Monster Hunter *1/2
One Liner Review:
A pretty lousy movie that wastes what could have otherwise been a cool concept snd one of the greatest action stars.
Talk about a wasted opportunity. People who are going to see this movie are going for one main reason… the monsters. And even those are blundered here. The first monster is cool and all others fall way short of the mark, which is to say they are creatures we’ve seen over and over again.. giant spiders and a dragon. How about some creativity? The story is incredibly weak, as a character is the leader of a team, the only crew member to survive an attack, and then this idea is repeated two more times. Find a new team. Everyone dies but her. Find another team that comes to rescue her, everyone dies but her. Boy is this one a mess. On occasion there are some positives, like pretty cool weapons and getting a Tony Jaa hand-to-hand combat scene, but overall this movie is pretty bsd.
To understand why Monster Hunter is bad requires a little bit of understanding about the director. Paul W. S. Anderson. This is a guy who is like the king of B movie bad action films. His first big movie was Mortal Kombat, the original film that was dopey as all hell, but still a lot of fun. The dialogue was cheesy, the characters were weak, and the sets were over the top, but boy did it all look cool. After that, Anderson made Event Horizon, his best movie to date. It was basically Alien with an unknown spirit in a spaceship, and as a horror movie it was ridiculously enjoyable. But after that, Anderson fell into routine. He made the lousy movie, Soldier, with Kurt Russell, and then got hooked on the Resident Evil train, making three of those movies. Like Michael Bay with Transformers, this guy just got worse and worse. Whatever promise or potential he had went right down the drain. And now, with Monster Hunter, he is once again tackling videogame material, (like Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil,) only with this movie Anderson makes nearly every mistake imaginable.
Let’s start with the big one… the monsters. Considering that this movie has the word “monster,” in the title, and is clearly a creature-feature, you would think that if there was one thing to get right, it would be the monsters. That’s the number one reason people are coming to see this movie. And all you have to do is come up with some cool, original-looking designs for creatures. It shouldn’t be that hard. And yet this movie blunders that. There are three monsters in the movie (if you could even call them that.) The first one, which is gigantic and runs on two legs, is by far the neatest. This thing really does look good, with ram-like horns and a fantastic run. But he’s the only monster who looks cool here.
Other than that, we get giant spiders and a dragon. Both of these are the two most cliched kinds of creatures around. Let’s start with the spiders. We’ve seen giant spiders in so many creature movies, from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King to Kong: Skull Island. We’ve even seen creative versions on spiders, like what they did in Starship Troopers. But here, everything is just routine. Sure they have lots of eyes, making their faces look somewhat original, but even still, they are giant spiders and nothing more. And the other monster is a giant dragon. Really? Haven’t we seen enough dragons with the hit HBO show Game of Thrones from just a few years ago. These days, dragons are everywhere. The same week that this movie got a digital release and came out on demand, Disney Plus released the new movie Raya and the Dragon. That should give you an idea of how popular a creature dragons are. Seeing another one here just makes us wonder why they didn’t come up with something better. Just look to the creatures of Greek mythology or something and come up with some neat-looking ideas. But by all means, get creative with these monsters. That should be the very first step.
And now let’s get into the plot. The movie opens with an army crew in two different humves out in the desert looking for something. They are looking for another crew that was out there before them and vanished. This motivation for a group of people being out in the middle of nowhere is as basic and cliched as it gets. Anderson’s own Event Horizon used the same storyline. So did another space movie, Sunshine. At least in this movie it’s in a desert and not in outer space again. The crew drives around singing a funny song about the army and how they won’t let you leave, and then they notice weird markings buried and sticking up out of the ground. Suddenly a massive storm rises up behind them that looks more like a gigantic tidal wave. The crew floors it, but the wave catches up to them and then disappears. The normal desert landscape returns. Or does it.
As it happens, the wave that swept over them actually brought them into new world. Suddenly the huge, two-legged monster appears from in the sand and attacks. Our characters go running and make it into caves. Only that’s when the spider appear. And one by one, each crew member is picked off and killed. Now, normally it a good way to tell a creature horror movie to have the crew members picked off one at a time. You spend the movie getting to know the characters, and then little by little, they all start disappearing. Anderson knows this because his movie Event Horizon did exactly that. But here, we don’t get more than a few minutes with the crew, and really don’t get to know them at all, before they all start dying. And everyone of them dies so quickly, that there’s no fun to be had in any of this. Better ensemble-horror films tend to take the whole movie to have the villain kill off our characters. In this movie that entire crew dies in a matter of minutes. Everyone but Artemis (Milla Jovovich.)
Artemis wakes up from being unconscious, deals with the spiders, and meets Hunter (Tony Jaa.) Now, the actor Tony Jaa, is a very special guy to get in your movie. This guy is currently the greatest action star in the world. Whereas it used to be guys like Jackie Chan and Jet Li, who could do the incredible moves that looked impossible, Jaa is that guy today. He has proved himself time and again with movies like Ong Bak and The Protector. To get him in an action movie is a huge accomplishment. Especially one that involves hand to hand combat. Here, Jaa does get one action scene, against Artemis, and he does get to use some of his great moves, but not nearly enough. Most of Jaa’s action scenes are him running away from monsters or firing off a bow and arrow. Considering how amazing this guy is, the movie should have found more ways to showcase his skills. Think of the Protector and that restaurant sequence up with winding path that went all the way from the floor to the ceiling. As he ran up the path he took out more and more guys in incredibly creative ways. Imagine if he did something similar to that here, running up the side of a mountain, taking out monsters and spiders in his path, the whole way up. Now that could have been something cool.
There’s more to criticize about the earlier scenes of the movie, like the awful dialogue. Let’s just say the phrase “what the hell,” or some kind of variation on it, “what in the hell is that?” is muttered over and over again by all different characters, to the point where it seems like the writers just didn’t care or give much thought to anything they were having the characters say. But after the crew is gone, it’s the Artemis and Hunter show as the two of them bond and then train and then fight monsters together for a solid chunk of time. First they bond over chocolate, which is pretty elementary storytelling. And then they make weapons together. This part is kind of cool. Artemis makes wrist guards that shoot ropes and then pull her towards the object like she’s Batman using a grappling hook gun. She also makes electrically charged daggers. And Hunters sword is massively cool. Say what you want about this movie, and there’s a lot to be criticized, but the weapons are definitely pretty neat.
It’s also a good idea to have Artemis and Hunter take on that sand monster from earlier on in the movie, once more. Considering that he was such a creative looking beast, and by far the best monster in the movie, the more screen time this creature gets the better. And so once the two of them join forces, they take this creature on together. After that, Hunter brings her to a much more scenic area where there are actual trees and lakes. And that’s when we meet a whole other crew, led by Ron Pearlman. There’s a slight story here, involving the crew first imprisoning Artemis before they realize she is on their side, but it’s nothing special. And that brings us to the final act of the movie… the dragon.
There are all sorts of problems with the end sequences. First, Artemis falls from one world to another to another. Without giving away the ending, let’s just say she keeps going back and forth between worlds, all of a sudden, and it’s pretty tough to figure out exactly what’s happening from time to time. When she willingly comes back to the monster world, her entire arc of trying to get back to earth goes right out the window. When a plane of soldiers shows up to rescue her, Artemis is put on a stretcher and loaded into the plane. At this point, she is so beaten up by the dragon, that she can’t even speak. Forget moving or fighting, she can’t even get words out of her mouth. She can’t even tell the poor soldiers who have come to rescue her, where they are, and what’s out there with them. And that’a fine. There’s nothing wrong with a character being so broken down that he or she can’t speak. But then, all of a sudden, the dragon attacks again, and suddenly Artermis is back on her feet, running and fighting. Now I get the way adrenaline kicks in under scary circumstances, and that the dragon attacking maybe propelled her to get up and start fighting back, but considering that Artmeis could have warned these guys about the monsters if she could just have gotten the words out, and that she still couldn’t do just that, makes it kind of hard to believe that she could suddenly kick into action mode so easily.
There are a few redeeming qualities to this movie, including a cool first monster, a brief Tony Jaa hand-to-hand combat scene, and some very creative weapons, but as far as story, dialogue, and characters go, the movie is a mess. And that really goes from beginning to end. In fact, even in the last few minutes, the movie disappoints. The last moment (it’s actually a mid-credits scene,) has four warriors come together to unite and fight off monsters together. These include character who have been in different places during the movie and have never really fought side by side. The coolest of these is a sort of cat man. The characters join together, run at a monster, and the movie ends. This is just like how Anderson’s Mortal Kombat ended with the characters preparing to take on a new enemy. Only here, it’s characters who have not yet fought together, and in the case of the cat man, look better than almost anything else in that movie. The cat man looks really interesting, and unfortunately this movie gives us very little of him. Instead, they try to set him up and tease him for a sequel. So the sequel material is actually better than almost anything in this movie.