For anyone that’s listening, I’m a fan of Paul W.S. Anderson. He put a Black woman up against a xenomorph, created a portal to hell in space, blew up the gaming world with the Resident Evil franchise, and now he’s got mama’s favourite thing – monsters – up on the big screen with the film adaptation of Capcom’s best-selling game, Monster Hunter.
U.S. Armed Forces Captain Artemis (Mila Jovovich) is leading her crew on a search for their B team. They’ve disappeared in the desert with no trace except a few bullet shells. When a weird sandstorm bears down on them, they are transported to another dimension, a world of harsh terrain and unimaginable monsters. Artemis and her team are pulled into a life or death situation and battle the creatures as they get picked off one by one. Her only saving grace is an archer she calls Hunter (Tony Jaa), who has himself survived being tossed off a sand ship after being attacked by this crab/bull/behemoth creature. After a rocky start, they join forces to battle creatures, get to safety and possibly get Artemis home.
Monster Hunter is an action film through and through. You’ve got martial arts pro Tony Jaa with his signature moves, brilliantly choreographed fights (hats off to Jovovich for keeping up blow for blow), and monsters. The crew of soldiers hosts some familiar faces like Meagan Good, rapper T.I., Diego Boneta, and Jin Au-Yeung. They sadly don’t last long in the film, but at least they represent the proper makeup of who lives in and serves America, and there are more POC in the film to balance things out, plus a statuesque Ron Perlman to slice and dice warrior-style.
The creature design is marvellous, with tons of bits and bobs to make you ooh and ahh at their exoskeletons and menacing eyes. I was concerned that I would end up rooting for monsters instead of humans (which usually happens), but the creepy crawlies are sufficiently grotesque enough not to elicit sympathy until we get to my beloved dragons. Unfortunately, as a game player, one has to deal with creatures of mass destruction in the worst way possible.
I know nothing about the game, but Anderson is an expert as a fan since 2008. He’s always had Monster Hunter: World in mind for a film, and he’s infused the game’s basic play with his own story. Like most video game plots, you’re usually trying to use your weapons, ingenuity and team to get out of a sticky situation, so there’s nothing new there, but look out for the excellent camera work and design. With the support of Capcom, Toho Studios and tons of work behind the scenes, Monster Hunter will be the start of a beautiful relationship for those craving for a new franchise to follow. So get a big bowl of popcorn, suspend your disbelief (this is a video game adaptation, after all) and enjoy the one hour and forty-three-minute ride.
Monster Hunter opens in select theatres Friday, December 18.