Sometimes, films are unjustly judged. Other times, popular opinion needs to be challenged. Either way, our review of Monster Hunter will almost definitely be Unpopularity Content.
Film adaptations of video games don’t typically enjoy very good reputations. Though there are some good video game movies, usually the translation of a popular game into a less interactive format sees something get lost. With a franchise as sprawling as the Monster Hunter series, this much was always bound to be true.
After their collaboration on multiple Resident Evil movies, husband and wife duo Paul W. S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich combined their talents once more. Jovovich stars as Captain Artemis, an Army Ranger who finds herself transported to a strange world filled with deadly monsters. Anderson served as writer and director, with Ron Perlman, Clifford “T.I.” Harris, and Tony Jaa rounding out the film’s tight cast.
Admittedly, we’re not experts (or knowledgeable at all) on the video game franchise. However, part of making a good video game movie is being able to adapt to make the narrative work for newcomers. So, how does the film stack up for someone who has no previous experience with the source material? Not great, as it turns out.
Monster Hunter Sacrifices A Coherent Story To Focus On Its Visuals
In many ways, Monster Hunter is a visually striking film. Set predominantly in a seemingly endless and harsh desert, the film visually demonstrates just how isolated its characters are. Its monsters are also brilliantly realized, brought to life with appropriately convincing and occasionally arresting CGI. It’s hard not to appreciate the film’s dedication to its bleak and stark aesthetic.
The problem is that there’s no real context for any of it. The two main characters are unable to speak with one another, meaning that there’s barely a single crumb of exposition until the third act (by then, it’s far too late). Monster Hunter‘s narrative is piecemeal, and though it tells a passable story through its visuals, it simply isn’t enough.
Monster Hunter’s Action Is Good, But Still Rings Hollow
For a film like Monster Hunter, everything hinges on the action. In fairness, the sequences themselves are well-constructed, with Jovovich yet again proving that she deserves to be considered one of the world’s foremost action stars. However, much like with the film’s visuals, it’s all undermined by the lack of any coherent story.
The thing is, practically every narrative development the film makes feels like utter nonsense. The characters have no way to understand one another, but they somehow work as a perfect team. Despite being unable to share a conversation, one somehow manages to train the other (in a fleeting montage that feels every bit as cheesy as a Rocky movie). With very little explanation of how Monster Hunter‘s world works, it’s hard to feel anything particular about its story (or apparent lack thereof).
It’s clear that the film was crafted with a certain amount of care and attention. It’s also clear that those involved (particularly Jovovich) were more than up to the challenge. What isn’t clear is just how Monster Hunter ever made it past test screenings in such a state of near-total incomprehensibility. Call us old fashioned, but we sort of like it when films have proper plots, not just a blur of desert-based action sequences starring colossal CGI beasts.
Summary: Monster Hunter tries valiantly to adapt its beloved source material, but is held back by sparse dialogue and only the barest bones of a story.
Highlight: The monsters themselves appear to be meticulously crafted. A little more information about them would have been nice, but at least they were given names.