It goes without saying now that most video game-to-film adaptations haven’t been the most successful ventures. They often fail to compel and, quite often, they’re insulting to one’s intelligence. Monster Hunter, coming courtesy of Resident Evil helmer Paul W.S. Anderson, is yet another prime example of the medium not translating to the screen in a coherent manner, instead exploding on the big screen in an incomprehensible mess that recycles most of what we’ve already seen in countless sci-fi actioners prior.
The plot of the movie – if you want to call it that – is as simplistic and self-explanatory as it sounds. Little more than people versus giant monsters, Anderson’s effort hopes to lure us into a false sense of outlandish security when the opening sequences – wildly fantastical as they are – suggest a ludicrously good time could be ahead when he presents a pirate ship “sailing” through the desert, fending off various monsters in its path. Ron Perlman (the ship’s Admiral) and Tony Jaa (a resourceful fighter known as Hunter) garner focus in these early moments (and by focus I mean the only two people editor Doobie White allows to be anything other than interchangeable) before we are unceremoniously cut off to allow prime placement for Anderson’s leading lady (both personally and professionally), Milla Jovovich.
A small squadron of U.S. Army soldiers – led by Jovovich’s Artemis – are travelling across an unnamed desert before they too fall victim to the monsters that lurk within the sand dunes and neighbouring caves. Jovovich is appropriately tough, and it would be nice to be able to extend some words of encouragement to her cohorts (T.I., Megan Good, and Diego Boneta are all familiar faces amongst the soldiers) but they are all so insultingly wasted – some don’t even earn enough prominence that when their character is offed you’d be forgiven for missing the sequence entirely – that Anderson’s script feels as if he just wanted to speed up proceedings in order for Jovovich and Jaa to cross paths, admittedly livening up the film in the process.
Though she’s essentially just a variation of her character from the shockingly resilient Resident Evil films (6 films and $1.2 billion in gross), Jovovich is doing what she can with such a thinly layered role. I mean, she makes bad decisions but she knows how to handle a weapon, and the moments devoted to her and Jaa wandering around their uncertain surroundings lends the film a certain levity that is much appreciated given the kinetically edited nonsense that much of Monster Hunter‘s 103 minute running time is devoted to.
Whilst mediocre acting, a questionable script, and fluctuating CGI are enough for any film to have their worth examined, it’s not necessarily the be-all-and-end-all. If there was anything remotely innovative or tense about what was taking place, or even overtly gory (sadly Monster Hunter is the epitome of a watered-down product – gotta get that tween money!) then we could possibly forgive it for some of its deplorable ingredients, but the “creative” team on hand here seem to think its audience is void of any intelligence, and though movies such as this don’t require much brain power to enjoy, that mentality shouldn’t be confused with sheer laziness.
Monster Hunter is screening in Australian cinemas from New Year’s Day, January 1st, 2021.