Paul W.S. Anderson may not be the master of video game adaptations, but it’s what he knows best and he certainly deserves credit for trying. Anderson has spent a good portion of his career directing movies based on video games that includes the 1995 “Mortal Kombat” movie. His career got the most popularity for working with his wife and muse, Milla “Multi-pass” Jovovich (“The Fifth Element”), as the couple had a good run by churning out four installments based on the “Resident Evil” video game franchise. Anderson who wrote and directed them was personally in charge of turning “Resident Evil’s” heavy CGI and nonsensical plotting into a family run business.
Subtle filmmaking is not Anderson’s style and instead opts to make films that are fun, loud and crazy. That is exactly what his newest film “Monster Hunter” is…a loud, fast, crazy, fun time at the movies. Even if it plays like a Friday night premiere of a SyFy channel original film. With his success from the “Resident Evil” films, that raked in $1.245 billion globally. It only makes sense that video game distributor Capcom would put their faith of their massively successful “Monster Hunter” series, in Anderson’s more than capable hands.
Released Christmas of 2020 during the Covid pandemic. Anderson once again, calls upon his wife actress Milla Jovovich and uses “Monster Hunter” as a celebration of her action hero capabilities. In “Monster Hunter” Anderson stays within his interests and wheelhouse as a filmmaker, preferring to put his attention towards the films action sequences and visual effects rather than giving us any character development or story.
“Monster Hunter” sees an Army squad embarking on a rescue mission, led by a tough as nails Army Ranger Captain Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her squad (that includes Tip T.I. Harris and Meagan Good). They set out to comb the desert for a missing squad, when a bizarre storm comes out of nowhere. Artemis and her team begin to realize their no longer on the Earth that they know, instead they emerge on the other side of a portal that’s brought the team to a strange land populated with monsters called the Diablos.
Fighting for their survival, Artemis connects with The Hunter (played by martial artist Tony Jaa), a resident who lives alone on this strange land. The Hunter eventually offers help, by showing Artemis the ways of defense against the monsters while setting their sights on the Sky Tower, a far-off portal that’s capable of returning Artemis home.
With a premise this thin, it’s probably best that you get your movie up and running as fast as possible. Anderson does just that as he gets things going from the start, including a desert chase that could have easily been mistaken as cut footage from “Mad Max: Fury Road”. Anderson has a relentless obsession with action in “Monster Hunter” that gives it a “never stop to take a breather” pacing. That’s what works best for his film and helps it to become an all-out action extravaganza.
While Milla Jovovich’s Artemis, is the films main antagonist. She does have a team of supporting characters, but their personalities are barely tended to, their given no character development and offered cliched movie military dialogue and bonding. Jovovich returns to her butt kicking heroine action star status and it’s nice to see her display some expression rather than her less than expressive role as Alice in the “Resident Evil” films. She reminds us how fun she can be and she hasn’t been this fun or charming since “The Fifth Element”.
During her rescue search, Jovovich’s Artemis meets the wary figure known as “The Hunter”, played by Thai martial arts star Tony Jaa. Although these two don’t speak each other’s language, they learn to communicate as they join forces against the monsters that rule this other earth. Jaa doesn’t get to stretch his martial arts skills very much which is a bummer but Jaa gets to use some of his fight skills against Jovovich, who has a good fight scene with Jaa.
The monsters themselves are dressed in convincing CGI and come in different iterations, some resemble dragons or dinosaurs, others look like they might be related to creatures from other monster movies like: “Starship Troopers” and “Tremors”.
You could watch “Monster Hunter” with the sound turned off and not miss a thing. Although I’d advise against that since “Monster Hunter” is equipped with one of the best sound designs i’ve heard. Anderson’s film is so loud and relentless he takes nothing for granted. It’ll be impossible for anyone in the audience to doze off during the movie. Once “Monster Hunter” hits 4K on March 2nd. Make sure you have the proper home theater set up because this one really cooks and will give your home theater a real workout. I would have liked to have caught this in theaters on the big screen and if it weren’t for Covid, I’m sure it would have been a moderate success especially with fans of the Capcom video game.
Act three crams in another wave of disposable characters, including an appearance from “Hellboy” himself Ron Perlman sporting a questionable wig and a much too late massive exposition dump that is intended to shove all the world building that he avoided in the films first two acts. But remember that Anderson always had a flair for the visual and not the narrative.
He leaves it wide open to become his next video game adaptation franchise and while “Monster Hunter” is all peak Anderson that we’ve come to expect from the filmmaker. Anderson will never make a picture better than his 1997 science fiction horror flick “Event Horizon”. But I’ll have to give it to him that “Monster Hunter” is a dream for fantasy action fans, a perfect workout for your home theater system and is a whole lot of fun.
GRADE: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5)