Monster Hunter

Monster Hunter ★★★

For about 70 minutes, Monster Hunter is a shockingly fun time. Good? That’s debatable. But those 70 minutes encompass solid military v monster action, a survival-horror detour into King Kong’s insect pit, and fulfilling the promise of Skull Island’s opening as giant creatures transmute cross-culture (here cross-world) antagonism into friendship. A military-fantasy-kaiju medley that is practically an exercise in blockbuster minimalism. 

Milla Jovovich’s acting is wooden, so is everyone else in this, but thankfully a sizable chunk of the film is progressed through mostly-dialogue-free interactions. Anderson makes the expected (yet no less grave) sin of over-cutting around Tony Jaa, but the Thai star gets to show off his physicality and charisma through pantomime bonding with Milla’s lost soldier. Through his expressive performance, the evolution from bitter frustrated head-butting to warrior allies gives Monster Hunter a memorable core. 

And then suddenly the final half hour staples a truncated sequel and an entire movie’s worth of exposition onto a film that seemed refreshingly contained. It is jarring to say the least. Like Anderson realized he forget to add the over-the-top set-pieces and world-threatening stakes and Ron Perlman looking like Monkey King and the “Stuff You Like From The Game” ™ references, dumping the entire awkward load onto the final act. The movie doesn’t finish as much as just halts mid-action. Ends the whole thing with a shoddy aftertaste. 

That said, I did like the final burst of military versus monster spectacle and that first hour or so makes this best movie from the director since Death Race (or Event Horizon, take your pick).

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