Monster Hunter Director Paul W.S. Anderson Details Bringing an All-New Franchise to Life

Dating back to the earliest projects in his career, director Paul W.S. Anderson has long been [...]

Dating back to the earliest projects in his career, director Paul W.S. Anderson has long been impressing audiences with the ways in which he can bring popular video games to the big screen for thrilling experiences. Whether it be 1994's Mortal Kombat or 2002's Resident Evil, in addition to three Resident Evil sequels, many would consider Anderson to be the go-to director when it comes to tackling complex subject matter to reinvent for a new medium. The filmmaker has next set his sights on the upcoming Monster Hunter franchise, based on the video game series, which he hopes can launch his next signature series when the first film hits theaters on December 30th.

In the new film, "Behind our world, there is another: a world of dangerous and powerful monsters that rule their domain with deadly ferocity. When an unexpected sandstorm transports Lt. Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her unit (TI Harris, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta) to a new world, the soldiers are shocked to discover that this hostile and unknown environment is home to enormous and terrifying monsters immune to their firepower. In their desperate battle for survival, the unit encounters the mysterious Hunter (Tony Jaa), whose unique skills allow him to stay one step ahead of the powerful creatures. As Artemis and Hunter slowly build trust, she discovers that he is part of a team led by the Admiral (Ron Perlman). Facing a danger so great it could threaten to destroy their world, the brave warriors combine their unique abilities to band together for the ultimate showdown." recently caught up with Anderson to talk about the new film, what makes that universe so exciting, and if he could return to projects from his past.

monster hunter movie paul w s anderson interview
(Photo: Sony Pictures Releasing) You've done a number of video game films throughout your career, so for someone who might not be familiar with this world, what do you think makes the Monster Hunter franchise so exciting and worth checking out on the big screen?

Paul W.S. Anderson: I fell in love with Monster Hunter 11 years ago when I first saw it and what I fell in love with was the world that had been created. The world and the amazing creatures that inhabited this world. And I think that, for me, is the selling point for the game. It's the selling point of the movie. It's these phenomenal creatures and the epic world that they live in. It's something I'd never really seen before. I'm a big fan of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World and the dinosaurs. I like King Kong, I like Godzilla obviously, but the diablos, the rathalos, the nerscylla, these are creatures, they're the stuff of dreams and nightmares, and I was just blown away by them. And I thought, "My God, if we could take these pixelated creatures from a video game and put them on a big, big screen. Put them on an IMAX screen and make them photo-real, it's going to be just phenomenal." And that's what we went and did.

You mention how cool the monsters are, and I don't want to put you on the spot too much but I'm hoping you can settle a debate once and for all. What is the cooler monster, the greater rathalos or Ron Perlman?

Well, I don't want to really answer that question, because, of course in the movie, they go head to head and I don't want to give it away. But both of them are perfect examples of their species. They're both alpha predators. And I've got to say Ron was just a dream to work with, an absolute dream come true. I'm such a huge fan of his work. I'm a big fan of [Guillermo del Toro's] obviously, and the work he's done with him, as well, and to meet and work with Ron was just phenomenal.

The only thing that I regretted about working with Ron is right before I started working with him, he'd given up smoking cigars. And that was like, I wanted to smoke a cigar with Ron Perlman. I mean, ugh, I couldn't.

He's such a great guy to work with. He's a big man, obviously, but that played to our advantage when I had to present him with his giant ax, because obviously, a feature of Monster Hunter is all the over-sized weapons that people have to use. And the admirals, the giant ax that he uses in the movie is just, it was bigger than Ron. And when Ron picked it up for the first time, he had a few choice words for me I can tell you.

For devout fans of the Monster Hunter series, what do you think you're able to accomplish with the concept in this new medium that a game itself can't quite convey? Why do you think fans should check out the movie instead of just playing one of the games?

I think making it real. One of the things I decided very early on was if the creatures had to be computer-generated, which of course they are, because no one's going to allow me to breed and shoot giant monsters for real. If they were going to be computer-generated, I wanted absolutely everything else in the movie to be one hundred percent real. I didn't want to be in a situation where you're on the backlot of the studio against a green screen or in a green screen box, creating an environment to put CG monsters into. I wanted to bring to life the world of Monster Hunter, and that involved going to pretty much the ends of the earth. We went to some incredibly remote locations in South Africa and Namibia to go shoot the landscapes for the movie.

And that involved being hundreds of miles away from the nearest town or village, living in tent villages in either super hot or sub-zero temperatures. It was a real adventure to shoot the movie, but I think what we got out of it was we brought a world to life. It was immensely helpful for the actors because they were completely immersed in that world. And it helped the creatures as well, because the creatures are not rampaging around in a computer-generated environment. They're rampaging around in the closest we could get to the real Wildspire Wastes or the real jungle that you see in the video game.

It was very difficult to shoot and my hats off to the crew and, especially, the actors for putting up with everything I put them through, but they really delivered. I think the world we created is something really, really special. And I think if you've played the games, to see it all come to life for real, I think would be a real thrill.

I know it has been for Tsujimoto-san and Fujioka-san who are the producer and director of the game, and have been since its inception. They really felt that we were doing things that they physically couldn't do with the game. Not just in terms of the reality, but also, with the game, sometimes there's a limitation to the computing power that you can have in a video game. But obviously you have a much bigger budget, you have a wider range in movies. So there's a scene where you see a whole herd of apceros grazing. And Fujioka-san said, "This is amazing because I'd always dreamt of this, to be able to see so many of these creatures moving as a herd, but I've never been able to do it in the game." And so we were bringing his dreams to life in some ways.

You mentioned during your panel for New York Comic Con that you said everything you wanted to say with Alice in the Resident Evil films and you aren't interested in a new sequel, but since there's a TV series and an entire reboot on the horizon, if those projects reached out to you to be involved in any capacity, would you consider dipping your toes back into those waters?

I made Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, and everybody said, "Oh yeah, right. It's the final chapter. He's a bloody liar." And we made it, we called it the "Final Chapter," we made a story that brought everything to a resolution, which is what I'd always intended. And we made it the biggest and most successful of the franchise. And, for me, that was the time to walk away from it. I did what I said I was going to do and I'm immensely proud of it. And I think we did it, we achieved what we wanted to. And, for me, the last few years have been wholeheartedly putting myself into Monster Hunter because that's the next world that I would like to immerse myself in.

And, literally, I was immersed in it as well. These locations we went to, there were no flat screens. There was no cell phone. There was no internet. Half the time there was no electricity or water. It was pretty, we were in there. T.I. was like, "I've never been to a place like this," because T.I., he's a great guy, he really likes his gadgets and there weren't any. But if you had them, they didn't work.

And what I liked about it, actually, and the actors really put themselves wholeheartedly into the movie, is once they allowed me to take them to the back of beyond, these isolated locations where we shot for most of the time, we were cut off from the rest of the world. And what it did was it built a real camaraderie and team spirit that you can see in the movie, and despite how hard it was, it was a wonderful working experience.

I think much more so than when people just, they go, they shoot their stuff, and then they go back to their hotel. All living together and working together for months at a time, it was a unique filmmaking experience. And certainly for those who were playing part of a team, it really paid off, because there are two teams in the movie. There's the incursion from our worlds, which is Milla and T.I. And then there's the team from the Monster Hunter world, which is very much exactly taken from the video games from the last Monster Hunter: World.

There's the Admiral, there's Leah, there's Handler. There's one of the Palicos, they're all present and correct. And both teams, a key aspect of the game, one of the key themes of the game, and one of the key themes in the movie is that people need to cooperate. That people from different backgrounds, different cultures, even different worlds need to learn how to work together for a greater good and that's what happens in the making of the movie. And that's really the message behind the movie. And I think it's a good theme to have in a film, especially now when we live in such divisive times, when people want to close themselves off from everybody else and from other opinions. It's definitely a popcorn movie, but there is a message at the heart of it, and I'm quite proud of that message.

I know you're working on the upcoming Mimic TV series, but there's also a TV series based on Event Horizon, do you have any involvement in that project?

That's not something I'm involved in. I didn't really have any interest in returning to the world of Event Horizon. I'm immensely proud of the movie we made. And especially because when the movie was released, I felt it didn't get a fair shake. I don't think it was really perceived critically or commercially as well as I thought it could have been. And then slowly over time, it's really built a very avid following and I'm immensely proud of that. And for that reason, I didn't want to go back to the same world and ruin it for anybody.

I want to leave it alone because I'm really proud of what we did. And I want to just let that stand, because I think it's become a stronger piece of work over time. In many ways ... it's funny, the things that maybe handicapped us when we first released the movie, the fact that it doesn't tie up all the loose ends. There are ambiguities in the story, but it's something you can discuss and talk about. Those were weaknesses at the time, but I think have been strengths over time and I didn't want to go back and answer all the questions presented by the movie, you know?


Monster Hunter lands in theaters on December 30th.