TL;DR – This is a film dipped its toes into the weirdness, and I wished it had done a bomb dive of the highest platform into the weirdness instead
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene
Warning – There is extensive use of strobe lighting effects
Disclosure – I paid to see this film.
Monster Hunter Review –
Alas, another video game adaptation bites the dust. I wish this were something I didn’t have to keep saying, but time after time we see that adapting a video game to the big screen is a difficult job and very few films can pull it off. In today’s entry into the list, we have a film that should get credit for adding elements of the gameplay into the film and then frame it around one of the most generic action films imaginable.
So to set the scene, in some desert on Earth (there are actual GPS location coordinates but I was not quick enough to jot them down, if you got them, please let me know) a military expedition is out exploring trying to discover what happened to another of their teams. The United Nations team is led by US Army Ranger Captain Natalie Artemis (Milla Jovovich), and they find the last position of Bravo Team just as a large sandstorm appears out of nowhere. As Alpha Team tries to outrun the storm, markers on the side of the road start flashing, and then the world falls out from underneath them. They wake up on some sand dunes that look nothing like where they left, which is about the point where Alpha Team comes under attack from things that lurk beneath.
Honestly, I had some trepidations about this film before I walked in. Still, the opening of a giant sailboat sailing across desert dunes as Ron Perlman appears built up some hope that we would actually get something interesting. Unfortunately, this feeling was short-lived. But there were still a couple of things about this film that I did like. The first is that I like that everyone in the new world did not all magically speak English, creating an interesting barrier between our two leads. Also, I have not played the games it is based on personally. I know many people who have enough to understand the game’s general mechanics, and I liked those aspects, like the upgrading of weapons to take on different monsters, is still there. Finally, there were some glimpses of good world-building here, if you look for them.
The first warning with this film comes from the editing. In my review of Paul W. S. Anderson’s last film Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, I singled out the editing as one of the film’s core weaknesses. Unfortunately, the same can be said here. There is only one action scene in the entire movie that I liked, and that was right at the start when the Humvees were falling between worlds, and we got a mix of short, frenetic cuts mixed in with longer slowed down moments. This sold that moment, and you can tell they liked it because that same effect got used several more times throughout the film. But all the other action scenes were a mess of quick cuts that you could barely follow. What adds to this frustration is that you have Tony Jaa who has extensive martial arts training and some of the business’s best physicality and the editing makes him look bad.
The next issue comes with the tone and structure of the film. Watching the movie, it felt like it could not decide what genre it wanted to be. Was it a horror film, was it an action-adventure, was it a comedy? Can you make a film that blends all three, of course, is this the film that pulls that off, absolutely not. Then there is the pacing. At the start, everything happens at such a quick pace that you feel the weight of the world coming down upon them. However, we then have a second act that drags to eternity followed by a third act that was over in a flash and when the credits rolled had me think ‘really, that’s where you are going to finish?’.
The final issue I had with the film was that you could feel at nearly every option the film took the safe choice. The Monster Hunter universe is a weird and sometimes wonderful place, and here was just well dull. The first two acts of the film are set in desert/rocky terrain which while nice for desert terrain, was nothing we have not seen before and done better (also some of the iconographies here reminded me of better films). Adding in the US military, sorry I mean the United Nations, sure it gave you that audience insert character. However, it meant we went through the same bland action scenes of people firing guns, RPGs, etc. that we have seen in film after film. What is frustrating is that there are these small glimpses throughout the film where it gets weird (usually when Ron Perlman is on the screen) which shows that they can get weird when they want. In nearly every aspect, this feels like a safe film.
In the end, do we recommend Monster Hunter? Well, honestly, no, no, we can’t. This is a real shame because there aspects of the film that work, the rapport between Milla and Tony, the monster creature design, and some of the set design. However, it all becomes lost in this over-edited safe film. If you liked Monster Hunter, we would also recommend for you Rampage.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Monster Hunter
Directed by – Paul W. S. Anderson
Written by – Paul W. S. Anderson
Based on – Monster Hunter by Capcom
Music by – Paul Haslinger
Cinematography by – Glen MacPherson
Edited by – Doobie White
Production/Distribution Companies – Screen Gems, Constantin Film, Tencent Pictures, Toho, Impact Pictures & Sony Pictures Releasing
Starring – Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa, Clifford “T.I.” Harris, Jr., Meagan Good, Diego Boneta, Josh Helman, Jin Au-Yeung, Nic Rasenti, Hirona Yamazaki, Nanda Costa, Aaron Beelner & Ron Perlman
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: na; Germany: 16; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13