There is a synopsis on Monster Hunter’s official website that sums up the film without wasting words, and I quote:

Behind our world, there is another: a world of dangerous and powerful monsters that rule their domain with deadly ferocity. When an unexpected sandstorm transports Captain Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her unit (TI Harris, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta) to a new world, the soldiers are shocked to discover that this hostile and unknown environment is home to enormous and terrifying monsters immune to their firepower.

In their desperate battle for survival, the unit encounters the mysterious Hunter (Tony Jaa), whose unique skills allow him to stay one step ahead of the powerful creatures. As Artemis and Hunter slowly build trust, she discovers that he is part of a team led by the Admiral (Ron Perlman). Facing a danger so great it could threaten to destroy their world, the brave warriors combine their unique abilities to band together for the ultimate showdown.

This detailed synopsis is all you really need to know about the movie, because there isn’t much else in this new release from Sony Pictures. Well, other than Ron Perlman, that is. Perlman plays the gruff, savage looking other-world leader who captains a ship riding over a sea of sand that gets attacked by a ferocious sand monster. We don’t see much of Perlman’s character after that. The survivor of his ship is Tony Jaa, who allies with Milla Jovovich’s army unit when they, in search of another lost platoon, arrive on their world.

The said monster — a strange disproportionate dragon of sorts — doesn’t discriminate. He attacks them with as much zeal, as anyone else. Then there are strange alien spiders which live underground and lay eggs on Jovovich’s crewmate. As you may guess, there is a lot of screaming and gunfire and explosion.

The film has few dialogues, so most of the exposition and story details are left for the final act. In the middle, Jaa and Jovovich’s characters bond over one common element essential for any species’ survival: a chocolate bar (it was the only food item she had).

Screenwriter and director Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil movies, Event Horizon, Mortal Kombat) — also Jovovich’s husband — seems to have written the film in a weekend. There is little exposition or backstory. Since the film is based on a popular video game from Capcom (one I haven’t played), I guess the basic myth of monster and inter-world transport portals come from them.

Or maybe not, since the franchise spans far and wide and the film feels like a cinematic extension that builds up from the premise of the game. Anderson did something similar in the Resident Evil series, so it was expected.

In adventure-actioners such as this, one expects average performances, even though there was some room for insightful character exploration. Given the genre, one isn’t expecting miracles. What we see in between the humans’ survival games are dreary moments that compel one to wish for the action scenes to begin.

Thankfully, there are enough of them to steer the film to its end … where we get the director’s promise for a sequel.

Released in cinemas and select online rental services, Monster Hunter is rated PG-13 for the usual stuff

Published in Dawn, ICON, February 28th, 2021

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