Action Adventure

Review: Milla Jovovich Trades Zombies for Kaiju in ‘Monster Hunter’

December 18, 2020Ben MK

What do you get when you mix the catch-em-all attitude of the Pokemon series with the kaiju-battling action of the Godzilla films? The answer might very well be Monster Hunter, the latest big budget video game adaptation from Paul W.S. Anderson, the director best known for bringing the Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil video game franchises to the big screen.

In Monster Hunter, Anderson once again teams up with real-life wife Milla Jovovich for a story that follows her character, the tough-as-nails Captain Artemis, an Army Ranger who — along with the rest of her platoon (Tip "T.I." Harris, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta and Josh Helman) — is mysteriously transported from our world to one where giant monsters — from gargantuan insectoids straight out of Starship Troopers, to a fire-breathing dragon that might as well have come from Game of Thrones — dominate the sandy landscape. For most of the movie, though, Artemis spends her time contending with one monster in particular — a fearsome, demonic-looking creature known as Diablos, whose tendency to lurk beneath the sand until it senses surface vibration may remind moviegoers of the giant sand worms from Tremors.

In order to defeat Diablos, Artemis must partner up with a nameless hunter (Indonesian action star Tony Jaa). And after the obligatory introductory tussle, the two set out on their mission to bring down the gargantuan beast and eventually make their way to a not-too-distant tower that looms menacingly in the distance — the apparent source of the magical power that brought Artemis and her fellow soldiers to this strange new world. Before the pair can do so, however, they — or perhaps, more specifically, audiences — will have to suffer through the tried-and-true training montage, in which Artemis is introduced to some of the fantastical weaponry she'll soon be wielding, while viewers who may not exactly be ardent fans of the Monster Hunter video game series are left to wonder about the backstory behind these cool-looking props.

Suffice to say, those who are well-versed in Monster Hunter lore will no doubt get a kick out of the fan service Anderson has included here, which includes former Hellboy Ron Perlman as the gruff and burly Admiral, a non-playable character from Capcom's Monster Hunter World. And, of course, last but not least, no Monster Hunter adaptation would be complete without the felyne food expert Monster Hunter World fans know as the Meowscular Chef. Yes, he's literally a human-sized cat whose skills are unmatched in the kitchen, but he's also one of the most enjoyable aspects of the film, adding just the right level of tongue-in-cheek self awareness to the proceedings.

As for where the Monster Hunter big screen franchise goes from here, one would be foolish to think that Anderson and company aren't planning on turning this into another series of Resident Evil proportions. Still, it takes a lot more than a tough female protagonist and some larger-than-life creatures to convince moviegoers. And even in this barren landscape of pandemic-era cinema, Monster Hunter finds itself fighting an uphill battle.

Monster Hunter releases December 18th, 2020 from Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of creature action and violence throughout. Its runtime is 1 hr. 39 min.

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