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“Prey” is the latest installment in the “Predator” franchise and it’s arguably the best since the original.
This has been a film series that proven to be surprisingly elastic given the simplicity of the 1987 original film and its commandos-versus-extraterrestrial-warrior conceit. (It helps that the original was beautifully directed by John McTiernan and featured one of the best, most knowing performances in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career.) As it turns out, a cool monster with high tech weapons facing off against the most elite predator on earth is a pretty malleable concept.
“Prey” takes the biggest leap yet while also being truest to the original film. Set 300 years before the original “Predator,” it pits a young Comanche woman (Amber Midthunder) against an earlier version of the iconic monster. Surprising, visceral and bloody-as-hell, the idea came from the mind of “10 Cloverfield Lane” filmmaker Dan Trachtenberg. TheWrap spoke to him and producer Jhane Myers about developing the project, how “Prey” is really a demented Disney Princess movie and whether or not they’d return for another “Predator” romp.
There’s this whole throughline in “Prey” about “bring it home,” meaning either a mountain line or the alien. “10 Cloverfield Lane” came out in 2016, and you’ve done a ton of great TV work and developed a bunch of projects. But for you, was part of “Prey” trying to “bring it home?”
Dan Trachtenberg: I think I relate to this character more than anything else I’ve made except maybe Huey from “The Boys.” I think certainly it’s about me feeling the pressure of making this movie, but also everything in my life since childhood of feeling like, I think I can do something, I think I’m capable of doing it, and having outside forces thinking I can’t, then having my inside forces saying: Maybe you can’t. I think that’s ultimately relatable to almost everybody, whether they want to admit it or not. This feels very autobiographical for me in that regard and certainly what you’re saying, too, is not that out of line with that.
What was it like pitching this version of a “Predator” movie? Those conversations were happening pretty close to the 2018 movie, right?
Trachtenberg: That movie was still either in development or pre-production. Maybe they were in production.
When I emailed it to an exec that I knew at Fox at the time, I just felt this was too good of an idea, and I didn’t want to wait for them to make that movie and see what was going on with that until eventually I get to pitch another “Predator” movie, which is why in the initial pitch I said: “Let’s call it ‘Prey.’” It immediately signifies [that] whatever you guys are doing with this new version of “Predator” that you’re probably going to make more of, this gets to function like “Rogue One” or “Solo” and be this separate story.
That was the initial pitch. Ironically, this is well before the merger happened and I said, “This is an R-rated Disney Princess tale,” but merely in terms of, like, it has a very mythological, elemental, pure storytelling button that it presses. I’ve been involved with a lot of science fiction movies in development and even in final rendering that are very complicated. This movie really functions the way a lot of animated movies do in that they wear the thematic concerns on the sleeve of every scene and are interested in telling a very pure story.
Jhane, what was it like bringing the story to life on your end?
Jhane Myers: It was a little complicated, but not as hard as people think. Being a producer – and I’m also Comanche, I’m an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation. I can’t say it was easy, but it was a pleasure for me to do this because rarely do I get to put all of my culture into one project.
This was very impactful because most of the time when I’m hired it’s because something has maybe 25% Native content, 20% Native content, but this whole thing was Native content and it needed 100% authenticity. That was the challenge – just to make sure everything fell into place and that everything was correct.
There was going to be a Comanche language version, right?
Trachtenberg: Yeah. There is a Comanche version of the movie. It’s a Comanche dub version that you’ll be able to watch on the day this movie is released. That’ll be a separate tile on your streaming service on Hulu domestically, and all of the actors returned to perform their roles. There’s a process that Jhane and the translators and the makers of the dubbed version go through to make sure that there’s much more lip-matching involved than what we maybe have watched in our childhoods growing up.
The movie was initially intended to be in Comanche. There was a version of the movie that did more of a “Hunt for Red October” thing where it started out in Comanche and then transitioned to English. But because there’s so many different uses of language in the movie and there’s a really pivotal, powerful moment in the middle of the movie and the way that language is handled, it just all felt very confusing.
We ended up with a movie that is largely in English but also has some Comanche and then some other languages with no subtitles to retain the power of that moment. But then, it ignited a fire for us to make sure that we could make this Comanche dub version, as well.
Can you talk about the conception of this creature? The marketing suggests that this is the creatures’ first trip to Earth.
Trachtenberg: I want to make sure that the movie wasn’t saying necessarily that this was any of the Predators’ first trip to earth, but we are saying that this is this Predator’s first trip to earth, just because there’s a deep well of lore surrounding this franchise, and I don’t feel that we need to involve ourselves quite yet into what those things have established or not.
This Predator’s first trip to this planet is analyzing what is the Alpha. We used that thematic to tell our story and the weaponry, its arsenal are either earlier versions of what we have seen in the other “Predator” movies or brand new things that feel like they’re prototypical. I very much used “Rogue One” as a reference point because “Rogue One” felt like it was the 1977 designs of things but rendered through modern sensibilities.
The end of the movie suggests that there could be further adventures with this group of characters. Would you be down to return?
Myers: I would love to.
Trachtenberg: My gosh. It would be amazing.
“Prey” is streaming on Hulu Friday.