Monster Hunter (2020) Review

First things first, I’ve never played the Monster Hunter video game before. So, I’m not going to discuss how accurate it is between the movie and the video game versions. Instead, I’ll be judging solely on the movie itself.

In this big-screen adaptation, writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson — the same guy who gave us the dreaded but (surprisingly) highly-profitable Resident Evil movie franchise — has once again picked a Capcom video game and run it into the ground. The so-called “story” goes like this: We learned there are two types of worlds: One is “New World”, which refers to some vast desertland infested with bug-like monsters looking like they are coming from Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers. The other is “Our World” (the real world), where Artemis (Milla Jovovich, still looking good for her age) leading a squad of US Army Rangers (among them includes Tip “T.I.” Harris’ Lincoln, Meagan Good’s Dash and Jin Au-Yeung a.k.a. MC Jin’s Axe) to locate the missing soldiers in the desert.

En route, they got caught in a strange-looking giant storm that sucks them into a portal and lands on a desert in the “New World”. The next thing they know, they find themselves battling for survival against a relentless giant bug monster.

Long story short, Artemis meets Hunter (Tony Jaa), a warrior who doesn’t speak English and they eventually work together to fight against their common enemy.

A scene from "Monster Hunter" (2020)

Frankly, there isn’t much story going on throughout its 103-minute running time. What we have here is basically a stripped-down Monster Hunter movie designed for the crowds with short attention spans. That means the obligatory exposition is kept to a bare minimum while Anderson is more interested in showing off his US$60 million budget at his disposal, piling up with lots of effects-heavy action sequences. I have to admit the special effects and particularly the monster design looks epic and yes, visually impressive.

While Jovovich acquits herself well enough in the physically-demanding role as usual, Anderson fails to make good use of Tony Jaa in this movie. Despite being an accomplished martial artist, Anderson and his editor Doobie White manage to do the impossible by making him look like a guy who doesn’t know to fight well. Here, the fight scenes — particularly whenever it involves him and Jovovich — are all incomprehensible with the annoying, overly-edited approach.

The rest of the actors are more or less served as placeholders in the movie. Even the inclusion of Ron Perlman, whose big anime-like blonde wigs did the most acting here.

Earlier, I did mention there are lots of effects-heavy action sequences but most of them rarely engage. There are more like a sensory overload made to assault your senses — all noisy, distracting but empty spectacle. Even if Anderson meant to approach Monster Hunter as a check-your-brain-at-the-door B-movie style, it lacks that much-needed sustainable sense of mindless fun to last until the end. It doesn’t help either when the characters are totally forgettable while Anderson botches the would-be chemistry between Jovovich and Tony Jaa, given the fact the movie spends most of the time with these two actors.