With the dust barely settled from King Kong and Godzilla’s blockbuster brawl earlier in the year, another brand new monster movie is upon us. Monster Hunter sees Director Paul W. S. Anderson bring to life the Capcom game series of the same name for the big screen. His wife Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element, Resident Evil) once again stars as his leading lady, but can this marriage of cinematic creatives make this particular game-to-film adaptation a success?
The film gets off to a shaky start, literally, throwing audiences straight into the action. Set in the New World – a large, pirate ship-like vessel cruises over the sands of a desert like the waves of an ocean, only to be attacked by a monster lurking below the surface. Whilst this may sound like an entertaining opening sequence, and on paper it is, the execution of it leaves a lot to be desired. What should have been a thrilling opening ends up being a largely unwatchable mess due to the frantic editing, shaky cam and poor lighting. Instead of intriguing viewers about this new and exciting fantasy world and whetting their appetites for more, this scene only serves as a confusing and unengaging introduction to a world that hardly gets explored.
This is the moment that should really have set the scene for the rest of the movie, but instead it’s the scene that follows which does most of this heavy lifting. We are introduced to Jovovich’s character, US Army Ranger Captain Natalie Artemis and her team as they search for a missing group of soldiers. In doing so they are transported to the New World, putting themselves in immediate danger. The team must survive the threats of the large monsters that roam free and try to figure out just where they are and how to get back to their own world. So Monster Hunter begins with this quite simple premise, and for a long time it doesn’t deviate from it. Simplicity when it comes to narrative is no bad thing, however when everything else supporting this narrative is so weak, it’s then that problems arise, and Monster Hunter has an abundance of them.
Before most of the cast become monster food, they quickly demonstrate how little chemistry they have with each other. The performances across the board are bad, with Jovovich and Ron Pearlman being the main offenders. Pearlman phones it in so badly here, his line delivery is incredibly forced making it a pain to watch his character engage in conversation with any other and his costume design, hair and makeup makes him look like a reject from Cats. This forced line delivery isn’t helped by the fact that the dialogue written in the screenplay is some of the most cliched, regurgitated drivel that’s been heard in some time.
“Who watches a monster movie for the human characters though?” I hear you protest. Surely as long as the monster action delivers, it’s all good? Spoiler alert: the monster action does not deliver. Unfortunately due to the premise of the film, the genre expectations and the unoriginality of the sequences featured, the monster set-pieces just don’t do enough to satisfy viewers. When compared to its genre competition, such as the aforementioned Godzilla vs. Kong and the likes of Jurassic World and Pacific Rim, the monster designs just don’t measure up. Now no film has to be the best of its genre for it to be enjoyable; however, it does take a bit of the awe and spectacle away from the proceedings, when it can’t quite compete with those that have come before it. Furthermore, there’s a certain creativity lacking from the sequences themselves and on occasions the monsters aren’t even able to be viewed in their full glory, being obscured by the elements or the surrounding environment. There’s also a lack of variety in the amount of monsters featured, with some barely getting any screen time at all. When we’ve just seen the Dylan O’Brien-led Love and Monsters as well, it’s hard not to compare.
However, after a number of sequences of Milla vs Monsters, the film decides to introduce some form of a more detailed and focused narrative, alongside a host of new characters. Although, this arrives only moments before the third act and therefore feels like it comes from left-field. This bizarre choice only further contributes to the odd pacing and absence of any real momentum for the film or story. This strange timing, combined with the average-to-poor monster action, results in the film really failing to achieve any successful world-building, meaning for those who are experiencing this location for the first time it won’t be somewhere that they’ll want to revisit any time soon. Even the score, which when listened to in isolation is unquestionably good, just doesn’t suit the film. Paul Haslinger’s musical arrangements would have felt more at home in a futuristic, technology-driven setting rather than the vast and barren one that our characters find themselves in.
Even if Monster Hunter was the first film of its genre, it still wouldn’t have anything to recommend it. It needs to give viewers something to connect with and it fails to do this on literally every level. Jovovich is a seasoned leading performer, but even she can’t hold the entire weight of this blockbuster on her own shoulders, and the help that she receives from her co-stars doesn’t even make a dent in what would be required. A diabolical script, awful pacing, terrible performances, average-at-best monster action and a story constructed and told with little-to-no thought, all ensure that Monster Hunter is a misfire of monstrous proportions.