Amber Midthunder plays the Comanche hunter Naru in "Prey." Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- The Predator franchise has an iconic monster, but struggled to create a worthy follow-up in three sequels and two Alien vs. Predators. Prey, on Hulu Friday, is the first sequel that got Predator totally right.
In the Northern Great Plains in 1719, Noru (Amber Midthunder) is a Comanche girl who is struggling to prove herself as a hunter. Her mentor, Taabe (Dakota Beavers), and his hunting party don't believe Noru that she saw a creature bigger than a bear.
The Predator (Dane DiLiegro) is new to Noru, but viewers are quite familiar with his powers by now. Still, Prey does a great job building up the Predator appearance before he's full frontal.
The Predator battles other apex predators of the forest before he turns to man, and becomes more animalistic when fighting four-legged opponents.
Noru has something to prove even before the Predator arrives. The men of her tribe don't believe she can join them in a lion hunt, but she'll prove herself with even bigger game.
Midthunder is the most badass opponent the Predator has faced since Arnold Schwarzenegger. She carries the movie with her physical presence, survival skills and outsmarting the monster.
DiLiegro captures the Predator's alien and animalistic movements while making it his own. The cool thing about this monster is every Predator is the same species, but each sequel is a different individual monster, and DiLiegro makes his memorable.
The men come at the Predator with bravado (essentially, what led all the supporting characters in the previous sequels to their doom).The tribesman are formidable, but they still meet a gruesome fate.
Their arrows pierce Predator's armor, so it is a fair fight. Seeing Predator retaliate with space weapons in Colonial times is fun.
Director Dan Trachtenberg uses visual storytelling to convey Noru's hunt. There are long stretches in which she's alone, but observes the Predator's tactics and technology to piece together her strategy.
There are environmental perils in this setting, too. Noru uses her wits and ingenuity to pull herself out of those messes.
The Commanches speak English because this is a Predator movie, not an authentic period piece. They still get to interject a healthy dose of Native language.
While Prey is a bold new take on the Predator franchise, it still has fun with the accouterments of the franchise. When you see the Predator's heat-vision point of view, you know it's on.
Despite taking place 200 years before the first film, Prey manages to incorporate some favorite catch phrases. There were no choppers in the 18th century, and the phrase "ugly mother[expletive]" hasn't been invented yet, but fans will be happy to hear some choice lines.
Prey is the best Predator movie since the original. The monster and the heroes are in top form.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.