequel to the prequel that, that would ever, you know, cross my path where I could use everything that I grew up learning.”
For those worried about how the film would bring the past to life in a respectful and to be honest, badass way, like me, Midthunder has something to say for you too. Midthunder added, “…Going way back, we’ve always been quite a, like, resourceful people, whether that’s like, through strategy or through weapons. So and that’s what was cool about having Jhane was having somebody who specialized in, you know, the Comanche people. These are [Jhane’s] people. So having somebody who specialized in that knowledge and that history felt really special to me to connect with that, ’cause I’m not Comanche. But I am, Assiniboine Sioux. So, also Northern Plains. So it’s very close to what my people did.”
That skill and resiliency is something that comes through in the film, and to do so in one of the most-loved sci-fi-action franchises is a special kind of exciting, as Midthunder added, “It was cool to be able to show that to like, a big audience, like people who will watch this film, is to kind of take that piece of history and put it in a movie like this and make it look just as cool as like weapons and explosions.”
With all of that said, one of the most important things that Prey offers is being the first film to be dubbed in a Native language upon release. While the film isn’t fully in Comanche outside of the dub, the language appears throughout. In fact, Myers shared that the team had Midthunder and Beavers audition in Comanche. “From the wonderful insight of Dan, he always had asked if that was a possibility. And I said absolutely. And for me being Native and being Comanche, you know, an enrolled Comanche tribal member, that’s what’s really important because we never [hear Comanche], as an audience goer, I mean, I’m a big movie fan. I grew up on the Predator franchise. I’ve never seen a feature fully, you know, in my language. And one thing we do as native people when we watch films, we watch to see like, maybe can they just at least get, you know, one or two things right or something, you know, that’s authentic?”
Myers added, “This movie, just being a Predator film, it’s filled with authenticity. So for me to have the language in there, that was most important. And we even pitched it that way, right Dan, to the studio. But you know, but now when you do watch it on Hulu, you have the option of picking Comanche to watch a fully dubbed version in Comanche.”
Beavers shared that while it would have been great to have shot the entire film in Comanche, the dub is still a point of joy, “I’m so happy that we got to dub it in Comanche, which we got all the original actors to do themselves, which you don’t normally get to do…And just to have that for the preservation of the language, so kids can go back and watch
it in the future. And it’ll be something fun that they can use to learn the language.”
Midthunder added, “We took [Prey] there to Jhane’s home and showed it. And, like, having that visibility of having people be able to say like, oh, I hear that in my house all the time, that word or this phrase. Or, like, yeah, I see these faces. And that looks like me, or that looks like the people I grew up with. Like for our community, that’s huge.”
And of course, the Predator is a big reason to watch Prey, if only for how intimidating this version is. Adding insight into the film’s effect work, Trachtenburg Most of it is practical. Some of it is CG…I oftentimes feel just as pulled out of a movie by feeling like I see the man in that suit as much as I’ve been pulled out of a movie they’re feeling like I feel the artifice in the digitally recreated creature or visual effect. So I really wanted to really combine both thoughts and mainly rely on the practical suit. But, like, even just using visual effects to enhance, like, his calf muscles. And sometimes the hands are changed and sometimes we see the throat throbbing.”
He added this on the importance of blending the two mediums, “Those are things that fall short in just the build of the suit that I thought would bring real life to feel like this is much more of a creature than we have seen in previous Predator movies. It’s the reason why we nicknamed him Feral. I really wanted to feel that it was ferocious and alien and not a guy lumbering around in a suit, which sometimes in some moments in the other Predators it can feel like.
“So that was the main impetus to combine both schools of thought, which, I mean, a lot of filmmakers combine both practical and CG, but Predator has mainly, up until the last one where there was one creature that was entirely CG, has mainly relied on being a man in a suit. And I really wanted to combine both things for this movie.”
And this blending worked wonders on the cast, as Beavers explained his reaction to the Predator, “There’s a scene, the first time Taabe sees the Predator. And he just leans in. And he goes [transcript did not feature translation of the Comanche phrase]. Which basically means that some crazy doo-doo you know. And that’s, like, how it felt personally for me the first time because you see this six-eight, dude, you know, in the suit. And he’s all decked out. And they got stuff sprayed all over him so it looks real. And he’s walking through the fog. And you’re just like, holy crap, this is good. Man, I’m glad I don’t have to act to a, you know, a guy in a spandex suit, you know?”
Midthunder added, “It was very cool. The first time I saw it, it was like, there were, like, whispers of, like, what was happening. I didn’t know that, like, the Predator was there. But I heard something. And there were a lot of people, like, walking deeper into the forest. And I was like, I’m gonna follow these people. And I like, you know, like, amongst the trees. And I, like, saw just, like, little pieces and then kind of the whole thing. And it was just like you see it so much in the movies. They’re like I know what the Predator looks like. And then you see it in front of you. And I was like… But also I think I immediately said to somebody, I could take that. Like it was like some weird, like, visceral responses.”
Midthunder also offered some insight into the work that went into making the Predator come to life, “I mean just like to run the head, it takes, like, four people. There’s a mechanic had that, like, moves and stuff and literally, there’s like four people that run it. It was so amazing just to see in person.” Trachtenburg added, “Yeah, I would love to Name Check A-D-I who have built a lot of the previous films’ suits, and Alec and Tom who run that company have started out working on the originals, and all the movies we grew up on really were liberated in making something very new for this and I think made something truly exceptional that was terrifying to be in front of truly, truly it was.”