MONSTER RUN (怪物先生) (2020)
Very loosely adapted from the 2009 YA book, "Monster" by Alex Awards winner A. Lee Martinez, Monster Run is an adventure about Meng (Shawn Yue), a down-and-out monster hunter and a teenage girl, Ji Mo (Jessie Li) who can “see” monsters.
Instead of ghostly spirits, ghosts or vampires, Meng and Ji Mo lives in a world which is inhibited by both humans and all sorts of creepy looking monsters from scary critters to a furry Yeti. But not everyone has the ability to see them and Ji Mo is torment by the fact that she can sees monsters lurking around since young that her mom assumed she is crazy and she is subsequently sent to an asylum for treatment.
Years later while working in a supermarket one night, Ji Mo encountered a monster hunter by the name of Meng who appear to capture a Yeti on the loose. The two soon developed a friendship and Ji Mo soon finds out she is actually destined to be the future guardian of the gate to another dimension. However, the current evil guardian, Lotus (Kara Wai) is determine to continue her dominance thus sending a hitman to capture Ji Mo and kills Meng.
Shot way back in 2018 but relegated to streaming sites in China probably due to the pandemic, Monster Run rides on mainland’s current trend of employing massive CGI over storytelling despite a team of four credited writers. The first half of the movie focus on Ji Mo and Meng as they survive monster attacks and meeting a Lion creature disguised as a harmless neighbourhood shopkeeper, Uncle Ping (Tu Men). Ping warned them of the looming war and advised them to keep a low profile inside Meng’s house. So far so good.
We even get to learn more of Meng’s anguish, struggle and his love for his deceased elder brother, a once powerful monster hunter. Then comes Lotus, a sneering underutilised Kara Wai and her one-note henchman, Spade. From this point on, the rest of the movie seems to be shot in front of the greenscreen filled with endless scenes of crappy CGI backgrounds, effects and pointless dialogue. Not forgetting lots of CGI enhanced action sequences.
Visual effects supervisor and director Henri Wong who collaborate with producer Derek Kwok (Wu Kong, Full Strike) a number of times in the past delivers yet another forgettable flick that relied too much on technology to keep the narration going. Monster Run works better in smaller intimate scenes that even the CGI is far more acceptable in this context. Then as usual with many other flicks, the action and CGI go way beyond the story could handle that no one bothers about the fate of Meng, Ji Mo or Lotus in the end.
On the contrary, the Monster Hunt franchise seems to fare better than Monster Run. At least Raman Hui is a much-accomplished storyteller than Henri Wong. While both filmmakers utilized CGI as a tool, Hui uses it at the right time, complimenting them with crowd-pleasing comedy and plotting. Wong on the other hand kind of misses the point especially the finale which is kind of piece together by the visual effects team to warrant a satisfying conclusion. Monster Run is potentially a franchise starter. However given the way it’s handled, it’s not likely we’ll be seeing Meng and Ji Mo in action again anytime soon.
Review by Linus Tee