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October 2021

Monster Hunter (Movie)

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Screen Gems
Release Date: Dec. 18, 2020


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Movie Review - 'Monster Hunter'

by Adam Pavlacka on Dec. 18, 2020 @ 8:32 a.m. PST

When Lt. Artemis and her loyal soldiers are transported to a new world, they engage in a desperate battle for survival against enormous enemies with incredible powers.

After years of success with "Resident Evil" films, director and producer Paul W. S. Anderson has taken a turn with another Capcom property, bringing "Monster Hunter" to the big screen for the first time. Similar to the original "Resident Evil" film, "Monster Hunter" pulls inspiration from the games but doesn’t directly parallel the events of them, instead choosing to introduce a new character from Earth to setup the plot.

The story kicks off as Captain Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her team of Army Rangers are searching for a missing unit. A massive storm comes out of nowhere, transporting them to an unknown new world. For the first 15 minutes or so, it seems as if the movie is going to center on this diverse crew of rangers, but they’re quickly shown to be out of their element. After an encounter with some spider-like creatures (and side dish of body horror), Artemis is rather quickly on her own.

It’s here that "Monster Hunter" goes all-in on the fish-out-of-water trope, with the bulk of the film consisting of Artemis and the Hunter (Tony Jaa) meeting up and learning to get along. Their initial conflict seems to be more of an excuse to show off Jaa’s martial arts ability than any real plot reason. But hey, you’re not here for the deep story, right?

This is something that you have to accept with "Monster Hunter," as there are a handful of plot incongruities throughout. For example, in one scene, the two walk away from their survival gear after a storm. In the next scene, they’re at a new location, complete with a fully setup camp. Where did all the new gear come from? It must be video game magic. Perhaps someone bought the campsite DLC during production.

Most of the interaction between Jaa and Jovovich is well done, with the exception of what looks like a Hershey’s ad in the middle of the film. Product placement is usually a bit more subtle.

The Hunter quickly takes on a teacher role, showing Artemis how to survive, and getting her trained up so the two of them can work together to take out larger creatures. It’s a trope that’s been used before, but to Anderson’s credit, Artemis isn’t the random savior of the Hunter or the New World. She’s obviously out of her element here, looking more like a raw recruit than an elite Army Ranger. Although Jovovich is nominally the star, it’s Jaa who shines and ends up feeling more like the lead character whenever the two are featured.

Aside from Jaa, the other actor who stood out is Ron Perlman as the Admiral, who is woefully underused. Captain of a motley crew of hunters, he captains what looks like a pirate ship that sails over the sand dunes of the New World. Seen briefly in the prologue, and then again at the climax of the film, it’s the Admiral and his crew that stuck with me after the movie. The set and costume design here was much more creative than anywhere else in the film, and the Admiral is the only one who (briefly) hints at some of the deeper lore within. Had this been solely a story about the Admiral and his crew (of which the Hunter is a part), it probably would have been a more coherent plot. Perhaps, we’ll see that in the sequel.

That’s right; the movie ending is heavy on the sequel bait. The final battle between Artemis and the “boss” dragon is surprisingly short. If this were a game, it’d be a basic OTE sequence instead of a multi-part boss fight. It’s not until the threat is dispatched, that we see the "real" threat approaching, our heroes ready, and BOOM cut to black. Again, the rough story is the weakest part of the film, with the ending here feeling somewhat like the abrupt end to Halo 2.

If you can ignore the issues with the plot, there is an enjoyable action film here. Like I mentioned earlier, Jaa shines, and Anderson allows the choreography a bit of space to breathe. He still loves his quick cuts, but he’s cut back (no pun intended) on their use with "Monster Hunter."

In the end, "Monster Hunter" isn’t quite on the level of the original "Mortal Kombat" or "Resident Evil" films, but it’s also no "Street Fighter." It’s a competent action flick that would be perfectly at home on Netflix, or a cable movie channel. The lore teases with the Admiral also hint at a deeper story that sounds more promising than what we saw here. I’d come back for a sequel with this crew.

Score: 6.5/10

"Monster Hunter" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 1 hours and 39 minutes. It is showing in local theaters where they are open.

Editor’s note: A promotional tie-in quest is currently available in Monster Hunter: World. Players can assume the role of Artemis and fight the monsters featured in the film.

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