MONSTER HUNTER, directed by Paul W. S. Anderson (known for the first RESIDENT EVIL movie) is a film adaptation of a long-running Capcom video game series. I have only a passing familiarity with the games, so I can’t speak to any Easter eggs, or backstory, that more experienced players might notice.
The story establishes that Earth is connected to another world. What drives the story is the unstable connection between the two, that no one seems able to control.
The parts that take place on Earth indicate the present time, though we only see a single location, and only learn things from a military perspective. The bulk of the film takes place in the Monster Hunter world. Travel is by old style clipper ships that sail across endless sand, crashing through great dunes. A distant tower crackles with mysterious energies, and some of the weapons seem to have magic effects.
Viewers are given a lengthy adjustment to the new world. Most of the inhabitants speak an alien language. It’s difficult to know if it was possibly an old Earth tongue, and maybe all the Human inhabitants and came from Earth at some point.
The core group is comprised of soldiers with names like Steeler (Josh Helman), Axe (MC Jin), Dash (Meagan Good), and Artemis (Milla Jovovich). Perhaps due to the military influence, there is a sense that the film went darker than the games might normally go. The teleportation to the new world was quite traumatic, and a number of the monsters, though very real and imaginative, are involved in some stunningly tense encounters. There are shaky moments, and moments of muted sounds and dull whines, that play out very much like a video game. It was a surprising, yet well used technique.
Artemis, the main protagonist, quickly meets a new world resident (Tony Jaa), who is never introduced, but credited as The Hunter. His attempts to help Artemis are often misunderstood, mostly by the language barrier, but they build a friendship on strange foundations.
The film seemed like two radically different parts. A lot more exposition would’ve been very welcome. It’s ultimately seen that the new world can be a place of beauty, and not all the monsters are so deadly. The monsters show up in a way similar to game level bosses, but I don’t know where Diablos, or Nerscyllas would stand.
The movie had a video game feel to it, something not always prominent in such adaptations. Though it was a deceptively slow burn, it was great fun once it got going. There was a lot of eye candy, and fantastic props. Most everything is fashioned from the remains of hunted monsters, giving armour and weapons a very unique look, that never seemed silly either.
A lot more background story would’ve been helpful, especially with some of the characters, and it would’ve been nice to see a lot more of the fantastic world, but it was a fun spectacle, with a genuine video game vibe that sets it apart.
MONSTER HUNTER is now available for digital rental on Apple TV & The Cineplex Store.