MOVIE REVIEW: MONSTER HUNTER (2020) with spoilers

Figure 1 – Monster Hunter Poster (Spanish version)

Until I actually saw the titular movie, I was unaware that it was based on a Capcom game. As a matter of course, I’ve been following Milla Jovovich’s (it’s pronounced “Yo-Vo-Vich,” by the way) movies since either Resident Evil or The Fifth Element (I believe the latter); her character Leeloo was so appealing that I instantly fell in love (of a sort). (Same way I love Superman, or Conan, in case you’re wondering; I’m very happy with, and completely in love with my wife, the Beautiful and Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk!) So, of course, I’ve seen all her Resident Evil movies and even the recent disappointment that was Hellboy, with David Harbour instead of Ron Perlman, who (IMO) was born to play that role. So for me, Milla is sort of a fantasy character who can play darned near any kick-ass movie heroine! She’s 45 now, and still doing amazing action movies with lots of (I presume) wire work. Here’s a recent shot of her with her teen-aged daughter Ever, who will herself be playing the young Black Widow (“Natasha Romanoff”) in the MCU.

Figure 2 – Milla Jovovich and Ever

Well, Monster Hunter came out, I believe, in December of 2020; I’ve been waiting weeks for it to hit the digital arena—thanks to Covid-19, neither I nor Lynne are going to the actual theatre, masks and social distancing or not. So I waited… and waited… and finally, yea! (That’s not “yeah,” for the grammatically-challenged among us, btw.) Sony finally released it on digital, so I jumped on it ASAP. By the way, this—like the Resident Evil movies, was written by Milla’s third (and current) husband, Paul W.S. Anderson.
All I knew about this movie—having not actually even seen any previews—was that it had Milla in it and was about a U.S. Army Ranger team being dropped into another world full of monsters, and she would be playing team leader Artemis. Of course I saw a couple of stills, one with her carrying some monster animé-type sword, and another with a giant kaiju-type monster. Typical poster hype, right?
So—since I was not expecting Shakespearean plot and/or acting, I went and made myself a big bowl of popcorn (“What? It’s nearly suppertime,” commented the B&T LTF. “This is not food, it’s a movie snack!” I retorted.) and sat down with the B&T LTF to watch. Here’s the plot as I perceived it:

We encounter a wooden sailing ship captained by Ron Perlman with horrendous mutton-chop whiskers and a weird suntan, that is sailing through the sand the way sailing ships used to sail the seas; during a storm, the ship is attacked by a giant kaiju-type horned monster, and some of the crew are killed, but one is thrown off the ship and not eaten. We will encounter him later. The ship is heading towards some kind of tower in the mountains ahead, that obviously has something to do with the storm, because it’s either sending out or receiving big lightning bolts.
The scene shifts to more familiar territory.
Lieut. (pronounced “loot” in the U.S. and “lef-tenant” in Canada) Artemis and her team of four or five Rangers (mostly men, but two women) are out trying to find out what happened to the previous team (I think called “Team Bravo,” but it’s beginning to fade a bit, so pardon me for small errors) that vanished in the presumably Afghan desert; or maybe it’s one of those African desert countries the U.S. is always fighting in. They’ve got two vehicles, both armed: a scout Jeep-type vehicle, and a Humvee-looking one (maybe a type of armoured car) with a .50-caliber chain gun. You got me; I’m not an expert on Army vehicles or  armament.
So they’re traveling through a desert, singing a song about how the Army sucks, and following Bravo Team’s tire tracks, which all of a sudden disappear. While they’re discussing this, beyond a nearby ridge a giant storm suddenly blows up, so Lt. Artemis tells them to get back into the vehicles and they start driving away from the storm, which overtakes them. The vehicles are blown all over the place, but finally end up in another desert!

***Spoilers follow***

Lt. Artemis and crew find the remains of Bravo team; the vehicles and people are burnt to a crisp; even the sand is burned to glass. They theorize what could put out that kind of heat, but then they encounter a giant monster that apparently swims in and under the sand the way a shark does in water and put off the discussion. Some of the team are lost to the monster, and they encounter a guy who is eventually known as “The Hunter” (Tony Jaa), who we don’t realize is the guy thrown off the sailing ship. Milla’s team, men and women alike, are either killed by the kaiju or cocooned (she undergoes this part) and/or colonized by giant spider-like insects. She has managed to save out a clip of .50-cal ammunition and several flares, plus some kind of explosive shell, and utilizes all of that to free herself. She, as the lone survivor of the team, has to team up with The Hunter to try to return to what she realizes is our Earth.
The Hunter captures and ties her up… he’s been living in the rocks to keep away from the kaiju, and hiding from the zillions of spider-things at night in a cave to which he’s blocked the entrance. She eventually saves him from the spider-things and they team up, even though she doesn’t speak his language, or he hers. He has a giant bow, and shoots explosive arrows at the kaiju.

Figure 3 – Milla and Tony Jaa

They find an oasis—that sprang up out of nowhere, if you ask me—and encounter a giant herd of ankylosaurus, which are stampeded by a flying dragon that breathes fire. Then—surprise!—The Hunter is joined by Ron Perlman’s team and they all have to fight the dragon; she is eventually joins his crew in an effort to return “home.” (Home has different meanings to her and Jaa’s character.) The movie has no actual ending, but sequels are hinted at.

I don’t have a problem with this being a video-game movie; remember, I made a big bowl of real-buttered popcorn before starting it. My problem is that, even for a video-game movie it makes no sense. I expect my video-game movies—like Resident Evil—to at least attempt to explain it to the viewer. This one doesn’t.
There are lots of problems with this movie, but I’m not going to enumerate them all. I always enjoy SF/F action movies, and this one has enough interesting stuff to at least make it watchable. The stuff I don’t get—like what do the giant spider-things eat? There’s nothing else there for miles around—where did this oasis come from? They were trudging through a desert. How the hell does anyone wield that giant axe apparently made from a kaiju jawbone? What the actual F***? A person with a cat’s head? But that’s enough of that.
Milla is not the world’s best actress, but she’s effective in these kinds of movies. Tony Jaa is not the world’s best actor, but as Milla says, “Tony does the stuff for real, what I need wires to do. He does parkour on the way to work!” Ron is a very good actor in what he does, like the Hellboy movies, Pacific Rim and the like, but looks absolutely weird here. They are all SF/F action heroes, and that’s good enough for me. I enjoyed it as a “popcorn movie.” I’ll wait for the sequel and hang on to my questions and expectations. I’ll give it a B-.

Comments? Throw me a comment, good or bad, positive or negative! (Just keep it polite, please.) I want to hear what you think! My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!

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