Paul W.S. Anderson continues to make movies that seem solely focused on two things. The first goal is to provide absolutely mindless entertainment on a grand scale. The other is to have a captive audience so he can scream, “Isn’t my wife hot and cool?” at them. It’s kind of romantic, at least in my humble opinion, and I look forward to this combo every few years.
I dare you to look at any of the marketing for this film, from the posters to the trailers to the promotional images, and tell me you’re here for anything but fun bullshit
Monster Hunter is a 2020 film that was tossed online due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s gone mostly ignored. It’s a shame, because this thing is fun as hell. I’ve never played the video game, but I’m down. Our story begins in an alternate dimension that looks a lot like Arrakis. There’s a full ship, a wooden boat that crests the dunes and it’s just delightful. The crew sails towards a large, black tower in the center of a storm that they call home. When attacked by *checks notes* Diablos (giant, horned monsters swimming in the sand) The Admiral (Ron Perlman) gleefully swings down from the yardam to steer them to safety. Hunter (Tony Jaa) is lost in the sands. In the real world we meet Captain Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her crew. We don’t need to know who they are because they aren’t really characters, just stereotypes that are quickly forgotten (except for the random appearance of T.I., which baffles me). When they’re sucked to the other dimension through a storm, Hunter and Artemis have to team up as she tries to get home. They are attacked by tons of wild creatures and it’s fun.
There’s no character development here. Somewhere in the past, a bit over a decade ago, Anderson decided to start skipping that in favor of action scenes that you can tell Jovovich is having a blast filming. It’s delivered films that I have to admit are consistently entertaining, the setpieces stacked up from start to finish and the story trucking along at such a quick pace that it’s pretty hard to get bored. I don’t feel the emotion I do when I watch other trashterpieces, but Monster Hunters has plenty of excitement and I don’t lose interest. In an era where I watch a lot of movies on a laptop instead of a gigantic screen it’s important to celebrate something that’s so engaging I forget to check Twitter or my Pokemon Go apps.
And that’s all Anderson wants to do here! He wants to give you some ridiculous world that you don’t understand and don’t need to. He’s got this type of film down to a formula at this point and it’s a good thing to know. It feels like an excellent quarterback executing their best play perfectly, with nothing standing between them and a good display of their prowess. Anderson is a dorky guy that loves explosions and his wife, and that’s all he wants you to know.
It’s a good thing that formula and the excitement do the heavy lifting because Jovovich has never really been up to it. I’ve seen her in a great many things, but she’s never been someone I get excited for. Her performances are always flat and seem sort of robotic, and while that worked for Alice in the Resident Evil films (where she plays a mutant robot person) it doesn’t work in a setting that’s expected to be a display of a real person’s emotions. Anderson truly doesn’t care about character, but he wants you to think he does. She’s got a ring in a box that she carries around, she respects the religion of her partner in monster hunting, and she’s meant to be the savior of the world. He wants you to care, but it seems like that’s more work than either director or actor wants to put in.
You’re not going to have anything but a good time with this. There’s no emotional experience, no chance this’ll be your favorite movie, and certainly no memory of it beyond shutting the TV off and going about your next activity. What you’ll get is a ripping good time and a new score to listen to, as it’s actually a lot of fun (shoutout to composer Paul Haslinger, who seems to be the one person involved that gave a shit about conveying emotion). Monster Hunter is an absolute schlockfest, but that’s what it wanted to be and I can’t knock it for achieving its goals.
Paul W.S. Anderson’s Monster Hunter can be purchased from all the standard online retailers, including Amazon Prime and iTunes.