The Southland Times

Video game adaptation a monster hit


Monster Hunter (M, 104 mins) Directed by Paul W S Anderson Reviewed by Graeme Tuckett ★★★★

Movie adaptation­s of video games are probably the most under-appreciate­d genre I know of. They are dismissed by critics as somehow unworthy of being taken seriously, simply because of their source material.

Now, I’m not saying that lousy source material can’t hobble any movie – the Twilight and 50 Shades film franchises were never going to win any awards, no matter how many billions they poured into the coffers – but to dismiss all video game-derived movies out of hand says a lot more about the critic than it does about the genre.

I’ve barely touched a joystick in anger since they took the last Galaga stand-up out of the Aro St fish and chip shop. But I know that gaming is still home to some of the most talented, creative and driven writers and directors working in any entertainm­ent industry.

Which, maybe, is the crux of the problem. Every video game is

designed to tell the same story in a hundred different ways. The more unpredicta­ble and difficult to master a game is, the more it will attract a following.

But movies are the opposite. By the time you’ve sat through the 90-second trailer of any action movie, you basically know the entire plot. So, how can a film satisfy the fans’ desire for a movie that involves and enthrals them as much as the game, while still hitting the essential beats of a ‘‘hero’s journey’’ actioner?

Paul Anderson at least seems to have cracked the code. His Resident Evil franchise remains watchable, and his 1995 Hollywood calling card

Mortal Kombat was arguably the first globally successful video game adaptation of them all.

Anderson keeps his storytelli­ng simple and propulsive, jettisonin­g anything that would get in the way of a lean, efficient and mostly breathless narrative.

But Anderson’s secret weapon is the loving attention he brings to his world-building, locations, costumes and props.

The storytelli­ng will never set the world on fire, but the fans know that the integrity of the game has been respected.

And, with Monster Hunter, Anderson has the balance just right, again. The plot – US Army captain and her platoon fall through a portal into a parallel desert world full of beasties – is exactly the sturdy chassis Anderson needs to pile his set pieces onto.

And pile them on he does. This is not a film that will ever die wondering if it should have tried just a bit harder to entertain us.

After an opening stanza to introduce Captain Artemis (Milla Jovovich, of course) the action simply never lets up until the credits roll – and then, delightful­ly, beyond.

The apparently ageless and unbreakabl­e Jovovich and her co-stars – primarily Tony Jaa (Ong Bak) – barely get a moment to themselves, as Anderson chucks sand-burrowing demons, giant scorpions and fire-breathing dragons at them like a kid with a big box of toys and the soul of a sadist.

And that’s after Jovovich and Jaa have already spent the first hours of their acquaintan­ceship trying to kill each other with swords, rocks and any other pointy thing they can lay their hands on.

All that, and a cameo from Ron –

Hellboy – Perlman, showing up beneath a wig of such disco-mullet grandiosit­y it deserves its own credit. Or possibly its own movie.

Listen, no-one except the fans give video game movies the credit they deserve.

But done right, with a committed cast, some exceptiona­l fight and action choreograp­hy, a percussive soundtrack and someone as gifted as Anderson regular Glen MacPherson behind the camera, it’s just possible to turn out a film as entertaini­ng, likeable and committed to its own daft internal logic as Monster Hunter.

More please.

 ??  ?? Milla Jovovich
Milla Jovovich

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