‘Prey’ Director on the Film’s 4K Physical Release and Potential Sequel Ideas

Thứ sáu - 17/05/2024 23:42
Dan Trachtenberg on Prey getting a much-demanded release on disc, tying the film to Predator 2, and wanting to change things up again in a sequel.

Note: Full spoilers for Prey follow. 

It speaks well of a movie when the biggest complaint people have about it is they can’t watch it in more ways. Such is the case with Prey, which debuted on Hulu last year to a ton of acclaim and positive audience reaction – and recently, multiple Emmy nominations – even as fans bemoaned they couldn’t go see the latest film in the Predator franchise in theaters or own a physical copy of it.

The latter situation has happily now been remedied, as Prey is out on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD this week, boasting a beautiful presentation on the 4K disc I previewed. There are also several bonus features, including a making of featurette, a recording of a Q&A done for the film earlier this year, deleted scenes, and a new audio commentary featuring director Dan Trachtenberg, star Amber Midthunder, cinematographer Jeff Cutter and editor Angela M. Catanzaro discussing the making of the film and its story of a Predator facing off against a Comanche tribe member in the year 1719.

The 4K Steelbook version of Prey

Prey was my favorite film of 2022, so I was happy to once more speak with Dan Trachtenberg – who not only directed, but conceived the story with screenwriter Patrick Aison – about what it’s been like seeing the film so embraced, the big connection he included to Predator 2, and the current status of a potential follow-up Predator film. On that last subject, Trachtenberg still can’t say much yet, including if Midthunder’s awesome hero, Naru, would be included if it gets the green light… though I’m pretty optimistic she will be. Let’s face it, she’s too cool to not see again.

Fandom: Let me start out here getting a little meta on the interview. How does it feel, a year after this movie came out, to now be promoting this disc, which as you’re well aware, many fans, myself included, were hoping would happen since the film debuted?

Dan Trachtenberg: I can’t believe it. I hoped… Well, actually I can believe it. [Laughs] It’s just like the movie itself happening, because there was a period when this movie wasn’t gonna happen because of the Fox/Disney merger and all that. I just remember, for whatever reason, I felt like, no, one day, when the dust settles, they’ll realize ‘We gotta make another Predator movie and here’s this one that’s doing all these awesome things. Let’s do that!’ I was sort of relaxed in the confidence of that. And same thing with this disc. ‘There’s got to be a way! It’s got to happen. There’s no way that we can have box sets of future Predator films and this isn’t on it.’ That couldn’t be true unless no movie ever gets a disc anymore. So I felt like it was gonna happen, and thankfully, what I didn’t realize is that it would be really the internet pushing as hard as it did, and then the warm reception at 20th. The guy who runs 20th is a huge fan of physical media, so it really, really helped.

Fandom: When we spoke at Comic-Con last year, it was a few hours before you screened the movie there. And while I unfortunately couldn’t make it to that, I was at the great Beyond Fest screening shortly after. As you mentioned, the movie had a lot of delays – studio merger delays, COVID delays – and now it was finally debuting on Hulu, but when you got to do those screenings at Comic-Con and Beyond Fest, how gratifying was to see how well it played for a large audience?

Dan Trachtenberg: Yeah, those two screenings were pretty magical. The Comic-Con one was unreal, because the last time we had screened it, there were problems with the movie. The last time we screened it was to get feedback to continue working on it. And then we did all this work and then we’re screening it for a new bunch of people and we’re hoping it’s good. No one had seen it with everything finished and then yeah, it played really well and was very emotional for me in particular and for Amber [Midthunder] too. Afterwards, we’re like, ‘What just happened?’ And same thing at the Beyond Fest screening where we got to screen in Comanche as well, theatrically, which was so cool. Those were big deal experiences for sure.

Fandom: Beyond the movie itself, Naru has become so embraced. You and Patrick [Aison] developed the character, but how was it collaborating with Amber on set, and seeing what she brought to the role? 

Dan Trachtenberg: In the commentary for the film that’s on the disc, Amber mentioned a scene that was cut out of the movie between her and a young girl, and so then we included that in the disc. Amber remembers it as very formative to her approach to Naru. And it’s the smallest thing and I don’t even know that people watching would [realize]… It’s just we had done the smallest amount of rehearsal. Well, a lot of physical rehearsal, but not that much dialogue scene rehearsal and sort of more minor scenes. We hadn’t put that on its feet yet. And that was a scene we shot very early on.

She’s bending down to teach a young girl how to string her bow and the wind was blowing and it all just felt very elemental. And she started to really ground herself in the character, and the way she would communicate both physically and verbally, that felt like she had a confidence but [was] not all the way there. She just really found all the facets of her in this tiny little scene. And that’s what I think is great about Amber throughout the movie is really feeling someone who has a capability that is meaningful but is not just a flat action hero. There’s a try happening. There’s a strive coursing through her that’s very relatable. That is something that one could mention in a screenplay, but it’s very hard to really wear the skin of that. And Amber obviously delivers tremendously on that.

(L-R): Dakota Beavers as Taabe, Director Dan Trachtenberg, and Amber Midthunder as Naru on the set of Prey

Fandom: Another thing you discuss on the commentary that I thought was notable were a couple of key sequences where you ended up removing the dialogue after deciding it played better without. Was that surprising to you or was it a possibility going in? 

Dan Trachtenberg: It definitely was the initial intent, was to be as dialogue-free as we possibly could. And then we start to fall in love with what we were able to articulate with dialogue. And then the movie says, ‘Now that you’ve done all that, and all the actors did all those things, and responded to [it]…’ and we realized how much is felt, and how much more can be felt, if it’s more experiential and less didactic. So, despite being the initial intent, it really took a journey of molding the clay and editorial to get there.

Fandom: I feel like it must be a tricky process to kind of deconstruct the Predator the way you guys did, because no matter what, their tech should be more advanced than ours. So it was an interesting balance to kind of pull it back from what we know and yet still make it cool space alien weaponry?

Dan Trachtenberg: Yeah, absolutely. It was very challenging, the task that was at hand for us, in making sure that we were living up to the premise that this thing was beyond earthly means, that it was very advanced, but still wanting to feel like things you hadn’t seen before. And the avenue into that is this is set it a couple hundred years before the first film, so we can feel it’s prior. And then making sure we don’t dumb it down so much that we make it too easy for our hero. We want to make sure we still encapsulate the premise that she is really going up against something insane. I think that we strike the balance in having there being some analog-ness to what the Predator is doing, what his weaponry is, but also with very science fiction edges.

Dane DiLiegro as the Predator in Prey

Fandom: When did the thought hit you to incorporate the gun Danny Glover is given in Predator 2 into the story? Given the timeline, there’s not a lot of ways to connect to the previous Predator movies but you found one…

Dan Trachtenberg: It was after starting to think through the premise but before I pitched the movie. And I’m still just figuring out what a movie like this could be. And then I thought of Predator and it was like, ‘Oh my God, yeah, this could be cool…’ Because thematically, Predator is looking for who’s the strongest, and here’s this person to prove themselves; that they’re strong, and they can be they could be seen as that kind of person. But her people deny her that and then the Predator’s denying her, not even looking at her to even bother to hunt her as well. All that stuff was like, ‘Yeah, that’s cool.’

And then I was trying to think of how early [it would be set]. It doesn’t want to be in the 1800s, doesn’t want to be in the West, it wants to be as early as possible, so it’s just focused on these people and this culture. And then, for whatever reason, I thought of that gun, and I was like, ‘Holy s**t, there’s a date on that gun!’ I was in the shower and I remember getting out of the shower and running to my phone to Google ‘What was the f**king date on the gun?’ And then that fit. Thank God it wasn’t like 1800-something, it was earlier. I thought ‘Oh my god, this is insane that this just aligned. This is definitely a Predator movie. This just gives it too much sense.’

Fandom: Of course, that gun raises questions, because at a certain point, it has to get into the possession of the Predators, given they have it in Predator 2. Do you have in your mind how that might happen?

Dan Trachtenberg: I have in my mind how that might happen. And the end of the movie teases another confrontation… But there’s so many ways that that could take place.

Fandom: You’ve been asked about a potential sequel since before Prey was released. It’s been a year now and the reaction has been very positive, obviously. Anything you say about any developments on the sequel front?

Dan Trachtenberg: I still really can’t say anything officially about it. But we’ve loved dreaming up all the possible things we could do with the franchise and certainly the interest is doing something that is not just ‘Now that we’ve done Prey, let’s just do a direct sequel that is not doing anything new.’ That is not of interest. What is of interest is can we continue to do something new, do something that the franchise hasn’t done before, that even the genre may not have done before? Those are the kinds of things that we were all talking about on set, like, ‘Oh my god, what if we did this as the next thing?’

The return of the Predators is teased in the closing credits of Prey

Fandom: I love the idea of jumping around to different eras for Predator movies but I also love Naru so much and I want to see her again. Are these also the conversations you’re having in terms of what to possibly balance?

Dan Trachtenberg: …Yeah!

Fandom: [Laughs] Well, my fingers are crossed! There’s an insert with the 4k disc for the upcoming NECA figure of the Feral Predator and Hot Toys has also previewed their version as well. Besides that just being cool to have on a shelf eventually, does it really kind of solidify that the movie’s been embraced? 

Dan Trachtenberg: More than having any sort of lovely validation by an award or sales of something, having an action figure… A huge part of why I’m making movies, if not the main part of why I’m making movies, is formed by me playing with action figures as a kid. So having an action figure made from something that I’ve created is beyond… it’s the greatest.

By the way, the other thing that was hugely formative for me was DVD commentaries. It’s like the action figures were what fueled the youngest version of me and then commentaries are what formed the middle version of me, so that all these things are coming out now is pretty rad.

The upcoming NECA (left) and Hot Toys (right) versions of the Feral Predator from Prey

Fandom: On the commentary, there’s some moments where you discuss the effects. Often, people get a little too extreme with lines in the sand about things being all practical or all digital. You mention how a lot of stuff is practical here, but there are still things you tweak digitally, such as creating digital arms for Amber to cover up the wetsuit she had to wear when she was in the freezing water. You’ve worked with effects before but was this even more of a learning curve as far as seeing how you started a sequence and how different types of effects can kind of be layered on top to work together?

Dan Trachtenberg: Well, certainly, what I had never done before is work with a physical man-in-suit creature. And it was definitely a learning curve. Everyone says you should always shoot them at night and we had all these daytime sequences with them and I definitely learned why that was the case. But also, I loved that we were able to showcase it the way we did, even in the middle of the day. and figuring out a way to do that in all the practical ways but also then borrowing from CG.

I think anytime something feels extremely ‘Oh, look at that great artistry of the practical [effect]’ or ‘Look at the awesome CG thing,’ that’s a pull out of the movie. The real dream is to not even be thinking of that and just to make sure that everyone’s so absorbed in the story of the moment that that doesn’t even come to mind. And I think in combining both arts – and by the way, I’m not the first filmmaker to think this or say this – but I think about when my heroes do that, and what I would strive for is to find a way in which we’re really using both practices to their finest and fullest.

Prey is available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD on October 3 with a Steelbook version of the 4K exclusively available at Best Buy.

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