'Monster Hunter' Is a Collection of Frames Resembling a Movie Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa, T.I.
Published Dec 16, 2020Monster Hunter is Paul W.S. Anderson's latest narratively incoherent, aesthetically muddled and conceptually extremely loose video game adaptation. His Resident Evil franchise long dormant (although soon returning, this time to TV), Anderson needed another excuse to film his wife Milla Jovovich killing CGI creatures, and so we have this collection of frames resembling a movie.
Come for the standard military bromides (saddle up, ladies!), stay for the coke-fiend over-editing of illogical action scenes. If either of those sound unappealing, there's always the story; Jovovich's Captain Artemis and her squad, which includes T.I., are mysteriously transported to a vaguely fantastical desert and are soon attacked by the titular monsters. Artemis meets Tony Jaa's mysterious Hunter and they try to get her back to her own world — and yet that's also not really the story, because there isn't one.
Monster Hunter doesn't tell you anything about these characters. They're just…there, with no personality beyond 'tough' and a need to kill monsters, who are also simply and inexplicably present. Ron Perlman shows up in an atrocious anime-style wig and makes vague references to the ancients of this monster-world — a thread that never really goes anywhere but does succeed in making Ron Perlman look stupid.
The platonic chemistry between Jovovich and Jaa is painfully forced, as is her transformation into a monster hunter over what seems like the course of one morning. That's to say nothing of the infinite-lives-style beatdowns she receives from the monsters — thrown fifty feet in the air and smashed into stone and metal with nary a scratch on the cheek for her troubles. It's this, as well as several reminders of the final monster's ultimate weak spot, which reveals this as a poor imitation of a video game.
That it ends on a sequel-bait moment, right before things actually get interesting, is actually kind of cute. In a normal movie environment it's hard to see this getting a followup, and in 2020's cinema wasteland it's a fever dream likely more interesting than the movie itself.
Monster Hunter has monsters. They are hunted, sort of. What little it promises, it delivers. The removal of a racist joke was just the beginning of this movie's problems. Though in fairness, the cat-man-chef thing was kind of cool. (Sony)