Sparks of brilliance don’t make up for tedious construction.
Monster Hunter is the latest in a wide range of film productions inspired by video games. There is some belief that movies like this are doomed to fail, but this has been called into question by surprising features like Detective Pikachu and Sonic: The Movie. Unfortunately, Monster Hunter is not one of those exceptions.
Directed, produced and written by Paul WS Anderson and starring his wife, Milla Jovovich, the film attempts to repeat the duo’s success with the series of adaptations of Resident Evil – another Capcom game. But the obvious conflict between the whimsical adventure of the source material and the desire to explore some generic action resulted in a lost film that fails to appeal to both target audiences.
Title: Monster Hunter
Director: Paul WS Anderson
Screenplay: Paul WS Anderson
Release date: February 25 (Brazil)
Duration: 104 minutes
Synopsis: An experienced soldier needs to survive giant, almost invincible monsters to return to the real world.
This is not a movie for action lovers.
Following an introduction that suggests a story steeped in fantasy – bringing an enchanted sailing ship, with a crew characterized by cartoons, across a desert ocean – the film attempts to sell itself as a streak of great action scenes.
Captain Artemis, the protagonist played by Milla Jovovich, is the generic heroine you can expect from any reasonable action movie. Not much is known about her past, but today she is respected by her colleagues and commands a small squad between an iron fist and humorous provocations.
On a rescue mission, their entire team finds themselves trapped in a world parallel to ours where gigantic monsters are at the top of the food chain. Now is the time to deliver the big action scenes so promised, but without introducing any new dynamics, the film repeats itself very quickly.
They are the same two enemies, facing the same strategies in a simple desert scenario that takes millennia to change.
To make matters worse, to try to convince us that this world is dangerous and serious, the action scenes are so overblown that they lose all the impact they want. The characters are killed with such unrestrained frequency that there is no time to feel the impact of their losses. Soon the cast falls by the wayside, along with the much-loved action scenes.
As the film nears its final acts, the editing – usually imperceptible – ends up getting in the way of several action scenes. Some sequences bring a very abrupt change between cuts and the impression that remains is that of a desynchronized work.
Not to mention the abuse of techniques, such as slow motion and fade in, which might add charm to specific scenes, but which end up making it difficult to understand the action due to its continuous and inappropriate use.
The only times the action really seems to find its way is when it appears paired with rare touches of whimsy that the film reluctantly delivers.
But it’s not a movie for fantasy lovers either.
The filmmaker does an incredible job creating a fantasy world when the narrative demands it. The problem is, he seems determined to keep audiences away from any connection to this more fantastic side. Too bad, because it is in these brief moments that the film shows its potential to have been something incredible.
The enchanted boat is full of details, but it soon gives way to other scenes in the generic desert. The costumes inspired by the games are incredible and full of life, including the characterization of Nanda Costa – Brazilian actress with little involvement in the feature film. There’s also a full of personality CGI cook cat that’s very loyal to a character in the game, but like anything fancy in this universe, it’s quickly ditched in favor of more random plans.
Perhaps the moment that highlighted the producer’s dissatisfaction with working with a fantasy universe, potentially seen as something more childish, are the first moments Milla Jovovich’s character interacts with the nameless hunter, experienced by Tony Jaa.
There is a very distorted colonialist view that permeates these extremely uncomfortable interactions. In this scene, for example, even though they need to cooperate in order to survive, they face each other – mostly because they don’t speak the same language.
The hunter refuses Artemis the water to see her as an enemy, as she has invaded his world and attempted to kill it on different occasions. In retaliation, the heroine thinks it’s fair to attack a religious altar, paying little attention to her culture.
Throughout the film, it appears the director strives to shed light on the culture carefully captivated by gamers and fans of fantasy adventures.
The most ironic thing is that the action scenes are really interesting when they embrace that more cartoonish side – that’s when we see fiery swords drawn out of nowhere, big flaming attacks, and the confrontation with the good – liked Rathalos.
The highlight of the film is the encounter with the formidable beast. But when we are finally rewarded with exciting scenes with a lot of magic and variety, the movie decides to teleport the fight to a generic desert scene with more non-impact guns.
The curse of gaming movies
Monster Hunter is a very frustrating experience, as the movie demonstrates its potential to spawn something incredible, but it constantly sabotages itself in favor of generic action that neither thrills nor thrills the genre.
It is a game film that opens the biggest problem of these productions. They are feature films that disdain their original games, which regard them as less worthy, less interesting productions and which at all times try to escape their essence.
When Hollywood stops fighting video games and embraces this insane fun once and for all, we will finally see the emergence of the era of true cinematic masterpieces inspired by video games. Until then we will have Monster Hunter.
For much more interesting action movies to showcase later this year, check out this list: