Sandra Hale Schulman
Special to ICT
Using a cast comprised of Native American and First Nation talent, “Prey,” a new prequel movie of the “Predator” film franchise, travels back 300 years in the past to Plains territory where a technology advanced alien terrorizes the Comanche Nation.
The last time the Predator battled a Native person on screen was in the series original.
Sonny Landham, Seminole and Cherokee, played the Native tracker character Billy in 1987's "Predator" alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Central American rainforest battle by a militarized force. Unfortunately, Billy couldn’t stop the alien.
But, perhaps, this time the Native people do.
Director Dan Trachtenberg reached out to a citizen of the Comanche Nation to help better understand and portray the Comanche people in the movie. Trachtenberg directed “10 Cloverfield Lane” and “The Boys.”
“The film was an idea I had so I reached out to the Comanche Nation to ensure authenticity. That’s when I connected with Jhane Myers,” Trachtenberg said to Indian Country Today by Zoom.
Myers, an acclaimed filmmaker, Sundance Fellow and citizen of the Comanche Nation, is known for her dedication to films surrounding the Comanche and Blackfeet nations.
With her input, the film features a cast comprised almost entirely of Native and First Nation’s talent, including Amber Midthunder (“The Ice Road,” “Roswell, New Mexico”), newcomer Dakota Beavers, Stormee Kipp (“Sooyii”), Michelle Thrush (“The Journey Home”), and Julian Black Antelope (“Tribal”).
“This film will be released in full Comanche language with screenings on their lands,” Myers said by Zoom. “That’s the first time that has ever been done. “Star Wars” was dubbed in Navajo, but it took 30 years for them to do that.”
“It’s sci-fi but the look is true to the times, true to Comanche location, language and regalia,” Trachtenberg says.
A trailer has been released and it shows Midthunder as Naru. She is described as "a fierce and highly skilled warrior" who was "raised in the shadow of some of the most legendary hunters who roam the Great Plains," according to the Disney plot description. She sees signs in the clouds that tell her she is ready to hunt bears, stalking them by rivers with her dog.
But then hunting takes a dark turn.
Naru sets out to protect her people against a dangerous threat, which turns out to be a Yautja, the species of alien historically referred to as Predators.
Naru races through the woods into an open field when another Comanche with black paint smeared across his eyes, pulls her down to take cover.
He has spotted something moving menacingly beyond the tree line, but unfortunately, that something has also spotted them. He draws and pulls an arrow while mysterious red laser dots appear on his forehead. Fans of the series will recognize the laser from past movies.
Midthunder is a citizen of the Fort Peck Sioux Tribe. Known for her series regular roles in the FX series “Legion,” and The CW series “Roswell, New Mexico,” she has also appeared on “Longmire” and “Banshee.” Her father is David Midthunder, a successful actor with 60 on-screen credits. Her mother, Angelique Midthunder, is a casting director.
“Prey” (otherwise known as “Predator 5”) is the fifth installment in the Predator franchise, and is considered a prequel to the first four films.
The film began development during the production of the previous “Predator” film, titled “The Predator” (2018). Trachtenberg had the concept he had been working on since 2016.
By December 2019, the film was started and was under wraps, going by the codename of “Skulls” for a fifth installment in the franchise, with some of the same creative team. Other than the alien creature it does not correlate to the events of the previous films.
The Comanche were picked for their history and location, they are from the Southern Plains, now a federally recognized tribe headquartered in Lawton, Oklahoma. Their language is of the Aztecan family, originally a Shoshoni dialect.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Comanche lived in present-day northwest Texas and spread into New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Chihuahua, Mexico. Spanish colonists and Mexicans called their historical territory Comancheria.
The Comanche were a nomadic horse culture, primarily hunting bison. When White settlers moved in on their territory, the Comanche waged war and raided their settlements.
Decimated by European diseases and war, most Comanche were forced to live on reservations by the 1860s and 1870s.
Today, the Comanche Nation has 17,000 citizens, around 7,000 of whom reside in areas around Lawton.
“Prey” will stream exclusively as a Hulu original on Aug. 5.
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