According to Facebook’s “memories” feature, today is the fourth anniversary of the press screening of Michael Fassbender’s film Assassin’s Creed. The big-budget ($ 125 million) and seemingly glamorous adaptation of the video game franchise was positioned as finally giving video game movies their proverbial Batman begins. Alas, the goofy, jerky, and unintentionally funny melodrama continued the unofficial curse of the video game film, The One Who Warcraft (despite a record turnover of $ 438 million) failed to break. Ironically, the next handful of video game movies released between March 2018 (Grave robber) and February 2020 (Sonic the hedgehog) were at least to varying degrees “good”. Alas, that of Paul WS Anderson Monster hunter breaks that winning streak of five films and two years. It’s not an abomination, but it’s not very good either.

Based on Capcom’s video game action and produced by Constantin Films, Tencent Pictures and Toho (among others), this Screen Gems / Sony release found itself in an unexpected mess two weeks ago when a line of dialogue flippancy of a character played by Jin Au-Yeung caused an uproar among Chinese audiences over alleged racial implications, which led to the film being pulled from China on its opening weekend. This line (an unintentional reference to a sadly racist playground song) no longer exists and did not appear in the select copy offered to domestic critics. But the damage was done, as the only reason Tencent and Sony released the film this month (instead of pushing it back to 2021) was to profit from a largely recovered Chinese cinema market.

Paul WS Anderson’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, also starring Milla Jovovich, earned $ 159 million in China alone at the start of 2017, or 51% of its $ 312 million (on a budget of $ 40 million) in global revenue. Among English-language Hollywood films, the 91/9 overseas / domestic film division is a record high. Even if Monster hunter was not going to shoot Resident Evil 6 figures, the potential for a “good enough” exit in China was reason enough to keep the $ 60 million action fantasy on the 2020 release schedule. Whether the outrage was warranted or not (I’m strongly in favor of ‘opinion that people of a given demographic should be allowed to make jokes about their respective demographic), Monster hunter opens in North American theaters this Friday.

Paul WS Anderson’s latest video game fantasy starts off on the right foot at least. It opens with a gloriously wacky prologue featuring a landscape-chewing Ron Perlman, noted “you kill six times before you hit the ground,” kicker Tony Jaa and a knife-wielding cat aboard a pirate ship. condemned invaded by giant sand worms. This is precisely the kind of images and content you want in a movie called Monster hunter. Yet the excitement diminishes as the story in the present quickly turns into a generic tale of generic soldiers who end up being drawn into an alternate fantasy world populated by gigantic monsters. Cue an entire act of overqualified actors (Diego Boneta, Clifford TI Harris Jr. and Meagan Good among them) shooting giant beasts that usually can’t be killed by simple machine gun fire.

Things improve slightly in the second act, after (spoiler alert, I guess) most of the supporting cast are wiped out. The titular monster hunter, in this case a miraculously surviving Tony Jaa, saves Artemis from Jovovich. Neither character puts much effort into speaking the other’s language, which creates a weirdly honest partnership as they end up encountering (no more vague spoilers) additional allies and more giant monsters. None of this is meant to be taken seriously, and there is only enough cryptic world-building to tease a follow-up. I haven’t played the game, so I can’t say if the film is really another “sequel prologue that adapts the game”. Considering that Anderson’s latest unseen video game film spawned a six-movie, $ 1.23 billion franchise, I can’t fault his optimism.

The 105-minute PG-13 feature film culminates with a “final boss” battle that is one of those “Where the hell was that for the rest of the movie?” sequences. Think about the final taxi chase at Roland Emmerich Godzilla. The “splendor” of the film on the big screen is toned down on a digital screen, although the same can be said of those who, even in normal times, might have expected to see this film on VOD or DVD. Oddly enough, this was one of the sharpest audio mixes I’ve heard yet from an online reviewer in this hellish year. Monster hunter is a more conventional video game actor than the downright autistic Resident Evil: the afterlife and Resident Evil: Punishment. However, it’s a better movie (by default) than Anderson’s series finale. Maybe the sequel was meant to be more quirky?

Paul WS Anderson’s Monster hunter is not aggressively bad as much as it is aggressively commonplace. Coming from a guy who has a knack for making shameless B-movies (Mortal Kombat, Pompeii, The Three Musketeers, etc.) which often have the madness of the great “A” films (Event horizon is a modern classic), it’s disappointing. Yes, this is another “bad video game movie”. Yet it comes on the heels of Grave robber (decent), Carnage (excellent), Detective Pikachu (delicious), Angry Birds Movie 2 (much better than its predecessor) and Sonic the hedgehog (a good game for children). I was not crazy about The last chapter So in 2017, we’ll see if this mini-wave of great video game movies ends with two disappointing Anderson efforts or if it’s just a bump in the road. Your move, Unexplored.


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