Well, I have some good news and some bad news to start this review with. Starting with the bad news, I must beat the dead horse once again by stating that I know pretty much nothing at all about the 'Monster Hunter' games. In fact, I'm so "under a rock" with this, that I'm not sure I'd even heard of it before the release of this film - which I honest to God thought was about to be another 'Resident Evil' movie with the first few glimpses of Milla Jovovich doing actiony stuff. Well, it's not, but being that it's directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, it might as well be.
Now, as for the good news, the idea of me not being familiar with a movie based on a video game franchise ends with this (at least for the time being). I'm sincerely hoping they try to focus more on trying to perfect bigger video game titles. Getting these stories and characters right over the years has been a huge problem, and the way Marvel films have opened up the cinematic world with perfected CG and a good budget backing them, there's no real reason the same can't be done for video game movies. But I digress, as I'm here to once again review this with no real bias about it either way.
The film opens in an interesting world where sailing ships crash over seas of sand. In this world, humankind coexists with a whole whack of monsters of all shapes and sizes (mainly extra large), and we find a Hunter (Tony Jaa); someone trained to hunt and kill monsters, gets separated from his team upon the sudden attack of the Diablos - huge, horned, hungry and subterranean. We also meet the Admiral (Ron Perlman) here, who will make his main appearance much further into the movie and potential spoiler territory. But I will admit that I find Ron Perlman is an actor who always adds a good dash of brutish fun to just about anything he's in.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, U.S. Army Ranger Captain, Natalie Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her team on in search of a missing team of soldiers in the desert. Suddenly, there's a brutal storm that pulls the soldiers through a portal to this monster world, where the team finds themselves face to face with the likes of gigantic creatures, straight out of their nightmares. Eventually, Natalie manages to meet the Hunter, and together they try to navigate this world to get him back to his team, and her back home to Earth. So for the most part, this ends up being a survival movie, and it's not without a bit of imagination, and a LOT of great action.
Once again, I'm incredibly far-separated from the game series, and even Googling seems to offer quite a variety of titles. But the gist of it is that the first game was released in 2004 for PS2, and provides a fantasy/action role-playing experience where you take control of a Hunter and, well, hunt and trap monsters. If anything about that is wrong, feel free to correct it in the comments. But either way, other than 'FFVII', the RPG thing was never really for me, so the idea that I missed out on these isn't entirely shocking. But to think that I hadn't heard of it until this movie release does say a lot about how much I really game (as do all the reviews that say I'm unfamiliar).
For the most part, audiences seemed to turn their back on this one. While I certainly didn't hate it, I can understand a few reasons as to why. First and foremost, the fans of the games (and this will come as no surprise) complain about it being too far apart from the games (a lot like 'Resident Evil'). But on top of that, this is a good example of an action movie that just kind of "goes" right from the beginning with not a whole lot of explanation about things. This is one of those "all style, no substance" movies, in which everything about it looks great, and it can be a fun action ride if you let it be. But if you're looking for anything with mood or even any real feeling other than "HOO-RAH!", you might be out of luck. I had fun with this, but only as eye candy, as Paul W.S. Anderson keeps pulling off. But he DOES need to do better with story, characters, plot, dialogue, and everything else that isn't action.