Review by Sean Boelman
The track record of video game movies is mixed at best, but the Resident Evil franchise managed to be an enjoyable guilty pleasure despite its flaws. Filmmaker Paul W.S. Anderson reunites with wife and star Milla Jovovich for Monster Hunter, and while there is a fun movie in here, it gets too caught up in trying to start a franchise to truly work.
Based on the video game by Capcom, the film follows a military squadron who get mysteriously transported to another world where they find themselves fighting for survival against giant monsters. It’s ridiculous — mostly just a bunch of big guns shooting at even bigger monsters — but the unabashed energy it has is admittedly quite charming.
The first hour or so, featuring the soldiers fighting against their otherworldly foes, is a ton of fun to watch. Blending horror and action in a way that is consistently entertaining and with a breakneck pace that basically forces the movie to be unpredictable, this is exactly what audiences will be coming to the movie to see.
Perhaps the most unexpected thing about this film is that it is almost better without world-building. The movie is at its best when the audience is right along with the characters, disoriented in this world. However, when the backstory is introduced, it becomes clear that Anderson is more concerned with setting up a sequel than delivering a great standalone film.
That isn’t to say that the movie doesn’t have some legitimately enjoyable moments. In fact, the entire first act is absolutely off-the-walls and features some imagery that is so disturbing, one wonders how this ever got a PG-13 rating. But when the nonstop action begins to slow down, it will lose the audience’s interest.
One of the more disappointing things about the film is that it fails to take advantage of the resources at its disposal. Martial artist Tony Jaa has a prominent supporting role, but apart from a handful of shots that feel like an afterthought, his skills aren’t really used. The movie definitely could have been even more fun with some more physical combat.
Still, one thing is made abundantly clear by this, and that is the fact that Milla Jovovich is still an action star with the ability to carry a film on her own. Some of the best scenes are those in which she is fighting the monsters one-on-one. Even if her delivery of the dialogue isn’t the best, she is great in the action sequences.
Monster Hunter is half of a good movie, the other half sadly feeling more like a cash-grab than anything else. Still, even if the attempts to start a franchise will be futile, there’s enough creature action here to make it a solid popcorn movie.
Monster Hunter opens in theaters on December 18.