Amber Midthunder as Naru in "Prey."

Amber Midthunder as Naru in "Prey." Credit: HULU/20th Century Studio

MOVIE "Prey"

WHERE Streaming on Hulu

WHAT IT'S ABOUT "Prey," the latest movie in the "Predator" franchise, takes the action back to the Great Plains of North America in 1719.

A young Comanche woman named Naru (Amber Midthunder) wants to prove herself as a hunter on par with her older brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers). While they're away from home tracking a mountain lion, she's distracted by a burst of light and sound in the distance, falls and hurts herself, and gets brought back to the village.

She's convinced that something much bigger than a lion has been threatening them, and when Taabe refuses to believe her she sets out on her own to track it down.

Of course, what Naru could not have possibly imagined is that they're being hunted by the supernatural villain of the popular film series that began with Arnold Schwarzenegger famously shrieking "get to the choppa!" in 1987.

"Prey," directed by Dan Trachtenberg ("10 Cloverfield Lane"), finds Naru locked in a battle of wits, strength and survival skills with the relentless monster.

MY SAY It's a common lament: In a film industry dominated by intellectual property, leading to a seemingly endless parade of sequels, spinoffs and reboots, it's hard to find much in the way of a creative artistic vision, except for a brief sliver of Oscar season.

"Prey" arrives on Hulu having been made well within those parameters — "Predator" movies have generated hundreds of millions in box office receipts, and audiences know exactly what to expect from the bad guy.

But this movie also presents a perfect case study for how to take the restrictions imposed by franchise filmmaking and reinvigorate them. It has far bigger aspirations than the cheap thrills that are so endemic to the "Predator" movies, in which teams of warriors do battle with the otherworldly murderous being.

First, it has a real story to tell, in the depiction of Naru fighting gender conventions and social expectations to find her calling as a hunter. It's a rich narrative, captured in sprawling wide shots and resonant close-ups, and with a great deal of attention paid toward achieving as much authenticity as possible in its depiction of Comanche culture. (A versiondubbed entirely in the Comanche language is also available on Hulu.)

Next, it gives Midthunder ("Roswell, New Mexico") the chance to create a character defined by far more than her ability to hold her own in a fight scene. She isn't just adept at making her way through big action setpieces; she finds enough space to construct a fully realized character.

An epic action drama and mythological character study, set against the backdrop of the North American wilderness hundreds of years ago: None of this is what anyone would reasonably expect out of a "Predator" movie.

And that's without even including the abundance of suspenseful moments, generated by a filmmaker with a gift for working on this scale and an actor who should be a major movie star.

BOTTOM LINE This is a surprisingly rich and compelling movie, considering that it's also the latest entry in the decades-old "Predator" franchise.

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