Inside the making of powerful Predator prequel Prey
Woo sits down with executive producer Jhane Myers and director Dan Trachtenberg to discuss the exhilarating new action film with heart...
image David Bukach © 2022 20th Century Studios
words Megan Wallace
Let it be known: we’re big fans of new Predator prequel Prey. Set among the Comanche Nation in 1719 and currently streaming on Disney+ in the UK and Hulu in the US, the action movie combines the drama and adrenaline of a blockbuster with a laudable depth, sensitivity and nuance. Not clued up on what Prey is all about? Let us explain: when determined young hunter Naru takes on a shapeshifting alien predator, she realises that her brains are just as valuable as others’ brawn – and so, a thrilling fight for survival begins...
We’ve already talked feel-good philosophies with the film’s breakout star, actress Amber Midthunder, who plays protagonist Naru, but what about the people behind the scenes creating this movie magic? To find out more about the process of making Prey, currently being hailed by critics as the best Predator film any of them have seen in ages, we called up its executive producer Jhane Myers and director Dan Trachtenberg.
As a first question, how does Prey interact with other films in the Predator franchise?
Dan Trachtenberg: One of the exciting things about Prey is that, out of all the sequels have been made since Predator, this one feels the most like the original. It sort of goes back to basics and is much more true to the core premise [of the franchise]. That being said, Prey is also the most different: it’s not as much of an action movie as it is an adventure movie. But there are sequences inside this movie, that if you’re a fan of the original, will make you feel like this film is directly speaking to you. But for total newcomers, there’s there’s no need to have seen any of the other movies before.
What sort of emotional journey that Naru goes on from the beginning of the movie to its conclusion?
Jhane Myers: Naru just listens to her own self and how she wants to be. Everyone's telling her to do medicine or to hunt in a certain way and I think it’s nice to see her evolve as a person because she just listens to herself and lets that guide her but always in the back of her mind, it’s for the betterment of the band.
How does Naru’s relationship with her family power the movie?
DT: There are two hearts to this movie. One is Naru and her dog, the other is the relationship that that she has with her mother and and her brother. I hope that a lot of people watching will be nodding their heads going; ‘I know what that is like, it’s like my relationship with my own brother or sister or mum.’ It’s certainly a first for the Predator franchise, not not too many of these films are about family but it’s very much the soul of this one.
What role does the natural world play in the film?
DT: I have always been smitten with the idea of beautiful violence. There’s a lot of imagery in the movie that is incredibly brutal but also the aesthetics, going from production design to cinematography, still creates pretty image. The journey that the main character is going on is a real emotional one so even when violence is on display, baked into that is a catharsis and root-ability which make the film feel warm and soulful and have heart, despite there being gruesome things in her opposition. I hope that it does combine to make kind of a beautiful experience and, of course, capturing the natural world. We shot the movie in Alberta and there’s just a lovely quality of light there that doesn’t exist in other places.
What was the on-set experience like for the team?
DT: Directing everyone was a really challenging experience, because we were out in the wild and roughing it. But the cast were all so lovely and game for everything and down to have some improvisational moments. Everyone trained really hard for a very long time to do what they needed to do and both Amber [Midthunder] and Dakota [Beavers]. It’s worth mentioning that Dakota had never been in a movie before but he really stepped up and has an awesome debut in this movie.
Were there any memorable moments from the filming process?
DT: There were lots of campfires in this movie and we introduced a lot of people to their first smores. If you don’t know, a smore is a Graham cracker, a chocolate bar and a marshmallow that you roast over the campfire. You do it as a kid or if you go camping with your family so to have that kind of experience while making this move was really fun.
What message do you hope the audience can step away from Prey with?
JM: For me, it’s a cultural message. I’m a Comanche, I’m an enrolled Comanche tribal member as well as a Blackfeet member. This is the first time that my culture will just go out to the world, including language. We have a full language Comanche dub of the film, so you’re able to watch it in English or Comanche. That’s a first for my tribe. So hopefully, it’ll spur a lot of people to want to learn more about our language and for more Comanche people, it will hopefully bring more language speakers. It’s an amazing message.
Prey is out now on Disney+ in the UK and Hulu in the US.