Monster Hunter is a franchise that always seemed pretty fun. I haven’t played any of the games yet but I did watch one of the anime and it was solid. The monster designs are on point and so a movie for this could have a lot of potential. In some ways the movie is really stellar like with the effects and soundtrack, but unfortunately that doesn’t translate to the actual movie which suffers greatly from a lack of quality characters and no real good dynamics. The sequel would likely take things to the next level but we’ll see if that ever manages to come out.
The movie starts with Artemis and her team looking for some missing soldiers. They find an abandoned truck with signs of a struggle around it but no bodies. Then a giant storm appears and throws the gang through a portal into a different world. This world is dangerous with lots of giant monsters and crazy creatures running around. There is seemingly no escape from them and one by one they pick off all of Artemis’ team. She is now alone and must try to find her way back to Earth. She will have to reluctantly team up with a mysterious hunter who isn’t the nicest guy around. Can they put aside their differences and stay alive?
So lets quickly talk about what went right for this film and why I thought it had potential rather deep into the film until I realized it wasn’t going to happen. First off, the soundtrack really is excellent. It’s one of the best that I’ve heard in a long time with a good amount of electronic tunes. This sounds like something straight out of the Tron film series. It also has some solid action tunes and as a result this is a soundtrack that you could throw right into a video game without any issues. That’s how solid it is.
Then you have the special effects which are on point. We meet several monsters but of course the Diablos is the main one from all of the trailers. They all look good and rather faithful to the games where they came from. It’s clear that there was a good amount of effort put into the research part of the movie. I would have liked to have seen some more monsters of course but the ones that we did get were solid. Then you have the flame sword and some more intense weapons at the end of the film. The cliffhanger makes you feel like the next film would have really gotten involved with the lore of the series and even thrown in some villains. It could have been a Final Fantasy type experience.
Also, the first chunk of the film about Artemis and her team running around the island is like something out of Alien only much better. The gang are all experienced soldiers in an unfamiliar territory fighting off monsters that are basically Xenomorphs. One by one they are picked off but the scene shave a lot of tension and suspense. You could even call the film part horror for this whole part until the final members die and Hunter appears. This was the best part of the film. Now I still have some issues like with the neck bursters taking the place of the chest bursters. Do we need any kind of bursters in every alien film? I’d rather get torn apart by a Xenomorph than have that happen to be honest.
The film can’t really resist having this happen to one member at least but the film mostly has restraint otherwise. The scenes can be intense but it’s more about the atmosphere than what is actually happening on screen and I do think that is the right approach here. Finally, the last positive I can give for the movie is that Artemis is a very solid main character. She’s a no nonsense fighter who knows how to keep her team focused and not get sidetracked by every little thing. It’s easy to see how she earned the captain role and never falters throughout the movie.
In general the film’s pacing is solid as well so things never drag on. Still, the second half is a big downgrades and a big part of that is Hunter’s fault. So, Hunter can only talk in the language of the new world so he and Artemis don’t understand each other. I think that already puts the film in a tough position since it’s very hard to write good banter in such a situation. I absolutely think it’s possible with top tier writers but do you think Monster Hunter has that level of talent at the ready? Most of the conversations are basically just the two characters making fun of each other. It takes them a while to actually get along and by that point the film is nearly over.
They even have a very serious fight early on where they nearly murder each other. It was certainly quite the way to get introduced to each other. Hunter’s mostly the one at fault here though as he kept on taunting Artemis. She had to put him in his place to establish the chain of command around here. Hunter just never gets all that interesting though and I would have almost preferred Artemis was on her own the whole time.
There’s also one scene that will take you out of the immersion for a bit because of how ludicrous it is. So, after hours of being in the desert and fighting monsters, Artemis reaches in her pocket and takes out a Hershey’s Chocolate Bar. It is perfectly solid and not melted at all. She uses it as a peace offering with Hunter who loves it since this is the best brand of chocolate of all time. Here’s the problem, while I don’t mind shameless product placement since I always find that entertaining, there’s no way it wouldn’t have melted. Try carrying a chocolate bar in your pocket while you’re walking around and handling day to day tasks. I’ve done this a few times in my day and let me tell you, your pocket’s going to be a mess after this.
There is no way that would even resemble a bar by the time she was done with the first act of the film. It may be a minor thing but I couldn’t stop thinking about that because of how obvious it was. As usual for these kinds of films the heroes are rather desperate for whatever they can eat which usually ends up looking rather gross. The characters have to skin the monsters to get weapons and bait which can also be rather messy and gross. That part of Monster Hunter I would be cool with skipping so we can just get to the action already.
That’s not even counting the rest of Hunter’s crew who was completely forgettable. It’s easy to forget they even had an intro scene in the film. I think what this boils down to is that the film was a lot more interesting when it was Artemis and her team. I would have changed it so the whole film was about them trying to survive rather than switching to Hunter and his crew. That would have just ended up being a lot more fun in the end.
One thing you want to have for a sci-fi film like this..or any film really is some fun banter and dialogue while blasting your way through the enemy planet. This film doesn’t have any of that since nobody who can speak English even appear until we’re near the end of the film. You also won’t get answers to the interesting parts of the film yet like who put up the towers to cause the portals between worlds.
At the very end of the film we see a glimpse of the likely culprit but there’s no clue on who this is. There’s so much you can do with this, particularly since there seems to be a castle of some kind at the end. A villain group all fighting with magical swords/weapons would make for an amazing sequel. Sure, the monsters may get less screen time but I would be fine with that. It was fun seeing the government step in again near the end but even then this was a very brief moment.
Overall, Monster Hunter could have been a lot better. It just made a lot of questionable choices in the second half. Hunter could have been much more interesting than how he ended up being. I could do with less of the crude humor like the cat getting his fur in the drink that they end up having to drink. Those scenes don’t need to be there and the writing just doesn’t feel nearly as good as it could have been. Artemis can’t hold the entire film on her own and it’s an issue that the film is trying to give her the full load. At least the excellent soundtrack ensures that you will have a good audio experience, but the solid first act is not enough to keep this movie afloat so it’s time to give this one a skip.