Heading to UK cinemas this Friday, is the action-adventure movie, Monster Hunter. The film – directed by Paul W. S. Anderson – is based on the video game series of the same name, and tells the story of a US Army Ranger, who finds herself transported to a world in which monsters rule.
In the movie, Captain Natalie Artemis is on a mission with a UN security team. It’s business as usual until her convoy is hit by a sudden and violent storm, and the entire crew are pulled through a mysterious portal.
The team quickly discover that the portal has taken them to a new world – one filled with deadly monsters. The vicious creatures soon pick off every member of the security team, leaving Artemis as the lone survivor.
Unsure of the world around her, Artemis has to learn as much about her surroundings as possible, in the hope this will lead her home. But as she soon discovers, her best chance of survival lies in forging new friendships.
Monster Hunter stars Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa, and Ron Perlman, and arrives in the UK quite some time after it opened in other territories around the world. Both the US and China received this movie back in December 2020, and in the States, it has been available to buy on Blu-ray, DVD and digital since March.
Monster Hunter’s delayed release in the UK is because of the coronavirus – a problem that other pictures have also fell victim to. But after all of these months of waiting for its arrival, the big question is: Was it worth the wait?
The simple answer is, no, not really.
If you’ve been chomping at the bit, waiting for this movie to land in ol’ Blighty, then I am afraid you are likely to be disappointed with what’s on offer. Unless you are an uber-fan of the Monster Hunter gaming series, this is not going to thrill you all that much.
It is fair to say that Monster Hunter isn’t the worst video game adaptation out there, so that is a plus point; but it is also fair to say that it isn’t the best either. It falls somewhere in the middle, demonstrating some good ideas and a lot of potential, but missing the mark due to a woefully hollow story, and some pacing issues.
One of the biggest problems that Monster Hunter has is that it is slow. The first half of the movie has sections which are boring, and scenes which feel drawn out beyond belief.
I get that this is movie is based on a game, and some games have long sequences where characters move around in limited numbers, often doing very little, but that’s not necessarily what I want to see in a movie. This is especially true when those characters are walking around a desert, with not much to look at but sand.
Every so often, the scenes are then broken up with a bit of action, but this does nothing to stop the feeling that this is still playing out like the level of a game. And a really plodding level at that.
There is one action sequence in particular, which is so long, and so bland, it is difficult to remain focused on what’s taking place. While watching it play out, I could feel my brain shutting down the longer it went on, and on (and on).
I have no idea who thought it was a good idea to put this fight scene in the movie. I imagine someone, somewhere, saw a rough cut of this film, and said: “You know what this movie needs? A really long sequence where two characters go head-to-head. It doesn’t have to be a good fight, it just needs to be in the film. That’s what you get in computer games and that’s what audiences will want to see!”
Presumably, the same person who made this decision is the same person who suggested casting Ron Perlman in this picture, putting him in a blond wig, slapping some mutton chops on his face (a true sight to behold), and then giving him practically no screen time for the first half of the film. With the exception of an intro sequence at the start of the movie, Perlman doesn’t get any action until after the halfway point of the picture, by which time it all feels a little too late.
And speaking of the halfway point, this is where the movie switches from being mildly interesting, but slow film, to being something put together by a 12-year-old, for a 12-year-old. With the running time counting down, everything is suddenly chucked at the screen in an attempt to wrap things up, and at times there is some cringeworthy moments.
This second half of the movie also involves some ropey stunt work, some awful writing, and a piss-poor CGI humanoid cat; which no doubt means a great deal to fans of Monster Hunter, but to me just looked like… well… a piss-poor CGI humanoid cat. I believe I was supposed to like the cat, but I can tell you now, I did not like it one bit.
The good thing about the second half of the movie is that it moves much more swiftly than the first. The bad thing about the second half of the movie is that it is far less interesting than what came before.
You see, while there were times when I was bored into submission during the first half of Monster Hunter, I will happily admit that this is where all of the better stuff takes place. In fact, all of the scenes that captured my attention, were largely contained in the first 45 minutes of the film.
The initial encounter with the monsters was good; the use of lighting in some of the early scenes was noticeably quite strong; and there was a very creepy scene involving monster eggs. I also found myself enjoying Milla Jovovich’s performance, and felt that from the very beginning of the movie, she was the one character I liked, and without her, I would have been even less engaged.
In total, there is about 30 minutes of decent material in this film, and that stops Monster Hunter from being a failure. But I do feel that this whole picture is somewhat of a missed opportunity, which perhaps relies a little too heavy on its visuals, and hopes you will overlook the threadbare story.
If you like the Monster Hunter games then I am sure you will find something enjoyable here, but for everyone else, this is mostly forgettable stuff. It is fine to watch, but I expect it to come and go very quickly at the cinema, perhaps finding a better home on a streaming service – which is arguably where it should have gone earlier in the year.