Monster Hunter cast: Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa
Monster Hunter director: Paul W S Anderson
Monster Hunter rating: Two stars
How many monsters does a Hollywood film take? For writer-director Paul W S Anderson, one can never have too many. How many US soldiers does it take to capture them? One, clearly, is more than enough. All you need then is a setting to place them in. Here a non-identified country with rugged, muddy terrain running into the horizon (the words Helmand Province are thrown in, once), with two armoured vehicles containing hyper-patriotic and hyper-enthusiastic G I Joes, suffice — all of whom, barring one, will embrace death with honour, Coca-Cola and Hershey’s.
Smirk as you might, Anderson knows how to get one’s pulses racing and to mount action scenes. He also keeps the story strikingly spare — if, that is, you are willing to excuse the minor issue of a bizarre lightning storm, which lands his protagonists into a “parallel world” that “exists beyond human perception”. It’s this parallel world where monsters rule and terrorise — one of them rising from sand like a veritable sand-shark the size of a T-Rex, and others ferreting out of holes like giant, poisonous spiders. Still, surviving them is simple — keep out of the sand and in the light during daytime, and at night, hide out in a fortified cave that the spiders can’t break into.
Anderson’s wife and favourite action star Jovovich remains winsome as ever — lithe, athletic, beautiful and amazingly deadly in a vest, with pearly white teeth — playing Captain Artemis, the lone survivor eventually of the US Army group we met earlier in the film. The friendship she develops with the stranger from this parallel world stranded like her here (Thai martial arts star Tony Jaa) is cute, uncomplicated and, refreshingly, un-romantic.
However, once it has been established that Artemis and the stranger identified as ‘Hunter’ can between them fashion water, food and weapons (and poison, cutting into the innards of the afore-mentioned spiders) — with standard US Army-issue equipment doing the rest of the trick — Anderson gets more ambitious. And the film goes downhill.
Jovovich and Jaa are dragged through some superhuman challenges, lot of physical harm, and monsters that keep coming and coming. However, it is ultimately Anderson’s mumbo jumbo effort to clothe this ordeal in “reality” that does the film in.
As for Afghanistan, the country in whose skies and land this particular Desert Storm is waged… well, those monsters are perhaps too real for Monster Hunter to get into. Or, as a US soldier in the film says, with a beast staring him down, “this shit is way above my pay grade”.