‘Monster Hunter’ is an interdimensional fish-out-of-water movie for some reason
Don’t get me started on video game film adaptations. They’ve burned me so many times. From Super Mario Bros. (1993) to Street Fighter (1994), they never turn out how we want.
So color me jaded when I’m not at all surprised that the adaptation of the wildly popular Capcom video game series Monster Hunter from Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat) barely resembles the game for the majority of its runtime.
MONSTER HUNTER ★★(2/5 stars)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson and Kaname Fujioka
Starring: Mila Jovovich, Tony Jaa, T.I.
Running time: 99 min
The movie treats us to a brief prologue setting up the player surrogate protagonist Hunter (Tony Jaa) getting separated from his buddies when a diablos attacks their land-traversing pirate ship in what’s known as “The New World.” Then, the video game adaptation bait-and-switch happens, shifting us to “Our World” where Captain Artemis (Milla Jovovich) leads a squadron of American military grunts through the desert. Fucking what?
For those of you unfamiliar with Monster Hunter, they’re fantasy action role-playing games. Springing some sort of store-branded Michael Bay jingoist wet dream meets Transformers nonsense for an adaptation like this is an affront much worse than Dennis Hopper with cornrows.
A random electrical storm sideswipes Artemis’ squad, sending them through a dimensional rift to the New World. Oh, and T.I. is with them, I guess. Some nerscyllas get the drop on them, and Artemis ends up as the lone survivor, fighting for her life until she meets Hunter.
From that point on, Artemis plays the fish out of water, owing her survival to Hunter, and vice versa. They learn to work together to get home despite a language barrier. That’s really the entire plot. Despite how formulaic it all is Jovovich and Jaa really give it their all, which is the only reason this one’s remotely bearable.
The final reel gives us a brief look into what a Monster Hunter film might have looked like if it trusted its own property to bring in an American audience. It’s something approaching fun and campy, with monster effects and believable wire work that makes me think we might be ready for an adaptation of Shadow of the Colossus. Just please stick to the source material, and don’t burn me again.