When Captain Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her unit are transported to a new world, they engage in a desperate battle against giant monsters. In order to survive, Artemis bands together with others stranded (Tony Jaa and Ron Perlman) in the new world.
With a title as self-explanatory as 'Monster Hunter', it's hard to take umbrage with any of it. Would you argue with McDonald's for calling their signature burger a Big Mac? And much like that fast-food restaurant, it's kind of difficult to critique it because it's not trying to be anything other than what it is. 'Monster Hunter' is a movie about people hunting giant monsters in a barren landscape. Hell, it's directed by Paul WS Anderson and it's got Milla Jovovich in it. Do you need this explained any more?
At no point in 'Monster Hunter' is there anything remotely surprising about it. It's a Paul WS Anderson movie, yet again based on a videogame by Capcom, and it's got Milla Jovovich in the lead role. Nobody here is taxing themselves with a story, and instead, action is the sole focus of it. The problem, however, is that Paul WS Anderson doesn't really have much of a knack for action. He's clearly drawing inspiration from George Miller and 'Mad Max: Fury Road', what with the frantic pacing, the desert landscape, and the huge setpieces with giant, snarling monsters. Of course, 'Mad Max: Fury Road' has a truly vibrant subtext to it about ecological disaster, feminism, humanity, while 'Monster Hunter' has virtually nothing underneath it.
Sure, you can point to Jovovich as one of the precious few female action stars working today, but that's about the size of it. The dialogue in 'Monster Hunter', though it's kept to an appropriate minimum, is still painfully clunky and full of trailerspeak. The story, as mentioned, is completely threadbare. Imagine being dropped into the middle of 'Jaws' without knowing who anyone is, why they're fighting a shark, what they're doing there, or giving any kind of context to it? Would it make sense? Sure, you could piece some stuff together, but if you can't make sense of it, how are you expected to care about any of it? Ultimately, it's just pixels moving around the screen.
Bland exposition often tends to bog down videogame adaptations, because the idea is that audiences need to be slowly introduced to the world. Yet, for something like 'Monster Hunter', it tries to get so far with it and then rolls out Ron Perlman in a wig last seen on the set of 'Amadeus' to explain things in his monotone voice. Ron Perlman deserves better than this movie, or being relegated to exposition roles, yet here we are nonetheless.
The one redeeming point of 'Monster Hunter' is that it's mercifully short and keeps the action rattling through 100-odd minutes at a breakneck speed. It's all a blur of motion and sound, not of it signifying anything other than the fact that Paul WS Anderson has done it again. He's taken a rich videogame franchise and turned it into a perfectly bland movie that would in previous years have ended up in a bargain DVD bin, but now runs in cinemas for a couple of weeks and turns up on a streaming service a few months later to clog up its library.