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Video game movies tend to get a bad rap, as this particular genre of film perpetually frustrates fans of properties like Monster Hunter. Whether it’s diversions from the source material, or a misunderstanding of tone and execution in the cinematic medium, game adaptations are sometimes unfairly maligned in general. There are some movies that are the exception to the popular "rule," though, and writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson’s Monster Hunter is the latest to be counted as safe from being lumped in as a stereotypical video game flick. Devotee and non-fan alike should be able to enjoy this surprisingly exciting adventure that’s dedicated to help end 2020 on a high, monster slaying note.

Monster Hunter starts with an investigation into a missing team of military operatives, led by Captain Natalie Artemis (Milla Jovovich). What begins as a routine expedition to find a disappearing military unit turns into a fight for survival, however, as Captain Artemis and her team are transported to a parallel world by complete accident. In this new realm, larger than life monsters roam the earth, and Natalie will have to depend on a hunter native to this dimension (Tony Jaa) if there’s any chance of surviving long enough to make the journey home.

Audiences might find themselves surprised by how fun Monster Hunter actually is.

No stranger to the video game movie process, writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson adapted Monster Hunter with almost a decade of experience as a fan of the property himself. His excitement for the game shows in the story he tells with this particular narrative, as it’s a fast and adrenaline charged affair from the very start. Clocking in at a little over an hour and a half, the movie doesn’t waste any time dropping the audience into a new world based off of a landmark Capcom property, and his comfort in this arena shows throughout the entire adventure.

Even fans of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil franchise might find themselves surprised by how much fun they have with Monster Hunter. Instead of engaging in the shoot ‘em up zombie action that particular concluded series was known for, Milla Jovovich and Tony Jaa’s unlikely pair is seen puzzling out how to defeat the various monsters they’re stacking up against. Though that’s not to say there isn’t a healthy amount of action packed into the movie, as Jovovich and Jaa get to square off with their individual fighting disciplines with rather impressive results.

Monster Hunter is pure adventure cinema, for better or worse.

If you’re looking for a story that packs a dense feeling of lore and world building, Monster Hunter isn’t exactly the film for you. With a first act that speeds through with as little build up as possible, there are clues thrown out for the audience to piece together the backstory, but very little handholding or exposition. This is a pure piece of adventure cinema, for better or worse, as the audience is given only the basics to get them on their feet before really heading into the cinematic world of this Capcom franchise.

However, once Monster Hunter finds its groove, Paul W.S. Anderson’s film plants its feet firmly in a world of action-fantasy survival, and from that moment on it’s a pure adventure romp that’s eager to please. Investing itself in a quest filled with problem solving, the slick fast cutting approach that Anderson has used in the past is eschewed for clear cut action and thought process that allows the audience to really take in the world it’s being shown. It’s no surprise that Monster Hunter is headed for theaters this weekend, as this is an absolute must see in as large a cinematic presence as you can get your hands on.

By the time Monster Hunter kicks into full gear, it becomes an action-fantasy ride that’s worth the ticket.

It takes a little while for Monster Hunter to hit its stride, but every step is confident and assured. When the film eventually finds its footing, an action-fantasy ride filled with interesting creatures and old fashioned thrills is to be had by those who decide to take the journey. This may very well be one of Paul W.S. Anderson’s best video game films, worthy of being mentioned in the company of Resident Evil, and even Mortal Kombat.

In a year that’s seen various movies delayed or released in a business model that’s far from typical, Monster Hunter is a prime example of a film that could only debut on the big screen. A story of such scope that it’s truly an adventure to experience, audiences that feel comfortable heading out to their local theater should seek out this fast moving thrill ride on a screen that can show these monsters in their truly massive scale. For a year that's made audiences miss going to the movies, Monster Hunter just might be one of the best reasons to get out to a theater near you.

7 / 10 stars
Rating: movie reviewed star rating out of five
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