RogerBW's Blog

Monster Hunter 26 February 2021

2020 fantasy action, dir. Paul W. S. Anderson, Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa: IMDb / allmovie. A US Army patrol somewhere in Afghanistan is about to meet something it really didn't expect…

So all right I enjoyed The Doomfarers of Coramonde and I was vaguely thinking it would be nice to have a film with that kind of sensibility. But this isn't it, because when Gil MacDonald and his Vietnam-era APC got summoned through to Fantasyland to fight a dragon they were going to an actual human society (granted, with magic and stuff), and there's no sign of that here: we open on a ship sailing across the sand (look, if you were expecting plausibility you didn't read the director's name, the man's made four of the seven Resident Evil films as well as the first Mortal Kombat, and his wife Jovovich has starred in six of them) but we see no sign that there's any civilisation beyond that. (Where do they get their spyglasses and grapnel guns? Where do they get their boots?) Similarly, the creature that can burrow through dry sand faster than humans can run… eh, why not?

Also Gil MacDonald's guns could actually hurt the things he fought. Fortunately US Army Rangers are just as good at fighting with weird blades they've never seen before as are people who've been using them all their lives.

But anyway. I haven't played the video games, but I gather they're basically a series of multi-player fights against big monsters (in a fantasy world with no connection to our own). Well, the big monsters are here, as well as a bunch of smaller ones (including Not Aliens Honest We'd Have Had To Pay For Them); but the fights mostly involve just one human, occasionally two, and only twice more than that. (And on one of those occasions the "more" is an armed force from the modern world, who exist to do no damage and get torn apart. Man, someone's making good money off that V-22 computer model, it's showing up everywhere all of a sudden.) Plus a lot of the standard team-up stuff where the leads' characters try to beat each other up until they earn each other's respect… which does kind of drag even though the physicality convinces rather more than the monster fights ever do.

There are little things that niggle me even though I try to suppress conscious thought, as I'm obviously intended to. Jovovich's character (Captain Natalie Artemis, uh-huh) has a ring in a box, presumably meant to suggest to the viewer that she has a sweetie back home rather than just being a fighting machine, and looking at it provides a couple of Big Emotional Moments… but given a chance, once back on Earth, to return to monster world and fight the things some more, she doesn't even try to get a message home. ("Dear Earth, monsters may come through this storm, surround it with effing big guns" might be helpful too.) During one of those Big Emotional Moments, she's in shadow in the close-up and in full sunlight in the long shot. (She doesn't have the sense to wear a hat while spending all day in the hot sun.) The camera view from inside a vehicle that's rolling over and over with people inside it is used just a couple of times too often. It's little stuff like that that tells me that director and scriptwriter (oh wait, they're the same person) was basically writing and filming pornography, the bare minimum scaffolding to get the characters from one fight to the next fight and ideally as a bonus make the viewer hope they succeed. (Hi Ashley, I stole this metaphor from you back in the day.)

I think this is a different order of problem from "gunfire has no effect but a sword or an arrow does major damage". I mean, that's basically just a universe rule. And the action is quite enjoyable. But that's all there is. Who's going to remember this film in five years?

Out, out, brief candle!
Monster Hunter's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

  1. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 04:18pm on 26 February 2021

    Sounds like awesome fun to me, but we have different tastes, and that's all it is; a difference in taste.

    Just to be posh:

    De gustibus non est disputandum – there can be no argument about taste.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 04:24pm on 26 February 2021

    Well, I enjoy action, but I enjoy it more if I care about the people involved - so that I'm engaged on an emotional level as well as a reflexive one. If you don't miss that when it's absent, you'll enjoy the film a lot more than I did. I always try to make that sort of bias clear; a review should not be useful only to people who exactly share my tastes.

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