Directed By Paul W.S Anderson
Starring – Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa, T.I
The Plot – When Lt. Artemis (Jovovich) and her loyal soldiers are transported to a new world, they engage in a desperate battle for survival against enormous enemies with incredible powers. Based on the Capcom video game of the same name.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of creature action and violence throughout
– Thunderous sound. First and foremost, lets acknowledge the film’s biggest benefit without exception; the roaring sound mixing and sound editing, which grants the film perception in ways the film’s compromised visuals simply can’t. Because so much of the film was apparently shot underneath a blanket in my closet, the necessity of crisp, echoing sound design painted a picture of reality for me that allowed me to keep up within the realm of the convoluted scene, and stands as the lone aspect of the film that warrants a theater sitting when everything else doesn’t. On top of this, it also does an exceptional job of vividly painting the depth and weight of these artificial monsters, which makes their presence all the more believable in the scope of the audience interpretation. Nothing drives me crazier in movies than when these gargantuan presences sneak up on their human adversaries, but nothing like this is a problem in “Monster Hunter”, instilling distant magnitude long after these monsters have threatened their prey.
– Special effects. A lot has changed since the uninspiring finished product that producers tried to pass off in the trailers. For one, the color correction of the monsters, as well as the influential sunlight that touches them feel synthetically rich with authenticity. This plays a key role in immersing these massive figures as a product of the environment created in the heat of the sequence, but beyond that still gives them influential stature to stand out across a landscape no matter how far or stretching that the cinematography captures it with. As for their designs, there’s great detail that went into the scales and rigid textures that rarely repeats of undervalues the variety of species that the movie attempts to capture. It proves that great time and detail went into making sure everything was just right for its science fiction audience, and at least gives them some semblance of familiarity from the video game of the same name they grew up immersing themselves in.
– Aimless. Is there a plot to the movie? Sure, but does the script do a capable job of progressing it? Not in the slightest. This is very much a bare bones approach to a video game with no plot what so ever, and while that may create challenges in adapting to the big screen, it should’ve given Anderson plenty of room to experiment with the abstract. In fact, thinking about it now, it’s kind of strange how similar this plot resonates with Anderson’s other finely polarized series of video game adaptations; the Resident Evil franchise. Think about it, a group of tactical officers invade a compromised area in search of another group of soldiers, and then find themselves in the fight of their lives with something otherworldly. That is entirely the plot of “Resident Evil”, and it’s entirely the plot to “Monster Hunter”, but at least the former begins with a plot taking shape. The latter begins with what feels like a movie already in progress, and it’s an unintended foreshadowing to a momentum killing ending, which (SPOILERS) ends without resolving the conflict at hand.
– Eye-aching presentation. Watching this movie in the dark will earn you a prescription for Matt Murdoch syndrome in 91 quick minutes. I say that because this is another visual scope for Anderson that seems to do all of the wrong things intentionally, and makes it difficult to decipher anything that is actually taking shape before our very eyes. The overwhelming darkness of the movie’s cinematography isn’t the only problem; the film’s stomach turning shaking camera and obstructed claustrophobia on every character and monster moving in and out of frame feels like a collection of scattered objects thrown at the camera, to which Anderson asks us to competently decipher. If this isn’t enough, the rapid fire editing that distorts and overcomplicates every action sequence welcomes seizures with open arms, and cements what I feel is the very worst of cinematic visual presentations that I have seen in 2020, experimenting with conventional shots in a way that makes holding a camera feel like climbing Everest.
– Thin pawns. The performances are certainly nothing special. I guess you could make the argument for Jovovich, who at the very least never shies away from investing every inch of her body for bone-crunching physicality, but it’s a role that feels safe and emotionally phoned in for her, and is somehow the best performance of this reputable named ensemble. Beyond Milla, Tony Jaa is entirely wasted as this almost caveman like survivor who has built a lifestyle out of understanding and outsmarting these gigantic monsters. Jaa, an emotionally gifted actor in his own right, is given nothing of substance to work with here, yet somehow feels substantially gifted when compared to T.I and Meagan Good, who serve as nothing more than an expendable body count. In short, the characterization in this movie is practically non-existent. Never anywhere throughout the film is there a clear, concise scene dedicated to fleshing them out in a way that makes them even remotely compelling as protagonists, undercutting a talented ensemble that could’ve added an element of humanity to something so monotonous.
– Uninspired action. Rarely any of the sequences here are even remotely memorable ten minutes after you’ve seen them, and the ones that are were ripped directly from bigger, better movies of the genre that maintained that epic enveloping. There’s a sandstorm sequence that looks practically lifted from cutting room floor footage of “Mad Max: Fury Road”, a slicing of a monster in the third act that Drax from “Guardians of the Galaxy” wants back, and a sequence from “Jurassic Park” so shamelessly lifted that fans will feel like they’re watching an Asylum knock-off of the legendary Steven Spielberg property. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, this movie’s action sequences is mounting a mad man, a galactic psychopath, and a T-rex without hesitation, and doing about half of the effort along the way towards seeking all of the credit.
– Offensive dialogue. There’s bad dialogue that is sprinkled everywhere throughout this feature, and then there’s detestable movie so low-brow that it exposes a problem in Hollywood and Anderson alike. The line I’m referring to if you haven’t heard, involves Jaa’s character being forced to utter “What kind of knees are these? Chi-Knees” while pointing to his knees. Probably not a big deal to a majority of the audience, but when you factor in the nationality that it’s unapologetically poking fun at, you wonder how something so tasteless could be included in the first place. Aside from it being an unnecessary line in the context of the scene, it’s one that shatters the tonal consistency of the sci-fi/horror vibe that the movie tried so thoroughly to accomplish, and all for a matter of five second laughs that risked more than it could’ve possibly gained. Lines like these feel twenty years too late, thankfully, and have no place in a cinematic landscape that is progressively changing more each year.
– Logic-stretching. When you hear the phrase “Mindless entertainment”, this is the movie they are referring to. It starts with overlooking a monster’s commitment to the rules to only attack when it’s convenient to the scene, and not when two characters are working loudly on setting traps, or one of those two characters sleeping for what feels like hours. From there, it continues with six chamber guns that somehow never run out of bullets. It concludes with a Hershey’s chocolate bar that we’re forced to believe somehow didn’t melt in the pocket of a soldier’s uniform in the aridly dry desert. There’s movie magic in a series of cliches and tropes, and then there’s blatantly insulting your audience. This one seems settled on the latter, leaving us with a series of effortless instances that don’t exactly require you to shut your mind off when watching it, but rather surgically remove it for flushing.
– As an adaptation. Video game fans certainly won’t be sleeping any easier after seeing “Monster Hunter”, an obvious step back in the decent evolution that “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Tomb Raider” have supplied in the last two years. Where this one fails is obviously with the folklore and world-building of the game, refusing to include the mission elements for weapons and powers that tend to just show up in this film whenever the script needs them to, for no reason what so ever. There’s also a well defined significant with monster remains in the game that simply never comes up in the movie. Why this matters is because it made the game unique with unlimited replay value, and without including it here just makes “Monster Hunter” feel like another science fiction survival film void of any originality or identity to help it stand out. It’s another adaptation that misses the point of why it had legions of fans in the first place, and feels like a shell of its former self because it refuses once more to respect the fans that made it a hot commodity in the first place.
– Anti-climatic resolution. If the abundance of disappointment that I’ve previously mentioned doesn’t inspire you to avoid this movie like the plague, the film’s closing moments that somehow ignorantly shop for a sequel most definitely should. Keep in mind, this isn’t your typical sequel baiting where an entire movie concludes, but still finds abilities to lure you into wanting more. This film instead leaves its conflict unsolved in the grand scheme of this world it built for itself, and then asks us to indulge in more. It’s not as bad as the unaddressed wrap-up by “The Turning” earlier this year, but it concludes things in the same vein that other sub conflicts in the movie were resolved, without a shred of anything that made it feel like the extraordinarily big blow up to close matters up tightly. It ends abruptly after three of the most awkwardly cringeworthy character profile shots that somehow try to solidify them as the heroes that were simultaneously earned and deserved, and stand as the final emphasis to the complete waste of time you just sat through.
My Grade: 2/10 or F-