Review by Stephanie Chin
Based on the gaming global phenomenon, director Paul W. S. Anderson has adapted another video game franchise with his talented wife, Milla Jovovich to the big screen.
Previously having worked together on film series Resident Evil, also based on the popular game franchise of the same name, the pair breathe life and live-action vibes into Monster Hunter. The film is a welcome fresh entry in an otherwise incredibly quiet and dried-up time for cinema, with many films being pushed back and rescheduled due to the unprecedented global pandemic. Happily filling up the action-fantasy void that has been left vacant for months, Monster Hunter is surprisingly entertaining, although a far from perfect kaiju film.
The world itself that Anderson introduces us to is visually impressive. You can tell the film spared no expense with its production. For many fans of the global gaming franchise, there are many scenes, characters and backdrops shown in the film adaptation that provide respectful references. However, like Anderson’s adaptation of Resident Evil, the Monster Hunter film takes many of the flesh and bones from the gaming franchise, while also building a unique story with new characters. This is so that those who aren’t familiar with the video games are still able to consume the film without confusion due to a lack of context and prior game knowledge. I found this approach with adapting Monster Hunter quite clever, but at the same time, this is not something that film director Paul W. S. Anderson hasn’t done before.
Stunning model and talented actress Milla Jovovich is introduced as United States Army Captain Natalie Artemis who, along with her squad while searching for missing soldiers, is sucked up into a portal and is transferred to the New World – known to many as the Monster Hunter world. While I do enjoy Jovovich as an actress, I found her character Artemis not necessarily all that likable. Her character is rude with no remorse., which makes her hard to root for. I admittedly did not care as much as I believe I should have, regarding her character’s survival.
The script starts off terribly in the beginning when Artemis’ squad are showing ridiculous banter that is something to be expected out of an awfully bad 90s action movie. But it improves immensely when we are introduced to The Hunter, played by the incredibly talented Thai martial artist and actor, Tony Jaa. The Hunter speaks a different language to Artemis, and so naturally the film focuses more on their communication through their body language and actions rather than dialogue. This is something that I thoroughly enjoyed. Despite not speaking the same language on-screen, both Jaa and Jovovich have an electric and dynamic chemistry together, which honestly made Jovovich’s character Artemis just a little more likeable.
Is it a bad film? Well, no. There’s excellent fight choreography and action sequences, the design of the monsters and the way that the special effects make them come to life is insane, and the costuming and overall whole world setting of Monster Hunter is a colourful and aesthetically pleasing feast for the eyes.
So why is the film not perfect? The bad cringy one-liners at the beginning of the film are extremely unnecessary and let the film down when things are just getting stated, having a main character who isn’t really likeable isn’t that great for any film, and the introduction of character Admiral played by Ron Perlman, who can communicate with Artemis in English, honestly destroys everything that was previously built regarding the language barrier and connection between Artemis and Hunter.
While Admiral is a known NPC in the game franchise, what entails on-screen is a directorial decision that I just don’t agree with and if anything – it cheapens the otherwise promising storyline immensely. The film also seems to be more about Jovovich’s character than about the Monster Hunter world itself. I wanted to explore and be exposed more to the Monster Hunter world and believe that there could have easily been better a balance with the NPC characters having more dialogue. I’m sure many were disappointed that Japanese actress Hirona Yamazaki barely had any line, if at all, as Monster Hunter NPC character, Handler.
Despite my criticism, I still enjoyed Monster Hunter. I went in with no expectations and was thoroughly entertained. Although Milla Jovovich has always been excellent at portraying strong yet still very feminine female characters on-screen, it is actually Thai talent Tony Jaa that is the standout of this feature with his heartfelt and fierce performance.
While I am certain Monster Hunter will gain a mixed reception from existing fans of the popular game franchise, I believe that it will still inspire those who haven’t played before to pick up the games, design their own character, befriend their own Palico and jump into the Monster Hunter world themselves. And if this movie does inspire people to do just that, then it has done its job. If you are curious about seeing Monster Hunter, it is definitely worth checking out on the big screen.
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