Monster Hunter Movie Review: A full dose of worthy entertainment
An entertaining film that provides enough by way of its story and acting to engage even the non-connoisseur
Paul WS Anderson is no stranger to the adaptation of popular video game series. One can argue that Mortal Kombat (1995) and Resident Evil (2002-16) have made his career what it is today. It’s one thing for the fans of these games to provide a green signal to such adaptations, but as an independent viewer, there is no doubt as to the entertainment value these films bring to the table. For the long and short of it, Monster Hunter falls into a similar pedigree as the aforementioned titles. Not quite as watchable as a Resident Evil, perhaps, but right up there in its genre.
The first half of the film is unmistakeably its highpoint. Underneath the great action sequences and breath-taking cinematography, it offers a gritty survival story filled with strategising and humour. The new world (that the army unit gets unsuspectingly pulled into) is not so different from a desert or a jungle in our world. There are predators, like on earth (the real world) – only, the ones over here seem to bear a striking resemblance to creatures of a prehistoric time. The prominent ones among them are Diablos, a massive, subterranean monster that dwells beneath the surface of the dunes, and thousands of oversized arachnids spread over as many caves.
As you’d imagine, the film is packed with fantastical, adrenaline-inducing scenes. But Natalie’s tale of survival and the introduction of The Hunter (Tony Jaa), and all that ensues between them thereafter, make it the diametric opposite of your run-of-the-mill action-fantasy. Their distrust of one another is palpable – they share neither a language nor a world. And the peace offering comes in the form of a funny scene involving chocolate.
Jovovich and Jaa (once each is willing to trust the other, that is) fit extremely well into their roles; the hopeless attempts at communication, the constant banter, and all the strategising to stay alive, make their unlikely chemistry a definite standout. Their story, which takes up most of the first half, has the potential to fit seamlessly into a shipwreck or plane crash narrative. Both the writing and acting ensure that the parts meant to be humorous are indeed that. It’s not laugh-out-loud kind of stuff but several decent laugh-worthy moments that succeed in hitting their mark. Most films in the science fiction/fantasy/action genre get their visuals on point, make no mistake, but something in Glen MacPherson’s incredible imagery (be it panoramic shots of an endless desert or cavernous dives into a predator’s lair) give you an awestruck feeling in the new world. The two human survivors barely register as a blip in this vast and dangerous landscape.
Monster Hunter falls off a bit post the halfway point. An initially engaging survival story gives way to too much visual gimmickry. And though extremely watchable right through, it dulls the sheen of the build-up. The building tension and the overall pacing (for a good one hour, at least) is what works in favour of an all-out action/fantasy film as this. It is rare for the acting to match the effects here, but Jovovich, and to a lesser extent, Jaa, fail to disappoint in that regard.
Those who play the game are sure to have strong opinions on how Anderson has re-created the universe and presented the characters. Going by all his success in the adaptation of many wildly popular video games, they might just have another big hit to look forward to. As for the non-gaming crowd, Monster Hunter promises to attract audiences. You may not necessarily need to be an action/fantasy enthusiast to be appreciative of this highly entertaining offering. If you take certain aspects of the narrative at face value, there’s no telling why you can’t enjoy 103 minutes of this topsy-turvy ride.