Of all the movies to essentially be stuck in the limbo where most folks will not see it in theaters, Monster Hunter is perhaps one of those most affected. The film, written for the screen and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and starring Milla Jovovich as Captain Artemis and Tony Jaa as The Hunter, is nearly all spectacle and no substance. Without the framing of a giant screen and booming speakers, there is little meat left on the bone of a movie ostensibly about hunting monsters.
The plot sees Captain Artemis and her crew of soldiers drawn into the world of Capcom's video game franchise Monster Hunter. There's no reason to get attached to any of these people, however, as they are quickly sidelined in favor of having Artemis and The Hunter learning to survive together against foes far larger than them. Once they've done that, they keep doing that. Wash, rinse, repeat.
It's clear from the start that the main focus is on the film's monsters, and with a name like "Monster Hunter," that makes a lot of sense. At its core, it's a basic fish-out-of-water tale with trappings from the game franchise with nothing truly meaningful to say beyond that. As someone casually familiar with the video game franchise, it is admittedly exciting to see Diablos and Rathalos sometimes literally light up scenes, but the action itself of taking on these impressive beasts rings hollow at nearly every turn. There are only so many times you can watch Jovovich slice at the scales of a giant dragon before you ask, "What are you even doing?"
As stated before, a smaller screen does the movie no favors and only serves to make it immediately apparent that the whole film takes place across four or five different relatively uninteresting locales. With so much sand and desert, by the end of the movie, I was left with the somewhat bizarre impression that the single horrific location was the one where I would have liked to have spent more time. This despite the fact that it featured only small to mid-sized critters.
While Jaa does admirably with what he is given to do -- there is a brief scene where Artemis runs out of chocolate after giving some to The Hunter, and the look Jaa gives Jovovich is priceless -- the movie does him a disservice. The brief bits where Jaa is able to show off some martial arts are cut together in such a way to obfuscate much of what is actually happening rather than relying on impressive choreography, which is a shame.
The movie also just… doesn't end. They defeat a monster, overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, only to then find that there is another, more dangerous monster behind it, sometimes immediately. This, in part, seems to stem from the fact that the video game franchise's hunts just continue on once the latest and greatest is beaten in equal measure to the fact that Anderson and crew were absolutely dropping every possible hint they could at wanting to continue Monster Hunter as a franchise.
Monster Hunter ultimately flirts with being an absolutely fine movie while just managing to miss the mark. It's not going to change hearts and minds, but seeing a military convoy try to take on Diablos and others is exactly as thrilling as it sounds. It just lacks the attention to detail that, say, Pacific Rim has to its world and characters. By the end of the film, I didn't really understand why I was supposed to care about anyone still left alive beyond the fact that they remained on the screen. Monster Hunter is the energy drink of movies; a quick shock of energy followed mostly by a headache.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Monster Hunter is scheduled to release in theaters in the United States later this week on December 18th. You can check out all of our previous coverage of the upcoming movie right here.