REVIEW: ‘Monster Hunter’ has Big Monsters with Little Importance

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Monster Hunter movie

I unironically love the Resident Evil live-action films. Having grown up on the Capcom video games, Paul W.S. Anderson definitely didn’t nail the story adaptation, but visually, his movies brought to life key characters and elements. Are they “good” films? No. But they are messy fun with cool effects and even cooler easter eggs. That’s where I find myself with Anderson’s latest Capcom outing: Monster Hunter. 

Directed and written for the screen by Anderson, Monster Hunter is adapted from the iconic Capcom video game franchise of the same name created by Kaname Fujioka. The premise of the film is simple – isekai.  According to the opening screen, behind our world, there is another. That one, however, is filled with dangerous and powerful monsters that rule their domain with deadly ferocity. A group of U.N. troops—who are also Army Rangers?—led by Captain Artemis (Milla Jovovich) are transported to this new world. Initially, they’re all shocked at what they find, not only because they realize the sand has been turned to glass and you know, finding the charred bodies of the unit before them, but because of a monster hiding in the sand and looking for its next prey.

In their desperate battle for survival, the unit encounters the mysterious Hunter (Tony Jaa), whose unique skills allow him to stay one step ahead of the powerful creatures. As Artemis and Hunter slowly build trust, she discovers that he is part of a team led by the Admiral (Ron Perlman). Facing a danger so great it could threaten to destroy their world, the brave warriors combine their unique abilities to band together for the ultimate showdown. Or, at least, the final act.

Monster Hunter is objectively a bad film. It lacks any plot and its focus on the first two acts leaves us with characters grunting at each other, fighting, and making bad jokes that neither of them gets. While this isn’t inherently bad, it’s too long and the real joy of the film winds up tucked away in a rapidly-paced third act that offers no closing to an already paper-thin plot. When I step back and look at the film as a whole, the third act showcases changing zones, weapons, skills, classes, and true elements from the video game series. This is where Anderson excels and uses the phenomenal effects department to its fullest. But, it’s so tonally detached from the first two acts (which are detached from each other to be frank) that it’s not enough to save the film.

Monster Hunter movie

I don’t know what to say about Monster Hunter because I don’t know what is happening. As a fan of the game franchise and Anderson’s other work, this one is a letdown. It’s almost completely because of the humans in the movie. But, I don’t think the film deserves to be thrown away. Monster Hunter is messy, rapidly-paced, and features some of the most gorgeously crafted kaiju that have to be commended. In the creature design and effects, it’s clear how large a hand Toho, the studio behind Godzilla’s long history, had in the film. Additionally, the effects work on prop weapons and a cat cameo are nearly perfect.

While the fault with the monsters is that we only get two for the first hour, the amount packed into the last act is phenomenal and each of them is executed in a way that makes it feel like you can reach out and touch them. Additionally, the weaponry and elements of the game that are worked into the kaiju fights are well done. But instead of focusing on this, the script tries to build an endearing relationship on a loose foundation between Artemis and Hunter and it all feels empty.

While their scenes are confusing, to say the least, when they aren’t fighting, when they are, Jovovich and Jaa’s fight chemistry is extremely good. One of the things I love about Anderson films starring Jovovich is that she is trusted to execute fight choreography in a way that generally isn’t allowed for other women in action. Between the two of them, Jaa doesn’t look like he is holding back, the action isn’t slowed down, and Anderson doesn’t use a barrage of cuts to hide the lack of coordination. While a lot of this can be a credit to Jaa’s long career in the Thai action scene, Jovovich holds her own. But ultimately there isn’t enough care nor charisma in either character to invest you beyond when they’re beating each other.

Monster Hunter is filled with kaiju-action fun and elements that feel like the video game. However, it isn’t a good film and doesn’t even hold a candle to the first three Resident Evil films or Anderson’s take on Mortal Kombat. So when we compare it to the video game films that game before it, it fails. That said, Monster Hunter’s kaiju are spectacular. They just deserved more time on screen and worldbuilding around them. While this is a film I’d say to skip if you want a good story or even an immersive film, it’s a fun bad film to put on with some friends and make a game out of.

Monster Hunter is available now in theaters.

Monster Hunter
3/10

TL;DR

Monster Hunter is filled with kaiju-action fun and elements that feel like the video game. However, it isn’t a good film and doesn’t even hold a candle to the first three Resident Evil films or Anderson’s take on Mortal Kombat. So when we compare it to the video game films that game before it, it fails. That said, Monster Hunter’s kaiju are spectacular. They just deserved more time on screen and worldbuilding around them. While this is a film I’d say to skip if you want a good story or even an immersive film, it’s a fun bad film to put on with some friends and make a game out of.