Monster Hunter is the live-action adaptation of the Japanese video game series of the same name, now available to watch on Sky and Now TV. While it may look and feel very similar to a video game, sadly this film isn’t anywhere near as fun and satisfying.
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil and Alien vs Predator), the film opens on ‘The New World’, on a ship sailing through a twilight desert that is suddenly attacked by a mysterious, violent creature hiding beneath the sand. While The Admiral (Ron Perlman) and his crew attempt to fight off the creature, Hunter (Tony Jaa) is thrown overboard into the desert. The action then skips to our world in a rocky unknown location, where US Army Captain Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her team are searching for their Bravo team who have gone missing. As they locate a beacon for the missing team, a huge storm surrounds their vehicles, pushing them off a cliff where they travel via a portal to the New World.
In the barren desert of the New World, the team fix up their vehicles and drive out into the desert, where they come across the remains of their missing team and also a giant monster skeleton. They’re being followed by the Diablos, the sand-dwelling monster, and despite a warning signal sent by a watchful Hunter, the team are attacked and a number of them killed. The survivors head into a cave where Artemis is attacked by a spider-like creature. As her team try to save her, they’re swarmed and overcome by the creatures as they try to flee.
Sometime later, Artemis awakes in the spider creatures lair after having been injected with paralysing venom. She finds her entire team either dead or infected and manages to escape the lair with the use of fire. She bumps into Hunter and after initially fighting, the pair agree to co-operate against the monsters. Artemis learns that the portal that brought her into the world is created by the Sky Tower, a structure located across the desert surrounded by storms, and is her only chance of getting home. Together, she and Hunter must work together to overcome the Diablos, and any other monsters, to cross the desert and reach their goal.
The Monster Hunter games are not ones I’m particularly familiar with, so I went into this film fairly blind with few expectations, not having even seen a trailer. What I got was a film with a fairly interesting premise but which was made less enjoyable by being very poorly executed. The story is very limited, which works, to begin with as we experience the same confusion that Artemis and her team do in the new world, but as the film progresses the lack of detailed story and especially backstory for characters is very noticeable. 90% of the characters in this film are purely cannon fodder we’re given little chance to care about, and even Jovovich and Jaa’s characters are not developed enough, despite hints to them having much more depth. The finale is also incredibly muddled and confused with little explanation as to motives or what’s going on.
The film may look very much like a video game, with some expansive and ridiculous landscapes that fit completely with what you’d expect to see in a game, but sadly the CGI is very lacking. Most of the CGI budget has obviously been spent on the monsters, so everything else varies from okay to decidedly dodgy. Even the monsters, who look initially impressive, soon become very one dimensional and far too similar – there’s little textural difference between any of them.
There are also the standard tropes here that for me are never welcome – very shaky camera action scenes from start to finish, and an over-reliance on slow motion that for the most part doesn’t work. Why we need a slow motion shot of people running up a sand dune I’ll never know. There’s also a lot of patchy cheesy dialogue that doesn’t really work. The only time it does is with the language barrier relationship between Hunter and Artemis, and it’s really their interactions that make this film vaguely watchable.
Despite having a decent premise, Monster Hunter has been poorly executed and aside from the chemistry between Jovovich and Jaa, it’s sadly lacking in entertainment and fun.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!