As I am a fan of the series it’s based on, I saw Monster Hunter on my birthday. I knew who the director was and so I wasn’t expecting anything amazing. However, I thought that, at the very least the film would be entertaining.
Alas, that was not quite the case.
I was going to write my thoughts down, but a Podcast Eater episode covered those well enough and I quickly forgot about the film.
Then at some point I saw this:
Monster Hunter starts with U.S. Army Ranger Captain Milla Jovovich and her soon-to-die comrades on a hunt for missing soldiers. Soon a sandstorm takes them to an alternate dimension. From there Milla teams up with a hunter, makes him a participant in product placement and ends up meeting Ron Perlman.
Monster Hunter is a film where actions happen. There are a series of events that assist in driving the plot forward. The actors act and some of them do a better job of acting than others. A few monsters appear from the titular Monster Hunter series. One feels like a genuine threat; the others mostly feel like tools to serve the plot. They look good, but it is debatable as to if they look better than Ron Perlman in a wig.
Dialogue is in the film, but the film is not heavy on dialogue. Depending on the film this is appreciable as narrative can still move forward through action and expression. Sometimes it ends up the better choice. In Monster Hunter‘s case the amount of dialogue is appreciable as there’s less of a bombardment by (at best) lacking delivery.
Everything plays out in a fairly bog-standard manner and the film goes beyond what would make for a great ending that sets up a sequel well, but that’s neither here nor there. Up to a certain point it it doesn’t feel bloated and doesn’t drag. The scenes play out in a specific order and it makes for something that’s watchable. That said, the film does temporarily stop itself for a fucking Hershey’s ad that it seems to treat as self-congratulatory. That part was really bad for both pacing and acting, but it also was funny.
The film is less interested in the setting and more interested in Milla Jovovich getting home. On one hand, fair enough. On the other, no, not fair enough as the setting is interesting but its use is completely pointless.
The issue with this is that whilst putting Milla Jovovich in a strange world gives us a viewpoint character to relate to, it also takes away from said world. Monster Hunter‘s setting is mostly interesting and it’s pretty obvious how you could tell a story in it without adding anything external. Attaching it to the real world takes away from its uniqueness because it now exists in relation to our own world due to portal. It feels incredibly lazy.
Taking a risk and setting the entire film in its fantasy setting and having Milla be a hunter hunting a monster with some others would pay off more. You’d need a more capable director, but Milla being a badass could also work better, which brings me to my next grievance.
Milla Jovovich being in a strange land doesn’t work because she’s too badass. She ends up in this new universe and all is fine. She works shit out. There’s some panic but she still gets shit done. She’s also seldom, if ever, surrounded by a real sense of danger. The one monster that feels like a genuine threat doesn’t feel like a threat often enough, though it’s nice that there’s planning done to address it, but that’s beside the point. Milla being as badass as she does dissolves most tension. It also dissolves somehow dissolves a lot of of the slightly dramatic moments, but that could be down to other reasons. Anyway, had the plot been that a group of hunters accept a request to hunt a monster, Milla’s character would’ve fit so much better.
The scenery is decent though.
Monster Hunter feels like a film. It’s boring and mostly inoffensive; It’s also competent, but so is Jumper. You could also say Jurassic Park is competent but I don’t want to drag that film into this.
Monster Hunter is also a film that understands that its source material exists. It’s mostly inoffensive and dull, which in a way is a positive. The CGI is generally pretty good which is a positive. Tony Jaa’s performance with what he has is a positive. Ron Perlman in a wig is somehow a positive.
That Monster Hunter ends is another positive.
That might seem a bit of a stretch as a reason for giving the film credit, but sometimes you gotta find them where you can.