j****’s review published on Letterboxd:
If nothing else Monster Hunter is admirable for revealing that, even when stripped of the ideological frameworks that have come to define his work since 2002, Anderson is a builder of eminently watchable pop cinema. In this way he’s become something of classic genre workhorse, slipping in and out of the familiar roles. It’s clear to me now more than ever that you could give the man just about any screenplay with a monster or two and he’d make it fun. The familiar modes of character interaction and plot escalation are here, but in eschewing labyrinthine control systems for a couple vaguely defined mini-stadiums Anderson lets the plot breathe a tad more than usual, for better and for worse. His characters are typically defined and made compelling through their relation to oppressors and in the absence of such there really isn’t much to say. Artemis is Milla is Alice is Milla is Artemis is Alice, but this is Alice without Umbrella so really it’s just Milla. The faintest whispers of a critique of US imperialism are made but as far as I can tell they serve a purely technical purpose. I never felt I was giving, say, Pompeii too much credit because to describe why it made me so emotional is simply to describe the plot as it is. The film is literally about the death throes of an unjust world as seen through the eyes of someone wrongfully punished by that world (this detail in particular is proof that it was best for someone like Anderson, a self described populist, to be the director). Monster Hunter, by comparison, is hazier as a text and though the charisma they share is undeniable the implicit racism of the Milla-Tony dynamic does little to convince me otherwise.
To put it bluntly, I think this is just Anderson having fun with his wife. It’s telling that opportunities provided to slip into his usual, intentionally oppressive, conceits are abandoned in favor of a progression that has room for whatever the fuck he wants. Pompeii turned an entire city into a rat maze, so we know full well the same could be done for any locale unique to the MU franchise in Anderson’s hands but he chose not to. It’s airy, knowingly meandering, and all around nice to watch. The editing does operate similarly to The Final Chapter but it’s never anywhere near as violent in intent or affect. It’s still quite fast, but not as fast nor as frequently fast. Cuts don’t convey ideas but they do move the eye, mess with your heart rate, develop relationships, and teach the viewer how this world works. I found the cutting is at its most impressive in the middle act which functions as something of a short film within a film told largely without dialogue and all the better for it. Computer generated spectacle is not exactly intellectually arresting in the way I’ve come to expect but it is lovingly realized especially against the expanse of desert. The monsters look really good and their detail comes through against bright whites and blues. All things considered, this feels like Anderson having an easy day, which is by no means a bad thing. I admit I’m curious to know what the mood of the shoot was like, especially given the accidents which took place during the shoot of The Final Chapter, but also because I can’t help but feel the director of this film applied less pressure on collaborators than usual. This is undeniably Anderson, but not overwhelmingly so. Waiting on a commentary track.