Any genuine conversation is filled with repetitions, pauses, and non-sequiturs. Scripted conversation has to walk a line between information, prose, and naturalistic sounds. With that in mind, the scripted conversation in Monster Hunter sounds like AI has spat out ‘army bros’ content.
But are we here for talking, or are we here for gigantic bugs and lacerated, gushing thoraxes?
The answer to that question lies in some key facts. This is a Paul W. S. Anderson film. As director of 1995’s Mortal Kombat, 1997’s Event Horizon, a good chunk of the Resident Evil films, and Alien vs Predator he has a reputation for the big, bold, and brass.
Second, Milla Jovovich (Paradise Hills) in the lead role often leads to big, bold, and brass. And third? Well, the movie is called Monster Hunter!
What Is Monster Hunter About?
That said the first 15 minutes are as much of a slog as for the soldiers chugging through the desert in search of a lost unit.
This troupe of fighters are lifted from the Lift Up Flaps book of Soldiering. Tiresome banter and turgid exposition-heavy dialogue goes through the necessary motions to set up what we need to know: a parallel world where thar be monsters, matey.
It’s telling that Monster Hunter improves significantly once the dialogue is effectively dropped. Captain Natalie Artemis (Jovovich) – trapped in a sand drenched and incredibly hostile land – finds a tentative ally in a resident Hunter, played by Tony Jaa.
As neither the Hunter nor Artemis share a language their communication is limited to hand gestures, glowering facial expressions, and (surprisingly effective) supposition.
This is an action movie and no-one is doubting Jaa’s action credentials. His Muay Thai physicality was showcased in the visceral Ong-Bak series, and he brings a vivacious human energy to a movie that otherwise threatens to consist of VFX glamour shots and running away.
Jaa and Jovovich spark like flint and stone. Such chemistry ignites their action sequences but also illuminates their quieter moments, tucked away in Jaa’s barely protected cave that he calls home.
Monster Hunter Official Trailer
Is Monster Hunter Worth Watching?
As a movie based on a video game franchise, the spectacle draw is right there in the title: Monster Hunter. Anderson captures the impressive scale of the main big nasty: the ‘Diablos’.
As it’s scaly ferocity erupts from sand dunes we can’t help but feel such a beast unkillable, in much the same way that stumbling across an over-levelled foe in a game world feels.
Scenes running from, being attacked by, or fighting against the titanic Diablos are undoubted popcorn munching fare.
It's a shame that the rest of the movie is a chore to look at. For the vast majority this parallel world consists of a sand dune sea and a rocky outcrop that acts as partial refuge (notwithstanding some bog standard scuttling nasties). By the time new blood and settings swoop into shot there is barely any of the movie left.
With source material saturated with a menagerie of the mean and mangled, Monster Hunter made the choice to focus on precious few here, and hold most back for a potential sequel.
What’s left is a rather stop start movie that plays out like a video game: long stretches of time traipsing to get to the good bits.
Words by Mike Record
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