Video game adaptations. Always a risk. This time around Director Paul W.S. Anderson takes Monster Hunter from the Capcom game into the world of filmmaking, and they certainly have fun with it, even if it falls into the usual cliché in the final third but offers just enough escapism to enjoy the fantasy.
With a simple-to-understand setup, Monster Hunter gives us a little background by showing us a world behind our world, where dangerous, deadly monsters rule their various domains with violence and ferocity. Then we snap back to ‘now’ and follow a military unit into an unexplained Middle East setting, where Captain Artemis (Milla Jovovich) leads her unit (containing the likes of T.I. Harris, Meagan Good, and Diego Boneta) on some type of mission but… from the distance an unusual sandstorm appears. Whilst they try to escape, they’re dragged into its gravity and transported to this ‘other’ world, where these hostile monsters rule the planet.
Visually, it’s actually really nicely done, and with high quality photoreal situations – and the 4K UHD had no issues whatsoever, there’s been no skimping on scale on this one! When they’re dragged off into the sandstorm, we’re thrown around in their military vehicles, with flashes of ancient symbols and curious insights over what’s to come. In essence, they’ve dropped through a portal created by god knows what, and while you might expect to learn ‘what’ has dragged our leads to this other world, you won’t get that conclusion today but, in truth, it doesn’t really matter and there’s always room for a sequel.
Anyway, once the crew land in this second-world, it’s not long before most are killed off by unrelenting monsters, which makes you wonder how or why anyone exists here at all but – again – none of that matters in this setup. However, during this battle for survival, they encounter Hunter (Tony Jaa), who is deftly skilled at fending for himself, and very sharp with a modified bow and arrow. In truth, Monster Hunter is primarily a vehicle for Jovovich and Jaa, who have excellent chemistry and progress their relationship, from fighting each other to the death, to friends, and then battling together for survival.
While the initial stages hold a good bit of intrigue, you’re always going to get what you think here. Scored with a wonderfully intense retro-electronic-bass ‘theme’ from Paul Haslinger, Monster Hunter throws everything it can at you whilst merging the likes of Pitch Black, Aliens, a Spider-like sequence to out-creep LOTR: Return of the King and even Tremors – but with horns and on steroids. There are some absolutely ridiculous, video-game deaths early on, but you can go with it. Heck, it’s even got a training montage (!), a one-eyed cat who prepares Sushi and Ron Perlman looking like Will Ferrell in costume, and I honestly don’t know how they achieve that so entertainingly – please don’t hurt me Ron, I love you and Will quite equally.
But here’s the thing, I did have fun and the intense action sequences with the monsters are brutal, with no mercy. It made me feel that Milla Jovovich deserves a proper Bond-villain role because she’s hardcore and it’s shown in her impressive fight sequences with Tony Jaa’s character, who is also class, as well as her survival strength and impressive endurance.
Kick-ass or Monster-pass? Everyone enjoys themselves but switch off any hope of avoiding cliché and go with it.