Monster Hunter, or: Video Game Movies That Set Themselves Up for Sequels Are Either Lazy or Painfully Lack Self-Awareness.

I never planned on watching Monster Hunter but insomnia and Amazon offering it for free conspired to have me at least play it in the background while I did something else. That’s the level of attention required to experience a film like this without feeling like you missed anything important.

Video game movies are only ever tangentially related to their source material and this was no exception. I’m not very familiar with the franchise as I find Japanese role-playing games and their fans to be a bigger than small percentage of what’s wrong with everything in the universe. If you’re not familiar (and I hope you’re not, for your sake), JRPG’s have banal plots inspired by the worst teen romance films you can picture and consistently deliver the most derivative gameplay in the industry. The fans are the type of fedora-wearing neckbeards who insist (in novella-sized walls of text on Reddit and elsewhere) that the nonsensical, dare I say stupid settings and narratives are actually “brilliant, you just don’t understand Japanese culture”.

But since you’re not a weeb, you know that you don’t need to understand Japanese culture to know that even the average Japanese person likely thinks these games are embarrassing representatives of their people’s creative spark. How many times can you rewrite a story about an angsty loner pining for an aloof princess who gets captured by a demon/general/giant robot and still expect Americans to buy millions of copies of it? That number approaches infinity, apparently.

But I digress, this isn’t about the game, it’s about the movie. The movie is worse. Far, far worse.

I admit that I only payed attention to collectively twenty minutes of the… I don’t know… let’s call it 2 hours… of the movie’s1 runtime. Still, stuff just happened without any explanation or logical preconditions. In that way I suppose it is pretty faithful to the games. Milla Jovovich, pushing 50, plays the same character she’s played in every movie she’s been in since The Fifth Element: vanilla female bad ass whose one-liners would embarrass even Bruce Willis. She only has one expression; I’d blame botox but she’s had that expression since she was 20. It’s like half confused, half almost mad. Like she’ll be mad in a few minutes but she’s not there yet. Her battle cries actually sound just as shitty and forced as the bargain-bin voice acting JRPGs use on their English dubs. Another point for accuracy to source material.

I won’t go into a ton of detail about the plot of the movie partly because it’s the plot of every mid-budget fantasy action movie that has ever been made and partly because, as I said, I didn’t really pay attention. To give the briefest rundown (and I doubt anybody cares about spoilers as you can’t really spoil something everyone has already seen a dozen times) some Marines are in the desert because Marines are always in the desert. As far as I can remember that is literally all you get as an explanation. Some flashing lights dazzle everyone and then there in another desert and it’s immediately obvious that it’s not anywhere on Earth but it takes them like 800 hours to realize they’re not in Iraq anymore. Even when they see the ribcage of an animal the size of downtown Chicago they just say “woah I ain’t never seen that in no museum!”. No shit. Fortunately all of these idiots die pretty much right away except for Mila. I suppose that’s only semi-fortunately. There’s sad music and she mourns for about 30 seconds which is actually appropriate because these characters had no personalities and I doubt anyone watching this movie gave a toss about them any more than she appears to.

Here I should note that at no point in the game series are their United States Marines from Earth teleported to the game’s universe but I guess the writers needed a reason to recycle 90s bad-ass dialogue.

So then the monsters show up. Well I guess they already did because they killed all of the Marines but you know what I mean. Then they really show up. The monsters in Monster Hunter are the Godzilla variety, not the horror variety. There are only three as far as I can remember which is interesting because Monster Hunter (the game(s)) involve hundreds of different species, but I get it. Money’s tight and the CGI sucked enough as it was. There are two dinosaurs and some giant spiders. Really just dredging the creative pool on the creature designs here. One of the dinosaurs is a dragon so I guess that’s different than a regular dinosaur.

Many, many rounds of anti-tank ammunition are fired at these monsters with no effect. Just when all is lost, a stranger WITH A GOD DAMN BOW AND ARROW comes and starts injuring the monsters. I never thought I’d see something more retarded than superheroes shrugging off atomic bombs only to be punched to death but here you have it.

So here’s where the thin thread of plot this movie hangs from enters the picture. This is, as you may have guessed, a parallel universe. There’s a magic stone tower that’s been abandoned for an unspecified amount of time which occasionally pulls people from Earth over here to get eaten by dinosaurs. The natives of this planet have Spanish galleons which sail on sand (seriously this is just so fucking Japanese Role Playing Game I couldn’t keep myself from cringing when I saw it) and I guess they’ve been fighting these monsters for millennia from God knows where because there’s not a single house in this entire movie. Even worse, for people who have been living with these giant creatures eating them for possibly thousands of years, they really suck at fighting them. Everything goes pretty bad for them the whole time until they find Mila who is the only person in the entire multiverse who can aim an arrow into a mile-long monster’s gaping mouth. Eventually. She misses a lot too.

At the end of the movie, the three companions (aside from Mila and The Stranger, Ron Perlman shows up 4/5ths through the movie and does nothing at all) brace for an attack from the dragons and the movie ends. Well holeeee shit. This is where I can’t figure out if the director actually believed he’d be offered a sequel for this dumpster fire or if he realized there weren’t actually any loose ends to tie up because there is no plot, so he couldn’t figure out how to end it. Honestly if they had just had a UFO come down and turn everyone into frogs it would have been a satisfying enough ending.

And as you likely guessed by my title, this is a problem all movies based on video games share. Very, very few make it to the sequel and it’s usually all down to timing. There’s nothing good about the Resident Evil film franchise; the first one was interesting enough for a directionless artistic abortion, but they kept pumping out sequel after sequel and they only got worse (as they always do regardless of whether the franchise is based on a game or not).

Warcraft was actually somewhat watchable and even that didn’t get to tie up its cliffhanger. Granted, Warcraft is extremely true to the lore of the games so anyone who plays them knows what happens next. But if even a movie that is decent can’t get a sequel, I don’t see why these hacks insist on ending everything on “the heroes jump toward the thing that is evil, cut to credits”.

The world sucks.

1 I prefer the word “film” but I don’t feel right using it here, not least because film isn’t really involved in the production of movies anymore.