Released on: December 18, 2020
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta, Josh Helman, Jin Au-Yeung, Ron Perlman
Directed by: Paul W. S. Anderson
Folks, it’s time I come clean. I’ve been keeping a secret this entire time that I feel I must share. This secret is so shocking that those who have a weak constitution should sit down. My biggest secret is… I love Monster Hunter. I know I hid this secret like a master, but please bear with me. I’ve been a fan of Monster Hunter since Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Heck, some readers might even claim I reviewed a few Monster Hunter games in the past!
With that out in the open, we can discuss today’s topic. In the middle of 2020, there were announcements from Capcom, the makers and publishers of Monster Hunter. They announced a brand new Monster Hunter game for the Switch called Monster Hunter Rise, but they also dropped the announcement that a movie based on the franchise was in the works. When I first heard about it, one could only imagine my excitement because there was none. I’ve learned to be skeptical when it comes to movies based on video games. Except for a few notable exceptions ()Detective Pikachu and the Sonic the Hedgehog movie), most video game movies turn out to be lackluster at best.
As the year went by, more details began to spring forth. The story was one of them, which lowered my expectations, something I didn’t know was possible at the time. Still, the footage of the monsters I did see looked kind of cool. As a self-proclaimed fan of Monster Hunter, I figured I needed to see the movie for myself to see just how bad it was. How ferocious is the Monster Hunter movie?
Our movie opens with a ship sailing through the sands. Those who played Monster Hunter World will recognize these people as characters from that game. However, we don’t enjoy their presence for too long as a giant, twin-horned sand dragon, attacks them. The ship gets destroyed, just in time for the title card to show up.
We then cut to our protagonist, Artemis (played by Milla Jovovich), an American soldier out in the desert with her platoon. Why is she in the desert with an army? That is a good question. No time for that, though, as a black thunder cloud closes in on them, engulfs them. The lightning shooting from the cloud activates some magical rocks (that our protagonist and her platoon fail to notice for some reason), and they get teleported into a world of giant monsters. It is now up to our brave heroine to find a way back to her world.
The movie started out promising, as it begins with a group of people facing off against a monster. The film sadly takes a nosedive when we meet our protagonist. I kept asking: what does Monster Hunter have to do with real-world militia? This is never explained, thus making the entire thing a weak plot point.
Let’s start with the positives. I like how the monsters looked in the Monster Hunter movie. I think this is where all of the budget and effort went, as the monsters look terrific. As far as being accurate to the games, they couldn’t have done a better job..The monsters look spot on, and they are easily the highlight of the movie.
One thing that surprised me was how many nods there are to the Monster Hunter games in the movie. I caught myself smiling a lot more at all of the references to the video games throughout the movie. One example I can give is the explosive arrow the main hunter (played by Tony Jaa) fires during their encounter with Diablos. Another evident hint is the hunter characters. Every character that is not from Artemis’ platoon is a reference to Monster Hunter World. While non-fans won’t understand the references (or why there’s a cat cooking food), I enjoyed these inclusions, as it made the movie feel more like a Monster Hunter Movie.
Those are pretty big positives, but sadly, that ends there…
Despite just mentioning that the details make the movie feel like it’s part of the world of Monster Hunter, that is the only thing that makes it a Monster Hunter movie. I feel like they tried making the military thing work, but all it ended up doing was detract from the movie’s main focus, being the monsters and the Monster Hunter world. If they removed the whole “Artemis gets sucked into a portal” plot, instead, focused more on the hunters, but have Artemis be a hunter with a grudge or something. I feel that would have worked in the movie’s favor.
In this section, I begin talking about spoilers. Please exercise discretion if you care to see the movie.
Another major issue I have with the movie is the characters. A monster movie can focus on the human characters and still be phenomenal (the 1956 Godzilla movie comes to mind here). I’m not going to pretend that Monster Hunter’s story is anything more complex than: “monster is out there, go kill it.” Even by that standard, though, the movie has forgettable characters. The only reason I remember Artemis’ name so vividly is that I saw her name when they revealed what the plot of the film was going to be. Artemis’s platoon gets wiped out by Diablos when they get into the Monster Hunter world. I’m sure she was distraught, but I didn’t even know their name. How am I supposed to care?
However, the biggest slap to the face for fans is with the very end of the movie. Gore Magala (the main monster from Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate) shows up at the end of the film. Our party readies their weapons to take on this intimidating foe. They charge at the monster and… credits. WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT!? Why not resolve the thing with the portal without teasing the audience to an insulting degree?
Speaking of the portal, they discover what’s causing the portal to drag people to the Monster Hunter world, go to solve it, and find out Gore Magal is tied to this somehow. As previously stated, they end the movie before fighting Magala, thus also ending the film with no resolution to the portal thing. It reeks of sequel bait, but I felt insulted by that ending.
End of spoiler section
The Monster Hunter games, despite being about hunting giant dragons and other horrors, has a humorous side to it. If the hunter’s health drops to zero, they get escorted back to their camp by four cat-like creatures (known as Palicoes). Despite taking world-ending blows, the hunter never explicitly dies; they faint. The Monster Hunter movie, on the other hand, didn’t get this memo, as people die left and right brutally. Diablos alone killed so many people, primarily through impalement. I understand that if someone were to fight these monsters, this is what would happen. At the same time, this is a world where cat-like creatures act like people, are treated like people, and do jobs like people. Monster Hunter doesn’t seem to know what kind of tone it wants to have.
Despite my complaints, I had fun with the Monster Hunter movie. I feel like my low expectations were surpassed (slightly). I liked all of the nods to the games, and the monster looked cool. I wish they focused more on the monsters and completely removed the real world from the story. I cannot call Monster Hunter a good movie objectively. Still, I would recommend the Monster Hunter movie to those looking for a dumb monster movie with Monster Hunter references.