Monster Hunter (2020) Movie Review

I hope this gets a sequel.

I’ve seen some of Paul W. S. Anderson’s work, and some of it is rocky. I was a fan of the Resident Evil movies. The last one, even though it retconned quite a bit, was a wonderfully satisfying burst of entertainment and surprising melancholiness. I can see Paul’s style is two things: Giving the audience something they won’t fall asleep watching, and having his wife Milla Jovovich in front commanding the screen and her army.

Unfamiliar with the source material upon watching the movie, I stopped typing this review to get a small glimpse into what the video games are like. And they look very beautiful and are probably a fair bit of fun. But they’re not my type. Anyway, Monster Hunter: The Movie is about a quintet of American military soldiers led by one Natalie Artemis (Jovovich who’s really just playing her usual card). They’re out in a desert to try and find a team that hasn’t reported back, and as they’re driving through the barren terrain, they all of a sudden enter some sort of unusual storm, and when it subsides they find the remains of who they were looking for. There’s glass made from melted sand and bodies abnormally charred. It becomes apparent they’re lost, and when they first see a skeleton the size of the White House, it also becomes apparent they might be the next victim of whatever killed their friends.

When this movie begins it is kind of a combination of The Old Guard and a Kong movie. The Old Guard was a vigilante-group movie and Kong was, well, the movie’s called Monster Hunter, and just look at the size of that sword Jovovich is carrying in the poster above. I am a fan of both The Old Guard and Kong movies. The problem I had with this rendition was, as much as the monsters looked cool and I’m always up for Milla Jovovich, there wasn’t anything making it that different from any of those other flicks. Plus, Jovovich’s military companions have barely any development time. When they’re in danger, it’s always a mistake not to care about them enough to know their names. Yet we also know Artemis is going to be just fine due to the usual plot armor.

The last Resident Evil movie, which I gave a B+ to, had a lot of disposable characters too, but I liked that movie a lot in spite of that because the plot was both exciting and something to root for. Monster Hunter, from its setup, gave me the impression that the video games are one of those constant shoot-em-ups with not much of a story, which it is. A lot of people like that kind of game, but I’m more into the games that have a fulfilling progressive feel. Natalie’s team is completely one-dimensional, and we’ve seen so many movies with characters we care more about getting hunted by giant monsters with a lot less certainty on who will and will not perish. The worst part of the Resident Evil movies, in my opinion, is unnecessary onslaughts that grow stale.

That sort of criticism is D-level. But the movie turns out not that bad by the middle. The number of characters severely goes down, allowing Jovovich to develop an intriguing friendship that actually works better than most movies of the monster thriller genre. Kong: Skull Island made a similar character out of John C. Reilly. This character and Natalie don’t speak the same language, and staying friends and coming up with plans in spite of that barrier is something not often done, nor done well. When these characters smile at each other, I felt a friendship that was genuine and delicate. Maybe this movie is proof that a bit of unexpected romance can really pull a thriller away from mediocrity. When this develops, and even right before this develops, as Jovovich and…well, he doesn’t have a name but he’s played by Tony Jaa, are fist-fighting like nobody’s business, the movie gets much better and the creatures seem more menacing.

Remember when the last and final Resident Evil movie still had an opening for more? Monster Hunter is like Jovovich’s Alice continuing her adventure as the anti-virus from that film can travel and create even more giant beasts. That last movie even ended with Alice being chased by not too dissimilar flying creatures. This movie’s mediocre first 40 minutes drag it down too much for a recommendation, but the picture’s not phoning in the last 60.

If you like this, I’d try, well, every other movie I mentioned in this review

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