★★★ out of ★★★★★
Monsters! The rest of the movie is a mess, but man those monsters are cool!
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
This is a movie about monsters. It’s also a movie about Ron Perlman’s hair and Tony Jaa’s fingers, but it’s mostly about monsters.
Writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson returns with his wife of 12 years, Milla Jovovich [the Resident Evil film series (2002 – 2016)], for yet another Capcom video game-to-movie adaptation. This time, the duo take on the Monster Hunter video game franchise that’s been a constant in the Capcom lineup since 2004.
Full disclosure, I’ve never played any of the Monster Hunter games. From what I understand, superfans of that series could probably add an extra half-★ (maybe even a full ★) to the film’s rating for all the good references, nods, characters, etc. pulled from the game series. Everything from outfits, weapons, and hair styles — with the possible exception of Ron Perlman‘s ridiculous wig — to the sand ship and the world it sails through matches up perfectly with the games. For the rest of us, though, the non-monster parts of Monster Hunter are kind of a hot mess.
The movie spends a lot of time trying to figure out if it wants to be a character driven movie with monsters in it or a monster movie that happens to also have people in it, and it never does make up its mind. Consequently, we lose out on what could’ve been more time with the monsters due to several less-than-successful attempts to get into the heads of “The Hunter” [Tony Jaa; Triple Threat (2019)] and Lieutenant Artemis (played by Ms. Jovovich).
Story-wise, Monster Hunter suffers a similar fate. Is this a straight-up action fest where story doesn’t matter or is it an epic tale of protecting multiple worlds from the runaway inventions of a long-dead civilization? It’s both! Kinda. Or, at least, it waffles between the two options as the film rolls on and sorta fumbles its way into a somewhat coherent story.
But, hey! Monsters!
Let’s be honest. We’re really only watching the movie for the monsters, anyway. And, holy smokes what monsters they are! It’s obvious right from the start that no expense was spared in the digital effects department. Scenes with Diablos (sort of a gigantic burrowing gila monster with horns) and Rathalos (your basic fire-breathing dragon) are without a doubt some of the most detailed and well animated CG work I’ve ever seen in a monster movie. Add to that the desperately underutilized sand ship cutting through the dunes and the effects in Monster Hunter are definitely a sight to behold.
If you’re a fan of the Monster Hunter game franchise, you seriously need to see this movie. This is a movie made by a fan (Paul W.S. Anderson has reportedly played through many games in the series), for the fans, in conjunction with consultants from the game developer itself. They took the time to replicate the in-game world down to the smallest detail and it shows.
If you’d never heard of the Monster Hunter games before this movie came out but you love monster movies and/or enjoy watching Milla be a badass, you should also see this movie. Just maybe wait a tick for it not to cost $20 to stream it.
In either case, don’t mind the inconsistent pacing and whatever other flaws Monster Hunter might have and just revel in the monstery goodness.
Monster Hunter is currently in theaters and is available for streaming from Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and other major streaming services.
Review by Robert Zilbauer.