Movies

Dan Trachtenberg On How ‘Prey’ Captures The Spirit Of The First ‘Predator’

There are a lot of details surrounding Prey, the fifth Predator movie that isn’t an Alien crossover, that are pretty interesting. First and foremost, this is a great movie that captures the spirit of the first Predator. You know, where the movie was more concerned with showing us a showdown between a Predator and a human and kind of left all the lore up to the imagination? In Prey, instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch, we have Amber Midthunder’s Naru, a Comanche warrior who blurs the line between who is hunting and who is being hunted. (Also, like the first film, this is a very violent movie.)

Second, this movie is set in 1719, which is a direct hand-off from Predator 2 when a Predator literally hands over a pistol from 1715 to Danny Glover’s Mike Harrigan. As director Dan Trachtenberg explains ahead, that seems like the way more interesting direction that Predator 2 opened up as opposed to making two Alien vs. Predator movies.

Also, for some strange reason, Prey will not play in theaters, even though it’s a perfect movie for theaters. As Trachtenberg says ahead, Disney wants Prey to be a movie that brings people to Hulu. (And looking at the reporting from Adam Very at Variety, this seems to track with what he’s saying, too. Basically if Prey played in theaters at all, it goes to HBO Max. If it doesn’t, Disney can put it on a platform they already own.)

Ahead, Trachtenberg breaks down why he wanted to make a Predator movie that emulates the spirit of the first movie, but, of course, doesn’t just remake it in full. He explains how Prey‘s story origins start at the end of Predator 2. And, sure, he wishes Prey was playing in theaters and he made the movie to play in theaters, but at the end of the day you are getting a great theatrical movie right in your home. (Trachtenberg was very good about looking on the bright side here.)

Ever since I saw this movie, the MC Hammer song “Pray” has been going through my head. Look, I think it would have melded perfectly with this movie set in the 1700s.

You know what’s funny? Us having an animated end credit sequence is, I think, akin to bringing back the end theme song to a movie. Just because it’s a thing that we don’t get that often anymore. It was actually challenging developing it. It’s like, we did not want to feel like this is Mannequin or Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead

Those are two movies I was not expecting to hear during the course of this interview.

Of course. In one of your interviews, of course, you’re going to incite something like this. So, we joked a lot about if this movie were to have an end credit, on-brand theme song, what it would be? And I hope that movies do bring that back, that would be awesome. But for us, the thing we’re bringing back is the end credit, animated title sequence.

I actually rewatched Mannequin somewhat recently. “Nothing’s Going to Stop Us Now,” doesn’t play at all during the movie. It’s just for the very end. I thought it played five times in that movie.

Also, one of the few end credit sequences to be turquoise. Very few movies change the color. Superbad, I think, changed the color of its credit sequence and Mannequin rocked the teal.

I think there’s still time to change the end credit colors of Prey to teal, Right?

It’s too late. It’s too late.

I am a huge fan of the first Predator movie. And like a lot of people, aren’t really into the other ones that much. I feel what you did here was not talk about the lore as much, but go back to what made the first Predator a movie people really liked.” Am I off-base?

No, that’s exactly right. I think that the challenge is giving that feeling the first one did again, without feeling like we’re just tracing that again. But it’s what inspired the redesign of the creatures. On the one hand, it had to feel undeniably Predator. But also deliver in a surprising way. The first movie was so great because you saw this cloaked being and that was already awesome, and then you saw it with the bio-mask. I assumed as a kid, when I saw it, I was like, Oh, that’s the predator. That’s the cool creature in this movie. And then at the end, you see it in its final form and you’re like, Oh no, that’s what it is?

Right.

So I really wanted this movie to also have those three stages. And to have delightful set pieces when it’s cloaked and we’re milking that for all it’s worth and then seeing it in its masked form and having fun sequences there. And then, yet again, delivering still yet one more thing up our sleeve in what it looks like in its final form. So that there’s still new iconography to add in to the franchise.

I feel like some of the other sequels were more interested in the lore of who the predators are instead of just lets see the Predator hunt and fight somebody.

Yes. And it was, I think, very important that this feel like it’s a movie and it’s a Predator movie. You know? As opposed to “it’s just a Predator movie,” and hopefully it’s a good one. This movie is always telling the story of Nadu and it’s an adventure tale and it’s a coming of age experience and everything is servicing that. The thing that makes her underdog story even stronger is that she’s up against this insane, formidable, seemingly impossible threat – which is another element that links it to the original. The original being this action, sci-fi, horror mashup. This one, once again, wanted to do the mashup thing, but for me, what made it more exciting and new, was that it’s more of an adventure, suspense, sci-fi, horror mash up.

So I’d never seen Predator 2 all the way through. So I watched it yesterday. I didn’t realize Predator 2 is the beginning of Prey when a Predator gives the pistol from 1715 to Danny Glover. So I’m glad I watched it. But do you want people to watch Predator 2 first?

I think that gun in that reference, it also inspired the Aliens vs. Predator franchise, that end sequence. You know?

It did. I have something to say about that, but go ahead.

So I think that – and I guess you didn’t remember that from the movie – that somehow that did seem to permeate a little bit, for me was how we arrived on our date.

I had never seen it in full. I had no idea that scene was even in there. People don’t really talk about Predator 2 much anymore. I saw Prey first…

What’s your feeling on the AVP? The way Predator 2 linked to AVP?

So I was reading about it after I watched it. It seems the effects people also worked on Aliens, so they thought it would be funny just to throw that in there. But it feels like the next obvious story was about the pistol, not a Xenomorph and Predator fighting each other.

I agree.

Randomly, a Predator is handing a pistol to a human for no reason, we should explore what this means seems like the better story to take from the end of Predator 2.

I concur.

So what’s the story with this being on Hulu only? I’m saw this in a theater and it was a great theater movie.

Yeah… I mean, look, we made it to be a big theatrical experience and on the downside, it’s not being released that way. So you can’t see in the theater, but on the upside, the thing you’re getting straight into your living room is a giant theatrical experience. It’s not like a straight video dumping ground. It’s like, “This is a real movie.”

It’s confusing because, other than studio politics, I don’t understand what was going on here?

There’s so many venues that people want people to experience their, I hate to say the word content… They want things to feel premium. Right?

Sure.

So Hulu hasn’t really had… There hasn’t been a 20th franchise baby that has come out yet. So they’re hoping to really ignite the platform to say, “We’re not just putting out the smaller, lower-budget fare. That this is also a place to have giant cinematic experiences.

Because from the outside looking in, the last one obviously didn’t do as well as people hoped. From the outside looking in, I wonder if Disney even wants to be in the Predator business? But it sounds like from what you’re saying, that they do.

It wasn’t that way. I have to tell you.

Okay.

I was terrified after the merger and then the Allens [Alan Horn and Alan Bergman] were going to take a look at the script and see… I was like, “Oh no, what if they don’t get it?” You know what? They loved it. They never said, “Cut the violence.” They never adjusted anything.

No, they did not say cut the violence. This is a very violent movie.

They really didn’t. They really didn’t. In fact, they wanted more dog, which is the one that everyone wants. Yeah, the whole impetus of the dog was to have it feel akin to The Road Warrior. That silhouette of Mad Max and that dog, we wanted to have Nadu and her dog. And they loved that and encouraged us to do more there. So it was not that they never had anything too negative to say, and loved the movie when they saw the first cut of it and wanted to make it as big as they possibly could and capitalize on making Hulu a great platform for giant movies like this.

‘Prey’ will stream via Hulu starting on August 5th. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

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