The gaming cult MONSTER HUNTER comes to the cinema – or directly to viewers at home via US streaming services. We reveal in our review how painful the loss of screen impact could be for the film and what else it has to offer.
OT: Monster Hunter (DE/USA/JPN/CHN 2020)
Behind our world lies another world full of dangerous and powerful monsters that rule their territory with deadly cruelty. When an unexpected sandstorm catapults Captain Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her unit (TI Harris, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta) into a new world, the soldiers are shocked to discover that in this hostile and unknown land live gigantic and terrible monsters that fight against immune to their firepower. In their desperate fight for survival, the unit meets the mysterious Hunter (Tony Jaa), whose unique skills allow him to always stay one step ahead of the powerful creatures. As Artemis and Hunter slowly build trust in each other, she discovers that he is part of a team led by the Admiral (Ron Perlman). Faced with a danger so great that it threatens to destroy their world, the brave warriors with their extraordinary skills band together to fight side by side in the ultimate showdown.
Originally, Paul WS Anderson’s “Monster Hunter” film adaptation once had the status of “cinema savior”. Around Christmas time, the action thriller distributed by Constantin in this country was supposed to be one of very few, really big mainstream productions coming to cinemas before the second Corona wave and the associated second lockdown thwarted these plans. After all, in China – and therefore one of the most important markets for this project – the film was released in cinemas at the beginning of December, only to be thrown out again a day (!) after its release. The reason: a racist play on words that massively bothered viewers, whereupon it was cut from all international versions of the film. A re-release in China still didn’t take place, although everything indicated that “Monster Hunter” could have made a passable box office figure there: in the 24 hours of its short cinema tryst, the film played just over five million US dollars -$, which could have resulted in a opening weekend of at least $20 million. After leaving scorched earth on one of his greatest interests, Monster Hunter failed to recoup its $60 million production cost even after its release in the United States, Canada and some European countries. To what extent the scandal or simply the current Corona situation is to blame can only be speculated. By the way, the distributor is sticking to its theatrical release in United Kingdom in 2021, and “Monster Hunter” is now available as a streaming title in the USA.
People look tiny compared to the monsters in the “Monster Hunter” movie.
The most important positions in front of and behind the camera for “Monster Hunter” were occupied by a mostly tried-and-tested combo from the “Resident Evil” films. Paul WS Anderson wrote the script based on the Capcom video game series of the same name, directed it and cast his wife Milla Jovovich (“Hellboy – Call of Darkness”) In the main role. Also cinematographer Glen MacPherson (“John Rambo”) and composer Paul Haslinger (“Not a good deed”) were already responsible for the audiovisual design of some “Resident Evil” parts. In this respect, “Monster Hunter” can hardly be accused of not playing with open cards. Both the very narrow plot framework of the video game series, which is primarily about killing animals and nasty monsters in order to build new, even stronger weapons from the creatures’ body parts, as well as the previous work of the “Monster Hunter” team set the direction for a film that relies primarily on spectacular visuals and non-stop action and self-consciously puts content demands aside. To get straight to the point: If it’s enough that Anderson’s “Monster Hunter” meets this minimum requirement for a game adaptation and is prepared to put all other quality demands aside under these circumstances, you’ll get your money’s worth in the cinema or in front of your home television screen. Anderson has already proven in his previous work that it is easy for him to deliver quantity. It’s just a matter of quality…
“If it’s enough that Anderson’s “Monster Hunter” meets the minimum requirements for a game adaptation and is prepared to put all other quality demands aside under these circumstances, you’ll get your money’s worth in the cinema or in front of your home television screen.”
… and you can’t ignore them completely; especially not when it refers not only to the narrative value of “Monster Hunter” (putting the story aside in a film like this is completely legitimate, as long as it packs a punch), but also to the execution itself With a budget of around 60 million US dollars, you can’t expect visual power from a film like the much more expensive Marvel blockbusters, but a material battle that largely comes from the computer should have a certain oomph to carry its audience along. In the first few minutes, Paul WS Anderson catapults us into a desert wasteland that is vaguely reminiscent of “Mad Max: Fury Road” and, after a short introduction with mediocre sandstorm animation, lets the actual stars – the monsters – appear on the cinematic stage. But no matter how rough and martial the desert and rock setting may have been imagined in theory, in the end it appears primarily artificial and clean due to the exaggerated reduction in color and the lack of visual variety. The strongly animated creatures – in the truest sense of the word – bring life into the place. But at precisely the moments when an overview is actually required, Glen MacPherson attacks the stamina of his viewers. The unrestrained blurry images are by no means the only problem with the “Monster Hunter” action scenes. Editor Doobie White, also part of the “Resident Evil” combo, ensures that hardly any shot stays in place for longer than three seconds. Even if “Monster Hunter” had the potential to be a mind-numbing action fest, it’s hard to enjoy it given the way it’s staged.
Tony Jaa plays the taciturn Hunter.
In addition, the human-versus-monster battles in “Monster Hunter” make up a significant portion of the running time; Nevertheless, Paul WS Anderson shows a remarkable talent for slowing down his film whenever it should actually switch to turbo boost. Outside of its action scenes, the film lacks pretty much anything that would make the less fast-paced moments more bearable. Then the focus is entirely on the main actress Milla Jovovich, whose performance is in no way different from her performances as Alice from the “Resident Evil” series, as well as on that of Tony Jaa (“xXx: The Return of Xander Cage”) played Hunter. The chance acquaintance of these two contemporaries quickly turns out to be the greatest absurdity in “Monster Hunter”. The two interact both woodenly and inharmoniously, the one-liners interspersed in between are completely evaporated, so carelessly does Jovovich recite the lines written specifically for her. In general, Anderson shows no sense of comedic timing here; If one is allowed to laugh in “Monster Hunter”, it is at best involuntary. “It is not too bad!” one would like to say, after all, this is not about human interaction, but about monstrous interaction. But the dialogue scenes and action breaks are surprisingly extensive.
“Outside of its action scenes, “Monster Hunter” lacks pretty much everything that makes even the less fast-paced moments more bearable.”
It would have been so easy to follow the spirit of the games. But until the big finale, in which Anderson sprinkles in various cross-references to well-known game scenes, “Monster Hunter” remains a random action film without a soul, but with a permanently disinterested-looking Milla Jovovich at the forefront. Your remaining colleagues – including the USA Jannik Schümann (“The Middle of the World”) – are keywords or cannon fodder. Only Ron Perlman (“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”) has something like recognition value as an admiral. But just when it seems to add a spark of heart to the film, “Monster Hunter” is already over.
Conclusion: The audio-visual film adaptation of the “Monster Hunter” game series, which oscillates between mixed and extremely miserable, has largely become such an uninhibited battle of material, as one would have expected given the original. But those moments in which Paul WS Anderson really hits the spot are juxtaposed with sprawling scenes in which one is supposed to be interested in the interpersonal problems of the main characters, which are presented in a disinterested manner. This slows the film down at the wrong moments and gives you the opportunity to think about the outrageous story construct.
“Monster Hunter” can be seen in USA cinemas from July 1st.