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Milla Jovovich stars in Monster Hunter.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

  • Monster Hunter
  • Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
  • Starring Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa and Ron Perlman
  • Classification PG; 99 minutes

rating

3 out of 4 stars

There are killer film openings and then there are the first five minutes of Monster Hunter. Kicking off with a scene of a pirate ship careening through an ocean of sand toward a mysterious dark tower, a grizzled and fur-draped Ron Perlman at the helm, all backed with a wild synth-heavy score, the beginning of Paul W.S. Anderson’s video-game adaptation is peak fantasy-thriller cuckoo-bananas madness. I had to stop myself three times from yelling out, “Hell yeah!” lest I woke up my 11-month-old son napping upstairs.

The only problem is that after those first few outlandish minutes, Monster Hunter settles into … well, not exactly a more mundane narrative speed, but certainly one less enjoyably bonkers. Swapping interdimensional sand pirates for the familiarity of a United Nations joint security task force roaming somewhere in the desert, the film now focuses on a standard search-and-rescue mission, with Captain Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her crew of standard-issue roughnecks on the lookout for fallen comrades.

Paul W.S. Anderson’s video-game adaptation is peak fantasy-thriller cuckoo-bananas madness.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

One rift in the interdimensional time-space continuum later, though, and our earthly heroes are now stuck in some nether world, where they must face off with giant monstrosities straight out of the Godzilla playbook (there’s a good reason why Japanese production company Toho is one of the players behind this adventure). Oh, and Thai martial arts superstar Tony Jaa is here, too, wielding a crossbow the size of a sedan and a sword seemingly carved from the jaw of a dinosaur.

Story continues below advertisement

Listen: Monster Hunter is all sorts of super-dumb fun. And though its middle section lags – there are only so many training montages audiences can handle – Anderson and his wife Jovovich prove that their long-running Resident Evil franchise was no fluke: this is a couple who know how to take the flimsiest of video games and turn them into self-knowing slices of cinematic ridiculousness.

Will we find out why Anderson named his lead hero after the Greek word for “butcher”? Will Perlman re-enter the proceedings with a flaming sword or two? Will we be introduced to the very best cat character in cinematic history? I think you already know the answers. Happy hunting.

Monster Hunter opens in Canadian theatres Dec. 18, dependent on local health restrictions

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