Monster Hunter: The BRWC Review. By Alif Majeed.
In a parallel universe like the one where Milla Jovovich gets swooped into, Monster Hunter was destined to get terrible reviews, a middling haul at the US box office while ending up making its money worldwide. But in the post covid world, it is already riding the infamy wave because of some unfortunate dialogue choices that further limits its run.
Paul WS Anderson is back with another adaptation of a video games series after milking the Resident Evil series to the ground. Whether it matches our expectations is another story.
Speaking of story, it is relatively simple. When Captain Natalie Artemis (Milla Jovovich) falls through a portal with her team in a world filled with monsters, she has to team up with a mysterious hunter (Tony Jaa) to get back to her world. Now, how many times have you heard that plotline? It is a movie riddled with stock troupes right from the beginning, even though it was under active development for quite a while, giving the makers a chance enough time to expand on the game’s mythology.
The sad thing is Paul WS Anderson seems to be a genuine fan of the game series rather than someone who went in trying to make a quick buck after the video game Monster Hunter: World became an acclaimed hit worldwide a couple of years ago.
But as a movie, he tips his hat to everything he loves and then maybe some to things he does not. You can immediately recognize various tributes to Predator, Aliens, Lord of the Rings, body horror movies like the Thing, and even his own movies.
Unlike those movies, there are hardly any memorable characters in the film. When the primary crew is killed off within 3 seconds of the movie’s opening, that would be a tad hard. When Milla Jovovich does meets other humans in the monster verse, they are quickly forgotten as they are just a plot convenience to help her get to the portal and the next plot point.
You also have characters who are just there as fan service, like the Meowscular Chef character, which works well as a video game character but seems pretty jarring and out of place here. That is a significant problem it has in common with many video game movies. They have multiple scenes and characters who are just there as fan service instead of telling a reasonably good yarn. That might still work but not when they are shoehorned in by force, which happens here. And the makers also stop short of going all out as they are holding back for the sequel, leaving many things unanswered.
Ron Perlman (looking disinterested throughout) exemplifies it, perhaps waiting to go all out for any sequel that might never happen. Fans of the series might recognize him as the Admiral, but a layperson might wonder why he dresses up in a hybrid animal costume. During the ending scene, I realized that maybe they were also gunning for the Christopher Lambert character in Mortal Kombat, one of the better-received video game movies, with an ending that is a direct rip off to that movie.
The “Chi-knees” scene that is causing much furor online for its racial implications was absent from the version I saw, but the line feels pretty groan-inducing, as does much of the film’s dialogues.
The good thing about Monster Hunter is that it moves at a rapid-fire pace that doesn’t allow you much breathing space but makes you aware of its potholes. The creatures and set design are pretty decent, and there are a couple of scenes that have some excellent jumps scares. If only Paul Anderson curbed the temptation to use the Samuel Jackson Deep Blue Sea peekaboo moments, which he keeps repeating throughout its short run time.
Tony Jaa is arguably one of the best action actors out there, but filmmakers still find it hard to use him properly. The clean camera moments where the audience can see what he is doing made him famous with his Ong Bak and Protector movies. But since his comeback after his self-imposed exile, the filmmakers still shoots his scenes in a hazardous way where you can’t figure out what he is doing at any point.
Milla Jovovich also proves once again why she would be a shoo-in for a female Expendables movie. As a character, she has a lot to do, and though it ultimately amounts to mostly nothing, she is very believable and reliable in the action scenes as usual.
But the way she and Tony Jaa lose their initial hostility and join forces and move on to their mandatory training montage that lasts precisely one morning is the epitome of forced platonic chemistry.
Despite all the myriad problems plaguing the movie and none of which relates to pun-inducing dialogues, it entertains on an elementary level. That is because Monster Hunter delivers exactly what it promises. Even though that is very little in the end.
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