Monster Hunter is a 2020 monster film produced, written and directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, based on the video game series of the same name by Capcom. The film stars Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa, Tip "T. I." Harris, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta, Josh Helman, Jin Au-Yeung and Ron Perlman.
A film adaptation based on the series has been in conception since 2012 by director Paul W. S. Anderson. The film was formally announced by Capcom in October 2018, with production starting that month with Constantin Film. Principal photography on the film began on October 5, 2018, and was completed on December 19, 2018, in Cape Town, South Africa.
Monster Hunter was released in China on December 4, 2020, and in the United States on December 18, 2020, by Sony Pictures Releasing through the Screen Gems label (excluding Germany, Japan, and China). The film received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for the visual effects but criticism aimed at the underdeveloped characters, editing and thin storyline.
An elite military force, led by US Army Ranger Captain Artemis (Jovovich), fall through a portal into a world populated by giant monsters. They meet a hunter (Jaa) who helps them survive in the world and fight against the monsters as they seek a way home.
- Milla Jovovich as Captain Natalie Artemis, a US Army Ranger member of a United Nations military team
- Tony Jaa as The Hunter, one of many skilled warriors that fight giant monsters
- Clifford "T.I." Harris, Jr. as Lincoln or Link in short
- Meagan Good as Dash
- Diego Boneta as Marshall
- Josh Helman as Steeler
- Jin Au-Yeung as Axe
- Ron Perlman as The Admiral
- Hirona Yamazaki as Handler
In 2012, Resident Evil director Paul W. S. Anderson was then-rumored to direct a film adaptation of Monster Hunter franchise. Anderson stated he had discovered the Monster Hunter series on travels to Japan around 2008 and had become fan of the series, and considered a film adaptation as a "passion project". Within a couple years from his introduction to the games, Anderson said he had started discussions with Capcom about securing the rights to make the film.
During the September 2016 Tokyo Game Show Capcom producer Ryozo Tsujimoto stated that a live-action Monster Hunter film was in development within Hollywood. Few months later, Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt, both who helped to bring Capcom's Resident Evil game to a series of films, had obtained the rights from Capcom for the Monster Hunter adaption after about five years of discussion. The two anticipate a series of Monster Hunter films. Anderson said he was drawn to the Monster Hunter property, not only because of the series' popularity, but also for the "incredibly beautiful, immersive world they've created". Anderson had already penned out a script, which would involve an American being dragged into the parallel universe that the Monster Hunter series was set in, learning how to fight monsters, and then had to deal with the situation when monsters cross back into the real world and start attacking, such as a final climatic battle at Los Angeles International Airport. At this stage of the script, the concept had been based on a young adult character from the real world called Lucas who was being sought as the hero to drive back the monsters from the real world to the fantasy one; in this form, the script would have explained why certain legends in the real world seemed to align with the monsters from the fantasy world. As the script developed over the intervening years, Anderson moved away from the "young adult" concept as the genre had become overused in Hollywood, and instead had developed a script based on the premises set by Avatar and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Anderson said that part of the film's inspiration was based on a crossover event in the game Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker with Monster Hunter Freedom Unite in 2010, in which a military squad briefly faced monsters from the Monster Hunter series. Anderson said I thought what fun to kind of play with the hubris of the modern world in that we put our faith in technology so much—in fact, too much in my opinion."
The film was formally announced in May 2018. According to Anderson, the success of the most recent game of the series at the time, Monster Hunter: World, which was developed by Capcom in early 2018 for a worldwide release rather than a limited Japanese one, led many film distributors to seek out potential for a Monster Hunter film only to discover he has already locked up the rights.
Milla Jovovich, Anderson's spouse and past lead in his Resident Evil films, was affirmed in the starring role as Captain Artemis with the announcement of the film. Anderson said that he wanted the lead character to be from outside the Monster Hunter as he wanted to introduce the world to the moviegoer in the same way he had experienced the games for the first time himself.
Additional characters from the Monster Hunter realm are based on those from the recent Monster Hunter: World game. On September 25, 2018, rapper T.I. and Ron Perlman were cast in the film, in which T.I. would play Link, a sniper, while Perlman would play Admiral, the leader of the Hunter's Crew. Tony Jaa was also cast in the film to play the male lead, playing character, The Hunter. In October 2018, Diego Boneta joined the film to play a character as a communications specialist. Anderson stated that while there are some novel characters in the game, reflecting on the series' custom character creator, will include characters essential to the series, including the Handler and the Admiral. He also stated that they will not need to create any new monsters, as the series has enough variety that they will be able to pull from for the film.
Furthering on Anderson's appreciation of the game, he stated that all of the armor and weapons that the Hunters will wear will be based on the equipment from the game series, and will include at least one character that wears a mis-matched set of armor, which reflects on the player's ability within the game to mix and match armor sets for beneficial results. Anderson wanted to use various settings in the film to match the variety in a game, though recognized that one would not see as much variety in the film as one would see in playing a Monster Hunter game for several hours. Jovovich, who stated she was also a fan of the video game series, was able to select what weapons she wanted her character to be shown with, and experimented in-game to narrow her choice to the dual blades, both as effective weapons in game and that "I thought they’d look really beautiful in an action sequence."
The monsters in the film are further based on those in the game, including the series' signature monster the Rathalos; the game series' director Kaname Fujioka and producer Ryozo Tsujimoto provided input into the film's depiction of the monsters. The movie will also feature palicos, a sentient cat-like species that assist the hunters in the game series, and will include the Meowscular Chef, a palico introduced in Monster Hunter: World that once served as the Admiral's own aide before becoming a chef. Capcom helped to establish the movie's setting, taking canonically after the events of Monster Hunter: World, in a new area of the Monster Hunter setting but incorporating facets from several of the games in the series.
Constantin Film is producing the film, having planned to start production in late 2017 or early 2018, but later confirmed during the 2018 Cannes Film Festival that production would begin in September 2018 in and around Cape Town and South Africa, with an estimated US$60 budget. Special effects studio Mr. X VFX, which worked on the Resident Evil films, will also be involved in production. Constantin worked with several international distributors for release rights, while Constantin will finance the film's production.
A teaser for the film was first shown at the Shanghai International Film Festival in June 2019, along with the announcement that Toho and Tencent will oversee the film's distribution in Japan and China, respectively.
Monster Hunter was released in the United States on December 18, 2020. The film was originally scheduled to be released on September 4, 2020, but was delayed to April 23, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, before being moved up to December 30, then finally the Christmas date. Sony yet again altered the film's release date in the United States in early December after the film's troublesome release in China, moving its release to December 18, 2020.
The studio spent just $1.3 million on television ads in the week leading up to the film's U.S. release (compared to the $17 million Warner Bros. spent promoting Wonder Woman 1984), with Deadline Hollywood stating "likely Sony is holding back some of the minimal marketing dollars to spend this coming week".
The film released alongside Fatale, and was projected to gross around $3 million in its opening weekend. It grossed $800,000 on its first day of release in the United States and Canada, opening in second behind holdover The Croods: A New Age. It went on to debut to $2.2 million from 1,738 theaters, lower than expected but still topping the box office and dethroning The Croods: A New Age. Following the weekend, Variety wrote that the film "looks to lose money in its theatrical run."
The film debuted to $2.7 million from five countries in its opening weekend. It made $5.3 million from China before being pulled from theaters, although the total was not added to the global total. It made $1.3 million over its second weekend, remaining in first place in Taiwan ($610,000) and Saudi Arabia ($310,000).
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 49% based on 51 reviews, with an average rating of 4.6/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Monster Hunter is mostly a mindless blur of action, held together by the slenderest threads of dialogue and plot -- and exactly what many viewers will be looking for." According to Metacritic, which calculated a weighted average score of 45 out of 100 based on 16 critics, the film received "mixed or average reviews". According to PostTrak, 63% of audience members gave the film a positive score, with 41% saying they would definitely recommend it.
Peter Debruge of Variety wrote, "There will be critics who can tell you who these characters are, or what's up with the 'new world' where monsters live, or why those of us in the 'old world' should be worried about them, but that information is not presented in this visually interesting but narratively anemic motion picture (nor the press notes, for that matter), so please accept my apologies in advance: This review will likely be about as coherent as the film itself." Writing for IndieWire, David Ehrlich gave the film a grade of D– and said, "Series fans will feel cheated by such a chintzy and incurious take on something they love, while the rest of us will be left wondering how the source material earned itself any fans in the first place."
Just after the Chinese release on December 4, 2020, the film caused an uproar on Chinese social media because of a scene in which Jin's character jokingly asks: "Look at my knees!", and to the question "What kind of knees are these?", he replies: "Chi-knees!". Through the language made by the film's subtitles, Chinese viewers interpreted this as a reference to the racist playground chant "Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees", and therefore as an insult to Chinese people. The film was removed from circulation, and Chinese authorities censored references to it online. Tencent had reportedly prepared modified versions of the films omitting the line but even these showings were pulled. The reaction to the film also caused Chinese users to review bomb Monster Hunter: World in reference to the insulting lines.
Constantin Film apologized for the dialog and stated they will remove the racially-insensitive dialog from the film before it is rereleased. Jin said that for his character, the line was "to proudly proclaim he is a Chinese soldier, not just his knees, but his arms, his head, his heart". Anderson stated that "It was never our intention to send a message of discrimination or disrespect to anyone. To the contrary - at its heart our movie is about unity," and that the line had been removed from all international versions of the film prior to their releases.
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