Review: Monster Hunter

Expected to meet expectations like the pro he is, director Paul W.S. Anderson is charged with adapting the popular Capcom video game to the Imax screen in much the same way he adapted the Resident Evil game to…how many sequels did they get away with? And he brings along his wife, Milla Jovovich, to star in order to make the Resident Evil connection complete. Consequently, there was a lot of buzz preceding the opening, which had to be delayed and recalibrated due to the pandemic. Since there’s a ton of Chinese money behind the movie, the international distribution potential was formidable, and Jovovich gets to share most of her screen time with Thai martial arts superstar Tony Jaa, thus broadening that potential even more. 

Apparently, an unfortunate bit of subtitle translation bolloxed the movie’s appeal in its biggest potential market, China, but Japan shouldn’t be a problem, since Capcom is a national treasure and the Resident Evil franchise was a huge hit over the 14 years it lasted. Monster Hunter probably will be a hit here as well based solely on momentum, but for the rest of us who aren’t susceptible to such bait (meaning, people who don’t play video games) it’s odd even for a big budget fantasy blockbuster. Much of it feels like disparate ideas from other, similar blockbusters patched together in a haphazard way. The framing idea of an American military patrol headed by Jovovich’s Captain Artemis caught in a desert sand storm and somehow deposited in an alternative dimension lorded over by huge insects and burrowing creatures immediately brings to mind Starship Troopers and Dune, and when Artemis cauterizes a gaping wound with ignited gunpowder you wonder which macho military porn Anderson was watching. Jaa shows up as the titular hunter who happens to inhabit this dimension full-time and does nothing but kill monsters for no stated reason except as sport it would seem. After some good-natured one-one-one battles to the near death between these two alpha types, they form a kind of alliance for the sake of pure survival and eventually catch up with guy called the Admiral (Ron Perlman), who makes them an offer they can’t refuse and one that displaces them back in Artemis’s dimension for the big apocalyptic battle. 

Which is to say that the movie’s narrative focus is always a bit on the blurry side, and while that’s what you get for trying to adapt a game, Anderson did a pretty good job of turning Resident Evil into a story-directed romp that never lost track of its various plot threads, no matter how frayed they had become. Monster Hunter is mainly a set of eye-popping CGI set pieces strung together with jokey exposition that doesn’t bear much scrutiny (and which resulted in the aforementioned subtitle faux pas). Apparently, the thing to do is not concentrate on motivation or character development, but rather on the outlandish weapons, which are central to the playing of the game. I mean, that sabre-toothed sword is so ridiculous you can’t keep your eyes off it. 

In subtitled English version and dubbed Japanese version. Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Hibiya (050-6868-5068), Toho Cinemas Nihonbashi (050-6868-5060), Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills (050-6868-5024), Toho Cinemas Shibuya (050-6868-5002), Toho Cinemas Shinjuku (050-6868-5063), Shinjuku Wald 9 (03-5369-4955), Shinjuku Piccadilly (050-6861-3011).

Monster Hunter home page in Japanese

photo (c) 2020 Constantin Film Verleih GmbH

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