Monday, 21 June 2021

Monster Hunter


Gates Of Meow

Monster Hunter
2020 Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson
Germany/China/Canada/Japan/South Africa/USA
UK cinema release print.

Warning: Some spoilerage but, it’s not really that kind of movie.

So, once again, director Paul W. S. Anderson teams up with his wife, Milla Jovovich to make another movie adapted from a video game series. Now, I have slight issues with their Resident Evil series of films because... well, they were nearly all absolutely brilliant with the exception of two of them. The second one was kinda let down by some of the prosthetic ‘man in suit’ effects but the real disappointment was the sixth film in the series, Resident Evil - The Final Chapter... which totally failed to make any kind of sense and contradicted the running story of the films up until that point with absolutely no attempt to explain the complete lack of continuity, effectively negating everything we’d learned in the second movie.

So, yeah, I was always going to go see Monster Hunter, although, I hereby make the usual caveat that I haven’t played the game so really don’t know if it’s any good as an adaptation or not. Although the film has been freely available for a while in HD from ‘the usual web sites’ (and I believe that’s where at least one of my friends saw it), I decided to wait for half a year and see if it got any kind of cinema release in the UK. Since I’d seen the Resident Evil films at the cinema, I wanted to do it right with this one because, whether you like them or not, Anderson always tends to make huge spectacles of his movies and so I booked a local screening, even paying a little extra on top of my Cineworld card to see the film on a big IMAX screen.

The film itself... well, I firmly believe that with a few tweaks this could have been a really great movie but, I did have an issue with it and I think, all in all, it’s an okay and relatively entertaining movie and, at the very least, has the potential to be a long running franchise, if it gets the box office take to make that happen.

Okay, so the film is almost but not quite plotless. There are two worlds, one of fantasy style sand ships and big monsters and... also our world. After a brief prologue on the other world where the leader of a band of ‘yo hos’, played by Ron Perlman, gets in a skuffle with a big monster on his sand galleon and has to leave behind one of the monster hunters of the title to fend for himself, played by the ‘legend in his own lifetime’ Tony Jaa (who I though t had retired to become a buddhist monk or some such but, apparently not)... we join the main US protagonist of the movie, a ranger played by Milla Jovovich. She and her band of hard core military types are taking their heavily armoured transport to look for a scout team that have gone missing (in our world). Then, some archaic markers in the sand they pass by suddenly go all pyrotechnic and they are transported into the world of the prologue... and come face to face with various giant beasties.

It would be true to say there’s not much plot development after that. The film becomes one big action set piece after another and, within half an hour, Jovovich is the only one of both her team and the original team she was looking for, left alive... and only because Tony Jaa has tried to help out on occasion. When the two leads finally meet, after she manages to escape from a load of quite vicious giant spiders, everything gets a bit Hell In The Pacific meets Shelob for a while as the two, who don’t speak each other’s language, work through their issues with the tried and true movie clichés of violence and mistrust followed by, eventual, mutual respect.

And there’s also a double climax to the movie... one set in the other world and then one set in ours... both of which involve some large, ‘almost but not quite unkillable’ giant dragons and Ron Perlman, whose character can speak English due to a twist in what little of the plot there is, as he brings his team in to help out in our world after another dragon crosses over. the film is nice to look at, has some great actors, some not bad special effects and is quite pacey but, alas, that last thing is also the big problem with the film, for me at least. There’s no let up. The first half an hour is quite relentless, driven and harrowing, as Jovovich’s team all die big, monstery deaths but, it just carries on and on. There’s no real calm before the next storm... even the scenes where Jaa and Jovovich meet up for the first time are full of sequences where they are continuously brawling for way too long. This film, in my opinion, makes the one big mistake that a lot of modern action picture directors tend to make and that is... falling into the trap of giving the characters no real downtime before they face the next peril... thus giving no contrast within the tone of the scenes and, by the end of the film, it all seems just a little bit dull. Indeed, even the double climax seems like something of a let down because there’s no real build up to it... just conflict after conflict with the only really nice moments involving a cat... which I won’t spoil for you here but, make sure you stick around for an extra scene mid way through the end credits. I actually think that, in the case of this movie, it might have been more effective if the director had made it a little longer and put more pauses in the film to help liven up the action scenes. As it is... yeah, it feels like a ‘pretty good’ kind of movie rather than a truly great one, to be honest.

Even so, I think people who are into big monster movies will still find a lot to like in Monster Hunter and, like I said... the cat, man. We need to see more of the cat! I’d be quite happy if some more of these were made because, like I said, the director is a bit hit and miss and I’m sure he could make some decent follow ups which surpassed the original, if given half the chance. I might grab this one on blu ray once it goes into the sales and, I guess I’m still relatively happy that I waited to see it on the big screen. Hopefully there will be more to follow.

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