You’ve probably seen the new Predator movie, Prey, by now. The horror movie debuted on Disney Plus and Hulu around the world to widespread fanfare, the latter reporting that it’s been the biggest original premiere on the platform to date.
Not bad for a franchise many of us considered dead meat beforehand. Prey is a remarkable action movie, set among a Comanche tribe in the early 1700s that’s beset by one of the extra-terrestrial warriors. Lead Amber Midthunder gives a star-making turn as Naru (pronounced ‘Nah-doo’), the young woman who winds up staring down the alien antagonist.
It’s brilliant, a prequel that isn’t totally bogged down by references and overarching lore, nor rebooting anything with obvious future aspirations. It’s just a self-contained thrill-ride that’s available at the touch of a button for everyone. Beyond viewing stats and reviews, all impressive though the are, Prey sets a new standard for Hollywood by being the first major release to come dubbed in its native language from the get-go.
As soon as Prey became available on platforms, viewers had the choice of the Comanche dub. The same thriller movie, re-dubbed by all the original cast in the Comanche language their characters would have spoken.
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You can find this dub in the extras section, rather than subtitles, but rest assured, it’s there. I’d thoroughly recommend viewing this version of the film. I loved Prey on first watch, and it only gets better in the Comanche dub.
The characters feel even more well-rounded, and occasional beats get a different context you might have missed. Taabe (pronounced ‘Tah-vay’) calls the Predator a coward when the monster goes invisible during the fight in the camp of French hunters. This isn’t subtitled by default for the English-language version, but the Comanche dub has it, granting extra clarity on the situation and mindset.
There’s a good reason for these differences; Prey was originally scripted entirely in Comanche. Development saw the inclusion of more English to appeal to a wider audience, and early in filming it was decided the entire thing would be shot in that language. But fundamentally, it was the same screenplay and concept, thus a dub in post-production became the compromise.
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Watching Prey in Comanche turns a great film into something kind of astounding. A franchise feature, hosted on one of the largest streaming platforms in the world, that can be watched in either English, or the language native to the characters and many of the filmmakers. The best of both worlds that proves better representation is always possible.
Prey’s Comanche dub gave me a similar sentimental feeling to when I saw Black Panther back in 2018. The Wakanda-set Marvel movie made me legitimately misty-eyed, and not just because of Chadwick Boseman’s wonderful speech as T’Challa in the post-credits scene. It took a couple of viewings to work exactly why, and then it hit me.
I longed for an equivalent of this that’s Irish. Something that celebrates Ireland’s heritage as if we were never colonised by the English and starved, with our native tongue beaten out of us by the monarchy. England made Ireland its first colony, and frequently tested methods of oppression on Irish soil before taking them elsewhere.
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Black Panther and Wakanda made that seem feasible. It’s a touchstone for anyone who comes from a culture that was stamped on by imperial rule, a watershed film that will be referenced by many as their inspiration to aim for the moon in their dreams. Cultural representation in cinema matters, and Black Panther coming from the largest cinematic franchise in the world was a standard-bearer.
Prey takes that one step further by embracing the language of the culture it represents. Franchise filmmaking is a painfully anglised space, always viewed within the prism of the status quo. Hollywood incessantly defaults to English, even when using places where that’s not the norm. Prey makes it clear a production from a familiar property can fully embrace the history and legacy of its lesser-represented setting.
When I spoke to producer Jhane Myers, she mentioned the need for authenticity, and how Prey throws a gauntlet down when it comes to cultural representation. “This really sets the standard high for representation,” she says. “A lot of times when you’re trying to encourage people to use the right content, they’re like, ‘We don’t have the budget for that, we can’t do that’. This project proves that it can’t be done, and it can be done with a predator.”
Hollywood would do well to heed the call. Why not Black Panther 3 fully dubbed in Xhosa? The Fast and Furious movies travel around a lot, it might be about time the cast started putting the time in on Duolingo. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be sitting down to watch another Predator, or something from the DCEU or John Wick 5, and I’ll be able to switch it all to Irish. Nach mbeadh sé sin go hiontach?