It’s amazing what you can create in the world of computer generated visual effects. Virtual backlots, CGI stunt doubles and even de-aged actors are all part of the tools that a director like Paul W.S. Anderson can use in making a film like Monster Hunter. But when making this particular adaptation of a Capcom video game franchise, Anderson wanted to do things as practically as possible. Which meant that for several sequences with actor Milla Jovovich and her on-screen military unit, those scenes where Humvees are being flipped are done with real vehicles and the actual actors.
Attending the Monster Hunter press day on behalf of CinemaBlend, I was able to speak with Ms. Jovovich about her experience playing the intrepid character of Captain Natalie Artemis. Researching her prep to play the character, as well as the efforts that her husband/director had gone through to keep the project in the realm of practical effects work, a couple of pretty rough-looking sequences with Milla Jovovich’s Captain Artemis came to mind. And as you’ll read below, some of those bruises might not have been makeup effects, as Jovovich actually was being tumbled around in a Humvee:
It was awful. It was really awful, because I get real claustrophobic. They actually built a rig that was like a rotisserie, so that Humvee was like the chicken, and it would go round and round. And, you know, they would strap us in, with all of our armor and all of our gear, and blow all of this debris into the car, and it as just like, loud. I was literally having a panic attack, I couldn’t. And you’re going upside down… it was like one of those things at the carnival, where you keep flipping over and over. I was like, ‘Wow, when I was 12, this would have been really fun. And now, I just feel like I’m literally gonna die.
Admittedly, the Monster Hunter tumble-drying of its cast does look like fun when watching it in the safety of wherever you decide to enjoy this weekend’s potential blockbuster. Were you not to know any better, you’d just think that Milla Jovovich, a veteran of looking like she’s been sent to Hell and back in the Resident Evil series, was really good at faking her moments as a rolling stone. But what you’re actually seeing is gravity being played around with, and to a rather impressive effect.
Another way of looking at this impressive Monster Hunter sequence is through the eyes of Special Effects Supervisor Jonathan Barras. As was noted in the film’s press notes, there’s a pretty clear explanation of the rig that these Humvees needed to look as if as describing the rig, and the process it operated on, as follows:
It was almost a whole vehicle that we balanced between two roller bearings. We could spin and revolve it at any speed that we wanted. Milla and the rest of our cast were all in there... it was like a giant tumble dryer with objects bouncing around inside – not very comfortable, but they wore it well.
On top of the physical and psychological training that Milla Jovovich underwent to play an Army Ranger in Monster Hunter, her usual can-do attitude of getting into combat with all sorts of creatures did the actor a lot of good in her potential new franchise gig. While we’ll have to wait and see if this new world of adventure will be returned to in future sequels, there’s definitely a setup waiting at the end of Captain Natalie Artemis’ first adventure. Should that potential be realized, who knows what sorts of crazy contraptions will need to be invented to wow the audience with action so real, you’d need to go to a carnival to get close to the reality.
What is a present reality is the fact that Monster Hunter goes on the hunt in theaters this weekend. So if you feel safe enough to get out to the movies, this is one of the big screen debuts you’ll have to choose from. However, if you’re looking for what else is headed to theaters in the weeks to come, both the 2020 and the 2021 release schedules are available to help you stalk some big game excitement for yourself.