🎃🏳️🌈 Nicholas (Nic) 🏳️🌈🎃’s review published on Letterboxd:
"This is officially above my pay grade."
Paul WS Anderson is at it again, by making more waifu fanfiction of Milla Jovovich! Much like the Resident Evil films, chances are you're not going to watch Monster Hunter for the plot and any character work, it's all about the monster designs and action, and on that basis, the film delivers. I will admit that Resident Evil (2002) and Retribution are huge guilty pleasures of mine and I don't think Paul WS Anderson is the worst director out there, but most of his directing choices are definitely questionable, and with Monster Hunter... this is a film that not only wastes opportunities to expand upon its characters and compelling world, but it could've been more coherently made.
I haven't played the Monster Hunter games and I hear the film adaptation isn't faithful. That's what Paul WS Anderson did with Resident Evil and that was at least an interesting, inversive take on the video games (although I will always mourn how George A. Romero never got to make his version of Resident Evil). With Monster Hunter? There's nothing interesting to find here. The US army approach has "been there, done that" and the plot where they go through a portal to another world is just clichéd and silly. In terms of character development? Completely non-existent, for any sense of character is replaced by setpiece after setpiece and action after action. Monster Hunter is almost empty of substance and some of the writing decisions are beyond baffling. I assume there were various video game references thrown into the film and if they were, they were used clumsily.
Paul WS Anderson knows how to make some dumb fun and he's already gathered a neat cast. Milla Jovovich proves she can act and kick ass, so I enjoyed her presence in Monster Hunter and Tony Jaa does some awesome stunts, which aren't utilised well by the film, while Ron Perlman does get a scene to shine, but it takes a WHILE to get there and even the script doesn't know how to use him. I like the ideas of the setting revolving around Monster Hunter so the film has that going for it. Too bad the world never feels fully fleshed out. While the camerawork and green screen border on laughable, some of the scenery and monster visual effects look nice, which is why I didn't mind experiencing Monster Hunter on the big screen, and the familiar soundtrack suits the action, so that's a plus, and I can say the film is an improvement over Anderson's Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.
The action sequences? Largely mixed. They're definitely fun to watch onscreen, but unfortunately, they are ruined by the atrocious editing. There are not only at least 2 jumpcuts per second in every action scene, these jumpcuts become constant throughout the film, making it difficult to see and appreciate what's happening onscreen. The editing is also done by the same guy (Doobie White) who did RE:The Final Chapter, which was virtually unwatchable, and one has to ask how such editors keep getting work in Hollywood. The lack of coherency in Monster Hunter also has to do with some poor camerawork and questionable direction, which obscures the overall entertainment value and while the pacing is fast, it's also boring. For a video game franchise that has such ambitious monsters, concepts, lore and worldbuilding, I don't see anything intriguing about Monster Hunter throughout its 103-minute runtime to make me play the games, and it frustratingly ends on what seems to be the start of the third act, utilising a cliffhanger to set up multiple sequels and thus making the film feel incomplete. Not a good note to end your film on.
Overall, Monster Hunter delivers the goods for audiences who just want to see monster action and nothing more. Its monster designs and action are impressive, and Milla Jovovich and Tony Jaa especially shine to deliver some entertainment value, but Monster Hunter feels too generic and dumb for its own good. If it was a Netflix series, imagine how much more complex the worldbuilding and lore would be. I'm not against filmmakers changing the source material to provide their own different takes, but Paul WS Anderson just offers more of the same.