When I was much younger, I used to enjoy watching the “Creature Double Feature” on Channel 56 out of Boston on Saturday afternoons. They would show old “Creature from the Black Lagoon” movies or my favorite, “Godzilla.”
Back then special effects were infantile compared to what audiences are accustomed to seeing on the big screen now. A couple of years ago, Guillermo Del Toro released “Pacific Rim” which took the Japanese “Gundam” giant robots to the big screen as the heroic pilots inside those giant machines fought off giant monsters from another dimension. Legendary films also put out two new “Godzilla” movies as well as “King Kong.” So, the interest in big scary monster films may be making a revival. The new “Monster Hunter” release captures a lot of that vibe but also is closer than you might think to those old flicks I used to watch on Saturdays.
The film starts with a two-vehicle military team of Army Rangers looking for another team that had gone missing. They find tire tracks in the desert that seemingly disappear without a trace. They soon encounter a massive storm that comes out of nowhere and transports them to another world. They find the wreckage of their comrade’s vehicles but it’s a gruesome scene. Shell casings from spent weapons are everywhere, their bodies are burned beyond recognition and the sand has been melted to glass around them and there are no visible signs of whoever attacked them. Soon, Captain Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her small band of soldiers realize they’re not on Earth anymore when they stumble across a giant skeleton in the sand before ultimately being attacked by a giant horned creature. When the team attempts to take cover in a rocky area, they are then taken out one by one by these gnarly spider-like creatures.
Captain Artemis ends up being the only one to survive and she then meets a lone hunter (Tony Jaa) who takes her hostage. For what feels like the next 40 minutes, Artemis and the Hunter engage in multiple one-on-one fights and keep beating each other up. It actually becomes quite tedious and it’s not until she offers him a few pieces of chocolate that they finally come to terms with each other. They formulate a plan with their limited ability to communicate and must fight together to survive.
“Monster Hunter” is by no means Oscar-worthy and it is at best a Saturday afternoon diversion you’ll forget about as quickly as you do an item you were supposed to get at the grocery store. Jovovich has the tough action hero role down without batting an eye. Later in the film, Ron Perlman shows up playing the Admiral. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Perlman put as little into a role as he does here. He’s got this awful wig of hair and it looks like a lion’s mane. His long-grizzled face spews out his lines as droll and as bored he clearly is in the role. I think it’s a certainty he showed up for the paycheck.
There’s some good jump scares here and the filmmakers definitely borrowed heavily from “Dune,” “Aliens,” “Enemy Mine” and “Starship Troopers.” The film is schlocky and mildly entertaining at best, but I suppose this is what happens when you translate video games into feature-length films.
The film is rated PG-13.