Films adapted from video games have a long history of disappointment. There are success stories like Paul WS AndersonResident Evil (2003) and its later franchise, but most can’t find the balance to take a game to a new medium. If you care too much for the players, you risk alienating newcomers to your world. However, if you do too little broadcast, you are likely to upset the fans who made the game a hit in the first place. Monster hunter is Anderson’s third attempt at a video game adaptation – he also directed Mortal Kombat in 1995 – and while it looks like it avoids those two pitfalls for a while, the damn thing ends right before a third act even begins can.
A large wooden schooner sails across a sea of sand with a colorful crew on board and an army of monsters. The Admiral (Ron Perlman) and the hunter (Tony Yeah) fight, but the ship is beaten crooked and the hunter is thrown overboard. One title screen later and we’re all in another desert together. A military force led by Lt. Artemis (Jovovich mile) is on a rescue mission for the United Nations looking for a team that recently went missing. They get caught in a hell of a storm and when the sand settles they are in a world full of monsters. A large digging beast and angry arachnid army tear the squad apart, but a team with the hunter sees the tide turn … at least temporarily.
As far as as good as monsters, hunters, and some well-crafted fast-moving action stands out and lifts Monster Hunter into the realm of goofy but entertaining action. Anderson and longtime collaborator (and wife) Jovovich continue to complement each other, and the film initially serves as a good introduction to the world that raised its head as a game for the Playstation 2 in 2004. The CG creatures look amazing and deliver tons of thrills, but where the movie stumbles is all in terms of story detail.
Anderson’s script brings the different characters together, but not only does not offer any central antagonist other than the various monsters, but also no explanation of what causes this rift between the worlds or why. Act two of the film – characters grappling with their situation, preparing to fight the bugs, fighting for survival – takes far too long, leaving only a few minutes for the traditional third act. A handful of story details are thrown into the mix very late in the film, one arrives so ridiculously late in the form of a scene embedded in the credits that time is running out and ends on an unfinished note. The setup for a sequel is obvious and at the expense of Monster Hunter to make a full and satisfying story.
While on the whole the film is a bit overwhelming due to the lack of it, it nonetheless offers more than enough entertainment and thrills to keep you engaged over its 99 minutes. The action and effects are impressive in both size and frequency as monsters keep things moving all the time. The spiders bring some level of creepiness with them in one scene too – a soldier discovers that some newly hatched baby spiders are popping out of his skin inside his body – and provides a certain PG-13 rudeness. That rating rules out anything that stands in the way of bloody blood, but while this is a disappointment for fans of Anderson’s Resident Evil work, it fits the game’s demographics better.
Jovovich and Jaa share a few brawls too, and they have enough skirmishes, even if they get a little too annoying at times. The pair make a pretty dazzling team despite not speaking each other’s language, and that leaves the film with some long, dialogue-free sections. Action fills a lot of it, but there is also time for character beats here and there as the two try to teach and learn from each other. They connect through a Hershey bar, joke about using each other as bait, and of course share a training montage – we need a montage! There are highlights as they interact with the beasts in their team building exercises and use the big ass sword of Hunter. It’s harmless, silly at times, and fun to work towards the action beats to come, and you can’t help but wish it all had more than an abrupt ending.
The film is undoubtedly looking good, as Anderson and cinematographer Glen MacPherson take full advantage of some beautiful and huge South African filming locations. With epic sand dunes and memorable rock formations, it convinces as a strange landscape. While Jovovich and Jaa are arguably the co-leads, the supporting cast is mostly designed to be unforgettable. The exception, as is often the case, is a hairy Perlman who manages to be both evil and weird. If you don’t smile every time he comes on screen, you are either a humorless sucker or literally dead.
Monster Hunter is at times a mixture of films like “The Land That Time Forgot” (1974), “Aliens” (1986) and “Stargate” (1994) with modern CG effects and action films. There is also a foretaste of the Bonkers world, in which everything unfolds – seriously, the two-legged, human-sized cat who works as a ship’s cook deserves its own film – that makes you want more. However, it’s just unfair for non-gamer viewers who can’t fill in the blanks with prior knowledge and have the right to expect a full story instead of getting caught on a giant hook and waiting for a sequel that may never arrive .