Movie Review: ‘Monster Hunter’

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa, Ron Pearlman

Plot: A US Army Ranger falls through a portal into a monster world.

Review: Yeah, that’s pretty much the story. You’re going to find the finale pretty jarring because up until that part nothing much has happened. The best thing I can say about the script is that it could have been inspired by Mad Max: Fury Road. Except in this case the world-building is derailed by the world being boring the lore being written in crayon.

US Army Ranger Captain Artemis – that joke wasn’t funny or clever when Ernest Cline did it either – is played by Milla Jovovich, and this being one of her husband’s movies means that it’s written to her strengths. The movie doesn’t start with her, though, we start with Tony Jaa and Ron Pearlman are on a boat sailing through a desert and getting attacked by a monster. If you have any questions about this, tough shit, you won’t get any answers until the end of the movie. Then we go to Artemis and some soldiers driving in a desert where they get hit by a storm and taken to the monster dimension.

Initially I thought the character work was pretty slim. Of the soldiers we learn that one has a family, one likes music and one is a tracker type. It turns out that this was proportionally a lot of time spent on character when they all get eaten by spiders within 20 minutes. Artemis died in this scene, by the way. They perform CBR and administer first aid. But then she isn’t dead. This is never discussed or explained. She is also a Character, having a ring inscribed with ‘Forever’ on it that she looks at when she’s sad twice. We never find out what the story here is, it’s just a lazy cliche. For some maddening reason Artemis keeps this ring in a tin in her pocket rather than somewhere more secure like, say, her finger. It falls out of her pocket when the plot needs it to.

Artemis meets Tony Jaa, who is a local and they don’t understand each other, but must work together. I keep thinking of the Star Wars Holiday Special, where the principle cast were those Wookie things that just gargle at each other. They fight big spiders and an indistinct burrowing thing, and then it’s on to battle the dragon end boss. On the way they meet up with Ron Pearlman, who thankfully speaks English, and a chef cat. The chef cat is never mentioned or seen again. Are these things from the game? I haven’t played it, does it tell me what the engraved ring is about?

This must be a first draft. There’s a big deal made of some flaming swords early in the film, but they pack them away until the finale. Conversely the introduction of a wrist gadget is all but skipped over and it becomes the most used weapon of the adventure.

The action could have saved this, but the editing is paced like a hippopotamus falling off the Eiffel Tower. Every action sequence is an incomprehensible mess of jump cuts and poorly timed slow motion. We never know what the ultimate goal for the characters are the big bad is only introduced about three minutes before they control it. Then the film ends with a monster brushing aside a battalion of attack helicopters and tanks only to be taken down by Artemis wielding a knife and a flare.

At times Monster Hunter threatens to dip into Uwe Boll storytelling levels, with only a very low bar level of competent film-making keeping it afloat. You shouldn’t be spending so much time on close-ups of eyes, and if you’re going to keep pulling back to reveal a landscape make it something other than sand and rocks.

Rating: TWO out of TEN