First, a major spoiler: the dog lives.
“Prey,” the Hulu Originals movie, brought the “Predator” franchise to life. A prequel to the previous four movies about malevolent trophy-seeking aliens, it’s set in 1719 on the Northern Great Plains. It centers on a young Comanche hunter and tracker named Naru (Amber Middle of Thunder), determined to become a warrior and protect her tribe, be it big cats, white men or an unseen threat from outer space. Importantly, the film also featured a cute dog.
Naru’s almost constant companion, Sarii (Coco), is a race known as carolina dog. Tan in color with large, perky ears, breeds such as Sarii don’t have the highest “level of training,” according to the American Kennel Cluband Midthunder would have to agree, describing his canine co-star as “a bit of a hot mess.”
But she is our disorder. Coco as Sarii is serious, believable and endearing. We need a female lead like the incredibly endearing Midthunder. We need a dog. And we need the dog to do it.
Since the beginning of the film, the dogs are there. A dog steals the show in Thomas Edison’s 1894 film “Athlete with stick“, simply by sleeping and appearing disinterested. A stray dog appears alongside the action in the Lumiere Brothers’ “Le Faux cul-de-jatte.” Wandering random stray dogs on set was apparently not uncommon.
But like damsels, even at first, dogs are often in distress. In 1904″dog factory“, dogs become sausages, even if we don’t see the terrible act. Fast forward over a hundred years, and endangering dogs and cats is still a major conspiracy. RIP, Mews from “Stranger Things” We hardly knew you. That’s the point: Often, an animal’s death serves as an easy shortcut to a character’s wickedness. How cruel are they? Cruel enough to kill a dog.
In 1987’s “Benji the Hunted,” the adorable, strappy Benji is chased by a heartless hunter. Even dogs that die naturally in movies, like “Marley & Me,” adapted from the 2005 memoir, do it with a lot of pathos. Anyone reading this who watched “Old Yeller” as a child was likely at least vaguely traumatized by its rage plot. So Many Dog Characters Die Or Are Killed On Screen, The Website Does the dog die? was created several years ago to provide premature details, keeping animal lovers away from painful media or at least preparing them mentally.
Dakota Beavers as Taabe and Amber Midthunder as Naru in “Prey” (David Bukach/20th Century Studios)It is difficult to concentrate when you know that the dog can die and often do so violently. “I’m outside,“ were my son’s words when a cat dies, viciously, in the 2022 remake of “Firestarter” (full disclosure: we’ve all been squeezed out of this slow movie long before). The death of the dog in “They/Them” seems so inexplicable that it’s hard to stick to the story. Worrying about the fate of an innocent animal can take you out of the world of fiction and suddenly make you question motive. It is a destabilizing effect.
It’s also an easy emotional manipulation of an audience.
Coco is not a professional dog; she just plays one on TV.
“Prey” does a good job of reassuring us about the dog, even if it may be inadvertent. Sarii wasn’t supposed to play such a big role in the movie, according to Midthunder and director Dan Trachtenberg. But during the first screenings, everyone kept asking about this dog. As Trachtenberg says in an article with The audiovisual club“Everyone, while we were developing it and showing cuts to our friends and family, was like, ‘No more dog! We love dog!’ I was like, “You don’t understand. We use all usable images of this dog.”
Coco is not a professional dog; she just plays one on TV. Adopted in order to be in the movie – her breed is believed to be a type of dog used by indigenous people at the time of filming – apparently she didn’t have the lengthy training that many showbiz dogs go through. And their discipline. She would walk around in action scenes, according to the cast and crew. Like the football player I was often cast with in high school drama, she struggled to find her footing.
She was also just happy to be there.
By including him in most of the film, the dog feels present in most of Naru’s life and the life of his tribe.
As midthunder said“A big part of being around Coco was that she was going wild and doing tricks and so excited to see everyone all the time. For me, personally, she was a dream. To make a movie, you know. ” That excitement shines through the film in the dog’s eyes, which are bright and shining, his big ears alert like old television antennas. (Frankly, his ears should have their own billing.)
She’s not perfect. Coco apparently messed up on set, and Sarii does it on screen. She is always by her hunter’s side, but not when Naru needs the dog for “The NeverEnding Story” type assistance. (You have probably been traumatized by this scene in the 1984 movie too, but this movie won’t hurt you like that.)
Dakota Beavers as Taabe and Amber Midthunder as Naru in “Prey” (20th Century Studios)Coco’s comedic timing as she spits out a rodent she’s been chasing feels effortless. Not only does she provide company to Naru, standing alongside the accomplished actor, but she is the company of the audience, Naru’s straight man comic, the Hooch for his Turner. And the dog’s occasional misfortune is a pretty realistic change from its fearlessness. Sarii is going after a bear, after all.
Wisely, if perhaps accidentally, the film doesn’t leave us worrying about the dog for too long, or forgetting about him. Soon, she returns barking to the scene. If Naru is not worried, we are not worried.
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The four-legged character “Prey” was inspired by the blue hooker known as Dog in “Mad Max: The Road Warrior,” and Sarii is set to take her place among the Benjis, Lassies, Rin Tin Boxes and road of the screen. By including him in most of the film, the dog feels present in most of Naru’s life and the life of his tribe. And when Sarii is taken, Naru will risk her life for the animal, as Sarii again and again risks her life for Naru. That’s exactly what partners do. It’s not presented in the film as a big deal. It’s just planned.
No dog left out. And if Sarii has a say, no warrior either.