Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa, TI Harris, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta, Josh Helman, Jin Au-Yeung, Ron Perlman
Runtime: 1 hr 44 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: Sony Pictures
Opening Day: 24 December 2020
Synopsis: Behind our world, there is another: a world of dangerous and powerful monsters that rule their domain with deadly ferocity. When an unexpected sandstorm transports Captain Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her unit (TI Harris, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta) to a new world, the soldiers are shocked to discover that this hostile and unknown environment is home to enormous and terrifying monsters immune to their firepower. 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.
Paul W.S. Anderson is definitely a brand name that is associated with videogame adaptation to the big screen. Think Mortal Kombat and the supposedly concluded Resident Evil franchise. Not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson who also wrote and direct his movies, the works of Paul W.S. Anderson usually received a lukewarm response from critics. Audiences wise, it’s also a mixed bag. So does the latest work from the world’s least pretentious auteur (coined by prolific critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsk) consider another victory to his long-running resume or another loud dud alongside Alien Vs. Predator?
For the uninitiated, Monster Hunter is based on the video game series of the same name by Japanese game developer Capcom. In fact, this is an authorised work with design and story sealed and approved by the original creators. For the game, the player takes on the role of a hunter to take down all sort of gigantic monsters across various landscapes.
In the movie version, the narrative lies in the form of Mrs Anderson aka his frequent collaborator, Milla Jovovich as Captain Artemis. Together with her team of army rangers, they are transported via a portal into a world populated with monsters while searching for the whereabouts of Bravo Team. Of course, most never survive to see the credits roll except Artemis. And then comes the “hunter” played by Thai action star Tony Jaa who joined hands with Artemis to slay the various roaming creatures.
Anderson is not one filmmaker that is capable of pulling off an award-winning drama for sure but he has a 50% chance of successfully creating a dumbed down blockbuster spectacle for the masses. But first, let’s get all the negativities out before anything else, shall we?
Monster Hunter is completely devoid of compelling human characters. We know nothing about Captain Artemis except she is a kick-ass female soldier and leader with a wedding ring. Tony Jaa is purely here for his kick-ass martial-arts skill. Why is he not blessed with English speaking skill is baffling even though the Hunter’s friend, the Admiral (Ron Perlman) can speak perfect English. In actual fact, Jaa speaks “Jackie Chan” English in real life, just let the man speaks.
T.I Harris’ character on the other hand is not blessed with any kick-ass skills so his fate comes as no surprise. Same goes for Meagan Good (Shazam!) and MC Jin’s whose character is being accused of making a racist remark in China. But never mind.
Because the characters are negligible and the story Anderson concocted is so basic that most of the visuals and narrative are recycled from other familiar fantasy movies. How does Artemis arrive in this dimension and how does Admiral and his gang come to our world? Well easy. It’s via a dark tower like the one you seen in Lord of the Rings. It’s almost laughable that nowadays almost every movie has a far more formidable enemy than a hero. What are the chances of mortal human beings defeating countless of gigantic monsters that never seems to die. Fret not, once again we have the mighty Mrs Anderson to do the job as ridiculous as it sounds.
Even though Tony Jaa is in the movie, his martial arts abilities are hampered by the movie’s frenetic editing and choppy action scenes. Traits which are familiar with any Anderson’s productions. It’s often loud and dizzy though most of the CG monsters and dragons are pretty nicely rendered. This factor alone might appeal to fans of Pacific Rim and King Kong.
There’s a full-sized CG walking cat character which I heard is a nod to the videogame. The movie basically works best when we see Artemis and the hunter battling out with the monsters be it spiders, sand-dune creature and flying dragon. Other than that, there’s nothing particularly interesting maybe perhaps watching the hunter chomping on a bar of Hershey.
Monster Hunter ends with a climax that hint of another sequel with a mid-credit tease as well. Paul W.S. Anderson is one filmmaker that does the same thing all over. If this is yet another hit, his wife and him are going to slay more monsters in the years to come. No more zombies or the undead, it’s monsters this time. Don’t say you are not warned.
(Instead of watching Milla Jovovich slaying zombies, watch her slaying gigantic monsters for a change)
Review by Linus Tee