Film review: ‘MONSTER HUNTER’, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Adapted from a video game, the ridiculous sci-fi action flick Monster Hunter has nothing to do with the Norwegian mockumentary Troll Hunter.  Many will be alarmed to learn it comes from director Paul W. S. Anderson who inflicted upon us the seemingly endless Resident Evil franchise.  Despite a larger and slightly more interesting canvas of a desert planet and giant beasts instead of zombies, this film, like the Resident Evils, once again involves little more than a tedious procession of battles between seemingly indestructible humans and silly looking CGI creatures.

Here, Resident Evil star Milla Jovovich plays the statuesque but tough-as-nails army ranger Captain Natalie Artemis.  While on patrol somewhere in the Middle East her squad encounter mysterious structures which create a portal that transports them to another dimension.  Stranded on a vast desert world, Artemis and her crew find not only is there no water but there’s an assortment of monsters that want to munch on them.  A mysterious lone survivalist known as the Hunter (Tony Jaa) and a rugged old pirate (Ron Perlman) and his crew who inhabit this world are Artemis’ only hope of surviving the monsters and returning home.

With a Kung fu smack down or monster battle about every 10 seconds, this film certainly delivers on the action quotient.  Unfortunately, it’s so silly and clumsily staged there’s almost no excitement.  Characters defy all known laws of physics and medical science as they survive being stomped on, chomped on and head-butted by a monster the size of a city block.  Worse still the action scenes, particularly the fights between Artemis and the Hunter, are edited in such a horrible, jerky, seizure-inducing style that it’s not only hard to know who’s belting who but it’s painful to watch.

Monster Hunter’s biggest interest lies in spotting all the other sci-fi films which it attempts to emulate.  One massive, lumbering, sinewy beast – which looks like a triceratops mated with a tree – burrows into the ground just like the sand worms in Dune.  Giant scorpions scuttle about and swarm like the Arachnids in Starship Troopers while the mysterious portal has echoes of Star Gate and a gooey monster lair recalls the egg chamber from Alien.

With all the CGI silliness here it’s easy to forget that Milla Jovovich is actually a decent actor.  Fleetingly, she’s permitted to show some emotion and personality beyond just being a po-faced fighting machine and her moments of comic by-play with the Tony Jaa are actually quite charming.  Why exactly Ron Pearlman chose to be in this film, however, is a mystery. Not only is he allowed little screen time but he looks absolutely ludicrous with mad staring eyes, bristling mutton chops and an outrageous fluffy mullet that make him look like an adult version of the feral kid from the Mad Max films.  Hilariously, his pirate troop, despite living in the desert and battling monsters, all look like unblemished models who have escaped an 80’s Russell Mulcahy music video.  Monster Hunter might provide some juvenile thrills for those who are perfectly comfortable with films that have the emotional depth of a video game but more discerning filmgoers should avoid this as if it were a giant, ravenous, beaky monster.

Nick’s rating: **

Genre: Sci-fi/ action.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Paul W S Anderson.

Release date: 1st Jan 2020.

Running time: 104 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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