Monster Hunter is a 2020 sci-fi fantasy action film. It’s directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and is a film adaptation of the video game series of the same name. Paul has also written and produced the movie. It stars Anderson’s wife and long-time collaborator Mila Jovovich, who is working as the lead in his film for the fifth time. Others include Tony Jaa, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Megan Good, Diego Boneta, Jin Au-Yeung, Josh Helman, and Ron Perlman.
The director, Paul W.S.Anderson, has been trying to adapt the Monster Hunter video game into a movie since 2012. Although, the final output that Anderson has been able to produce makes it a bit dubious. The film was announced by Capcom at the end of 2018. The film was released in China two weeks earlier than in the United States. Monster Hunter hit theatres in China on December 4, 2020, and the US screens on December 18, 2020.
The worldwide gross for the film totaled $30 million, against a budget of $60 million. The critical reception was largely negative. It was cited as yet another mindless video game adaptation by a swarm of critics. The film’s shoddy CGI was also planned by the reviewers, as were the bland characters and world-building. Suffice it to say, Monster Hunter wasn’t able to break the tradition of bad video game film adaptations.
A boring first half
The film starts with a parallel New World, where the human species co-exist with huge and savage monsters. A Hunter – someone who hunts and kills these monsters – is separated from his crew when a horned subterranean monster attacks their ship. Meanwhile, in the real world, we follow Natalie Artemis, a United States Army Captain, and her UN security team. The team is on a search mission, trying to locate a missing team of soldiers in the desert. That’s when they encounter a strange storm upon the horizon.
The team, subsequently, gets sucked into the portal inside the storm. They are transported into the New World. There, they find the corpses of the missing team and their vehicles. Moreover, the subterranean monster Diablos arrives and starts attacking them. The Hunter, who was silently observing the team, fires a warning signal. The team discovers that bullets and grenades do not affect the monster. Consequently, many members of the team get killed off by the monster.
The surviving members of the squad head off to a cave to hide. However, their perils have not stopped just yet. They are attached by a group of other monsters called Nerscyllas. This second attack wipes out all of the squad except Artemis. She manages to escape and encounters the Hunter. The two have a brief fight but soon realize that they will have to work together. Soon, Artemis discovers that the portals are created by a Sky Tower, which is a structure located across the desert. Even so, they can’t just march across the desert carefree. They will have to kill Diablo. And hence, the duo starts making traps and Artemis learns how to fight with Hunter’s unique weapons. The attack succeeds, Diablo is killed, but it leaves Hunter badly injured.
An equally drab second half with a better climax
Artemis constructs a make-shift stretcher and carries Hunter across the desert. The duo eventually reaches an oasis that is sprawling with herbivorous creatures called Apceros. However, the fire-breathing monster Rathalos arrives and instigates a stampede amidst the Apceros. That’s when Artemis and the Hunter are rescued by a group of Hunters in the nick of time. The hunters are led by their chief – the Admiral. He explains to Artemis about the Sky Tower and that it was built by the “first civilization”. The monsters were populated to protect it. Artemis forms a band and agrees to take down Rathalos, so she can return to her world too.
The battle ensues, and Artemis falls through the portal, transporting herself back to the real world. However, before the portal closes, Rathalos manages to squeeze through to the real world as well. As Rathalos wreaks destruction, Artemis succeeds in slowing it down. Hunter slips through the portal and inflicts a fatal blow to the wyvern. Although Artemis can now stay, she decides to go back to the New World. She chooses to remain with the Hunters there and protect the real world from monsters.
The Admiral meets Artemis, but soon a new flying monster appears, called Magala. The Admiral tells that as long as the portals remain live, the real world will always be vulnerable to the monsters and their destruction. Artemis and the hunters conclude that the only way to stop that is to destroy the Sky Tower. They set out to do just that, setting up the sequel to the film. In a mid-credits scene, we see the hunters fighting the Gore Magala, as a sinistrous cloaked figure observes the battle from atop the tower.
Monster Hunter is a disappointing video game adaptation
Monster Hunter is yet another addition to the long list of dreadful video game adaptation movies. This $60 million budget movie doesn’t give off an impression that it’s been in ideated since 2012. The film is one of the poor video game adaptations, and that’s saying a lot considering the films that came before. The entire first half, except for some silly-but-fun opening minutes, is just uneventful. Let’s be serious, nobody is going into a movie titled Monster Hunter expecting anything less than pure silly fun action. The film doesn’t even deliver on that. Apart from a beginning with some potential and the climax, the film is just boring.
The team of Hunters in the prologue seems promising of a wild and wacky ride ahead. But it’s soon washed over by the desert where we’re stuck with Jovovich and Jaa. The hunters return at the end of the film, and the setting also changes. That’s when the film starts looking somewhat competent. The ending feels reminiscent of the trademark Anderson style. But the hype arrives just too late for the audience to have any further investment into the film. At least the action seems good, but if only the rest of the movie managed to have that energy.
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An uninspired mess
The movie seems ripe with potential as a senseless indulgent wild-ride at first. It has all the kickers for that kind of movie. A hilariously goofy Ron Perlman and his band of monster hunters are super fun. The team includes Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak) and a giant knife-wielding human-like cat. This, combined with the portals and the new world’s premise, seems great. But it doesn’t take long before the film devolves into a boring and shoddy slugfest. The Monster Hunter team gets replaced with Mila Jovovich and her team of human soldiers. After that, it’s a predictable, generic, and boring mish-mash of bad CGI and bad action. The desert as a setting for action doesn’t help either.
The monster designs are uninspired and lack creative imagination. That and the frantic editing at every action scene make it unbearable to watch at times. Tony Jaa is also severely under-utilized as a character and martial-artist. Monster Hunter and other video game adaptations like it fail because they take themselves too seriously. The movie could’ve fared far better, had it dialed up the silly to 11, like the opening and the climax.
One peculiar and frustrating thing about the movie, other than the whole movie itself, is that it’s a setup. As the denouement nears, we get to know that the whole movie was merely a setup for its sequel. But Anderson forgot that we want to watch the movie, not a trailer for its sequel. If only the film was made with some competence, the sequel might’ve been green-lit too. If this film is any clue to what awaits us next, we’re definitely better off without one.