Monster Hunter (2020) – A Failure of Godzilla-Sized Proportions

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Monster Hunter (2020) Review

Some video games are simple enough that you would think that they shouldn’t be that hard to adapt into a movie. Monster Hunter might have a lot of lore, but when the core mechanic seems to be “Kill a big monster then use parts of that monster to help you kill an even bigger monster” then that basically demands you make a fun Kaiju movie with lots of discount-Godzillas being poked with large pointy things. This shouldn’t be too hard to make at least mindlessly watchable… unless you hand it to the guy who drove the Resident Evil franchise into the ground, then you might have an early contender for the worst film 2021 has to offer.

Monster Hunter starts with an almost interesting premise, a bunch of soldiers are on a routine mission to find another bunch of soldiers who got lost. Because of some reasons, all the soldiers are teleported into a desert world filled with Tremors worms, steroid spiders with spikes and a dragon so now our ‘Heroes’ have to figure out how to get home… or at least, the one character that appears on all the posters with the actress that happens to be married to the director because this film is basically Paul W.S. Anderson trying to make his wife look like a total badass (and failing at it).


The Problems with Monster Hunter

It’s almost impossible to state just what’s wrong with Monster Hunter because there are so many problems that I would need to have a copy of my own and go scene by scene to get it all, it’s that flawed. The problems with logic can almost be forgiven when it’s minor things like “How are you still alive after that fall?” or “Wait, how did that sound not attract the Tremors monster?” but this film can’t handle things like how pulses or light work.

Seriously, there are at least two instances where a character has their pulse checked and the person checking reacts in a way that says “Yeah, they’re dead”… and then the dead person is totally fine. This happens twice and both times it’s amazingly stupid because either the film is suggesting that someone could live for about 10 minutes without their heart beating and no one doing chest compressions (that’s how you get brain death!) or it implies that fully trained army officer doesn’t know how to check a pulse and I’m not sure which suggestion is worse.

Then there’s a bit where we’re shown (in the ONLY moment of Monster Hunter that tells us a weakness of a monster using the visual medium, like they do in movies!) that a certain monster is unable to go into direct sunlight and that’s why our main character is safe. We see in the wide shots that she’s in the most brightly lit portion of the desert that they have… and then we cut to a closeup and she’s so clearly in shadows that you end up wondering why the spiders haven’t eaten her tasty tasty flesh. 

Monster Hunter Sand Demon... thing

The lighting problem is linked to another major issue Monster Hunter has, namely that it was edited by a blender that somehow gained sentience. This means that some shots just don’t line up so you end up wondering about the spatial relations of everyone on the screen, sometimes it means that action sequences are actually painful to watch. You can tell that there’s some elaborate fight choreography going on, it would be nice if I could see ANY of it.

Oh and then there are the slow-motion shots which are so bad that it looks less like they ran the film at half speed and more like they just asked the actors to move a little slower because they were so sure it’d look cooler.

It doesn’t, nothing looks cool here, possibly because everything is a different colour of beige and any potentially cool shots last for three seconds before cutting away. The only shots that this film will linger on is that of a Coke can or a Hershey’s bar because I’m assuming those companies paid good money to get their products on screen in this film about monsters that kill and eat people… great investment there.

Can we talk about how Monster Hunter lacks understanding of how character arcs are meant to work? See, this film claims that Milla Jovovich (her character’s name is Artemis but let’s be real, no one cares) is the main character and therefore will be the one to do all the monster fighting and have the main arc… yeah, no.

At her best she helps out a bit, she pushes a sword the rest of the way into a monster’s head after her companions have done 90% of the work but she never has the big “I’ve grown as a character” moment, never shows she’s anything special or interesting. She’s there because… well, she’s married to the director and I assume they’re a package deal now.

Attempted Positivity

If I have to be nice, and I really don’t have to but I’m choosing to try being nice as a New Year’s resolution, Ron Perlman is good in this film. Sure, he’s only in the last act and someone gave him a haircut that looks like Billy Idol crossed with a shaggy dog but at least I gave a damn if he lived or died. At least he managed to make some of the stupidity interesting and had the only funny line in the entire movie. Thank you Ron Perlman, you… OK you didn’t justify my time wasted with this movie, but at very least you didn’t actively hurt me.

Conclusion

Monster Hunter is almost unwatchable, there are so many bad things that I just do not have space in this review to cover them all. I can’t cover the problematic othering of everyone who isn’t our main character, the seizure-inducing lighting, the terrible sound mix or the god awful synth score (so just pretend I rambled on each of those topics for a paragraph each).

It’s bad, it’s really really bad. Can someone please stop Paul W.S. Anderson before he kills another video game adaptation? We didn’t let Uwe Boll get away with making trash video game films for this long, why is Paul getting a pass?


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