4K Ultra HD movie review: ‘Monster Hunter,’ a creature feature for gamer’s with barest of plots
Capcom’s popular, action-packed, behemoth-loaded, role-playing gaming franchise became a live-action movie last year under the direction of Paul W.S. Anderson and now arrives in ultra-high definition equipped home theaters in Monster Hunter (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated: PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 104 minutes, $40.99).
Mr. Anderson, being no stranger to turning video games into movies (reference his Resident Evil franchise) was, in theory, a perfect choice to deliver an authentic film.
Well, he does, at least as far as the monsters and characters’ designs go.
However, his odd plot choice to bring a United Nations security team (U.S. Army rangers) with big guns into the fight is not part of the core canon of the games.
Monster Hunters meets Metal Gear Solid
Mr. Anderson explained that the Monster Hunter game actually had a crossover event with the Metal Gear Solid game franchise (that featured soldiers).
Yet, clearly he needed a deeper plot to sustain a 100-minute film based on a gaming premise that features the training of high-skilled warriors to exterminate multistory creatures in a fantasy universe.
The squad led by Capt. Artemis (Milla Jovovich) gets sucked through a portal into the desert-rich “New World” on a search-and-rescue mission. Life gets difficult when her team members die horrible deaths, and she becomes the sole survivor trying to avoid deadly creatures.
She eventually tangles with the mysterious Hunter (martial arts master Tony Jaa), and they form an unlikely alliance as they travel to the Sky Tower in an attempt to get her back through the portal and home.
However, forget the scattered and barest of plots, the movie strives to pay homage to the core game through the warrior costuming, bone-based weapons and, best of all, those computer-generated monsters.
Specifically, our Hunter and Artemis wear combinations of leather, chainmail and fur armor and have the gaming attributes of Blademaster characters. Hunter wields a Final Fantasy-sized sword (that’s big) and the famed Great Bow, while Artemis has two glowing red duel swords and a wrist grapple hook (a Slinger Clutch Claw attachment to be specific).
Shoehorned in are also a small group of other hunters from the game, friends of the Hunter and equally authentic.
They include the burly blond Admiral (Ron Perlman dressed in a very silly wig but surprisingly accurate to his character) wielding an ax that when struck on the ground generates a fiery shockwave, and the humanoid cat Meowscular Chef (a non-playable character found in the games).
And then there are the monsters for Hunter to hunt
And, nearly plucked directly from the games, and really the stars of the movie, are monsters such as the horned Black Diablos (from Monster Hunter G) that can burrow into the sand; a pack of the spider-like Nerscylla (Monster Hunter 4); the herbivorous reptiles Apceros (original Minster Hunter); and the species Rathalos (original Monster Hunter), impressive fire-breathing dragons.
I have no doubt Mr. Anderson will attempt multiple “Monster Hunter” sequels as his Starship Troopers will continue to get stuck on Dune’s Arrakis and prevent a Jurassic Park’s worth of creatures from invading earth.
I think you get the idea, but casual fans of the genre will much more appreciate the recently released “Love and Monsters” rather than this dunderheaded, grisly effects-loaded homage.
4K in action:
The UHD and high dynamic range enhancements plunge viewers into that alternate world right from the start as witnessed by a galleon-style ship traversing through a massive desert storm in a sea of sand.
It’s a relatively dark, monochromatic scene revealing a welcomed depth and clarity as the turbulent action reveals the band of hunters tossed about on the deck as they try to hold the ship and themselves together.
Or, viewers will appreciate that dark, underground nest of Nerscylla excessively highlighted when Artemis uses a red signal flare that never washes out the armored arachnids or Miss Jovovich’s chiseled facial features.
Of course, the monsters really stand out throughout as each offers a life-like quality down to their textured bone armor, fanged teeth, shaded subtle scale colors and interactions with the worlds, referenced by the talons of a Rathalos gripping the wings of a U.S. command aircraft and even crumpling the metal.
Viewers only get a trio of featurettes that slightly cover the production (eight minutes), adapting the game to the screen (seven minutes) and the weapons (five minutes).
All are worth watching for not only some of the cool actual game footage compared to the film, but also for Mr. Anderson and the actors often explaining the movie’s plot and characters (a project 10 years in the making) way better than exposed in the actual movie.
Additionally and seriously missing is any type of voucher code to play any of the Monster Hunter games (even a couple of levels) on Sony’s PlayStation entertainment console. Not exposing a new audience to the fun is a marketing mistake.
• This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.