"Monster Hunter" has a plot and characters only a video game from the early 2000s could respect. This is a movie so stupid, that by the time the talking cat pirate shows up, you won't even think twice.
A good video game doth not maketh a good movie. Just ask, well, pretty much every video game movie ever made save for this year's "Sonic the Hedgehog." Milla Jovovich is one of the most underrated action stars of her generation, and is herself no stranger to video game movies...she has starred in all of the "Resident Evil" films, and now stars as Artemis in "Monster Hunter," the latest video game to be adapted for the big...well, small screen (or big-screen wherever movie theaters or Drive-Ins happen to be open). Her real-life husband, Paul W.S. Anderson (not to be confused with "The Master" director Paul Thomas Anderson) is back to direct her in "Monster Hunter," after also directing her in the "Resident Evil" films.
For those unaware, "Monster Hunter" was first a game for the PS2, released back in 2004, with it's over-riding premise right there in the title. The film is a non-stop action farce, where Artemis leaps, jumps, shoots and punches different monsters (and sometimes other humans) as explosions and CG rage behind her.
The thin plot feels like a video game and is as simple as one: You've been transported to a parallel realm full of monsters and other bad creatures, and you need to find your way home. There is sparse dialogue and when characters do manage to talk, they are shouting out one-liners or explaining the next mission at hand (much like you'd get from some NPC - non-player characters - in any RPG video game).
Artemis - a military woman through and through - teams up with a lone desert marauder simply known as "The Hunter" (Tony Jaa) and the two commence to first fight each other, then monsters, with a lengthy training sequence sandwiched in-between. They eventually reunite The Hunter with his old sand-ship Admiral, known as, well, Admiral (Ron Pearlman), who gives the only coherent story context you'll find. They need to travel to a tower that acts as the bridge between two worlds and they need to avoid the big bad and nearly indestructible dragon that is guarding the way.
I must say, watching the entire dragon sequence was pretty cool...it's not every day you get to see a massive creature taking on a fleet of military planes. The CG and effects in this portion of the film are top-notch and mostly exhilarating. But the non-stop slog of generic action leading up to this moment is quite disappointing. There's no real purpose. This movie is equivalent to a douche-bag you might see on the road, who just revs and over-revs their motorcycle motor, probably compensating for some other short-coming. "Monster Hunter" is all rev and no horse-power.
Some may call this "dumb fun" but I'd key in on the first of these words. Sometimes you need to call a spade a spade, and "Monster Hunter" is just dumb. It's also just another chapter in the sad story of video game adaptations...so obsessed with pleasing the fans of the source material that it sometimes forgets to try to maximize what it can be as a different form of media. I suspect that those looking for "mindless" action or an escape from the troubles of today may not mind "Monster Hunter," but that doesn't make it good.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy.
Run Time: 1 hour 39 minutes.
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa, T.I.
Based on the "Monster Hunter" video games by Kaname Fujioka.
Written and Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (the "Resident Evil" films, "Death Race," "Alien vs. Predator").
"Monster Hunter" is available on Friday, December 18th, 2020.
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