Monster Hunter

Monster Hunter ★★★½

I want to be a Paul W.S Anderson auteurist.

He's one of the few big-budget genre filmmakers who writes and directs his work, clearly enjoys the material he's adapting and wants to make genuinely fun films. I remember reading that his script for RESIDENT EVIL APOCALYPSE had a line that went, "And then Alice comes crashing the church window on a motorcycle, and THE CROWD IN THE THEATER JUMPS TO THEIR FEET BECAUSE IT'S SO AWESOME!

That's my kind of goofy fun!

Yet, his films mostly frustrate me.

His directing is stiff, his inspirations dull in their derivativeness, and most problematic of all, he continually undercuts his storytelling in an attempt to be edgy. Did the film just spend a half-hour introducing a team of heroes? BOOM! Now they're dead! I bet you weren't expecting that, did you? Yea, it makes the rest of the movie rather dull, but wasn't it worth it for the SHOCK!?

Also, for a guy who loves video games, Anderson’s adaptations are baffling messes that feature elements of the source material, but he syphons them through a structure that feels like a boardroom wrote it, scared that American audiences will find the original plot of something like MONSTER HUNTER too 'weird.’ Do we really gotta have soldiers be teleported to the monster hunter dimension? Like the Lundgren MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE movie!?

Yet.

I had fun with MONSTER HUNTER.

Sure, it’s got the same ‘Set-up a team and kill them before the half-hour mark’ structure of RESIDENT EVIL and ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, but this time each character gets a little moment (Mostly unearned) that made it go down easy. Yes, there’s a moment straight out of ALIEN, but it moved by quickly as I groaned.

And once that gets out of the way, the story turns into John Boorman’s HELL IN THE PACIFIC (with electronic music), as Milla Jovovich teams up with the global treasure that is Tony Jaa to take down a giant monster by themselves - and they don’t speak each other’s languages! It’s a solid set-up, which results in a lot of fun gags and some enjoyable giant monster action. Tony Jaa is the best, and I want him in all the movies because he is pure loveable charm.

The film only stumbles when a NEW gang of badasses is introduced, led by Ron Pearlman, with only 30-minutes left! I guess Anderson got a note to turn things into a Mainland Chinese Fantasy film. There’s even a CGI pirate cat. No, he doesn’t do anything, and yes, I know the film ended up getting banned in China. Oh, don’t worry about things feeling rushed, because THE CHARACTERS DON’T EVEN ACHIEVE THEIR GOAL! Yes, there’s a cliffhanger like in MORTAL KOMBAT and THREE MUSKETEERS.

BUT

II even had fun with the end part. It was so baffling and odd, with an entire climax that existed only to give an excuse for a dragon to destroy a whole modern army, that I had to smile.

Honestly, I like the direction Paul W.S Anderson is going. Yes, his last few films have had some of the same problems as his previous work (STOP INTRODUCING CHARACTERS!), but it’s been way looser and agile over the last decade. For example, RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER was hilariously aggressive in its style, and while this seems like more of a correction, I like the vibe.

Maybe he’ll one day get me onboard after all.

Watch he discuss the film on THE BEST NEW MOVIE SHOW