When Lt. Artemis and her loyal soldiers are transported to a new world, they engage in a desperate battle for survival against enormous enemies with incredible powers.
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa, Tip “T. I.” Harris, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta, Josh Helman, Jin Au-Yeung, Ron Perlman
Director: Paul W. S. Anderson
Writer: Paul W. S. Anderson
Based on: Monster Hunter by Capcom
2018’s Monster Hunter: World took the franchise to another level in cultural relevance, more than tripling the sales of the next best Monster Hunter title. With the franchise at its height of popularity internationally, Capcom looked to cash in and make a movie based on the games. So Capcom looked to their frequent collaborators on their other massive franchise, Resident Evil, and gave the keys to the franchise to writer-director Paul W. S. Anderson and leading lady Milla Jovovich. And fans everywhere groaned.
US Army Ranger Captain Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her team are tracking their missing compatriots when they are sucked up by a storm and transported to another world. They soon encounter a number of different huge monsters, which are most immune to their military equipment. They are aided by The Hunter (Tony Jaa), a man of this world who was separated from his hunting party after they were attacked by monsters. They must work together in order to reach a faraway tower in the hope that it will lead them home.
This film is a mixed bag. There are definitely things to like about it, particularly the CGI and monster designs. There are some solid scares and horror elements as well as some good comic relief. However, there is very little character or story to be found anywhere. Jaa and Jovovich have solid chemistry together and fun relationship that starts off adversarial. Those two get some character development but everyone else is 2D. Artemis’ team is filled with characterless people who have an unnatural sounding conversation so you know who they each are. Ron Pearlman’s Admiral is also there but mainly serves as a deliverer of information.
The Hunter doesn’t understand English so there isn’t much of an opportunity to have the characters explore their backstories or to discuss what is happening. Although to be fair, even if he could he and Artemis are not characters who would look to share their feelings. Anderson does try to do some subtle character work but it is all very cliché and a worse version of things we have seen before.
The action in the film is also not great. The film starts with a handheld and shaky style that made me think that this film would be a slog to get through, so hard was it to see what was happening. The action then shifts to a fast cut style which seems counterintuitive when you have fight scene involving a martial artist of the calibre of Tony Jaa. The action in the second half of the film is more balanced, although Anderson does go a little hard with the slow-motion shots.
Fans of the games may get a kick out of seeing a few monsters and weapons from the series as well as a Felyne. Overall though, there are few moments in the film that feel like the game with a sequence in which the characters plan how they are going to take down a monster being the best of them. The Monster Hunter world is so rich but this film barely scratches the surface.
Monster Hunter also has one of the most baffling and unsatisfying endings of 2020. It isn’t hard to see what Anderson was going for, but it felt like the film was missing another 15 minutes or the next episode was about to start. Ending on what some may call a cliffhanger, they are clearly hoping to make a sequel.
Fans of Paul W. S. Anderson, B-movies, big CGI monsters or sitting in air conditioning may find this an enjoyable to see in cinemas but Monster Hunter is unlikely to please fans of the franchise and is not deep or engaging enough to create new converts to it. With underwhelming action and no meaningful story to get invested in, your time would be better spent playing or revisiting Monster Hunter: Worlds.
Monster Hunter releases in cinemas January 1st 2021
Ashley Hobley attended an advance screening of Monster Hunter thanks to Sony Pictures Australia and Event Cinemas.