[Screen It]


(2020) (Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa) (PG-13)

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Action: An Army Ranger joins forces with a primitive hunter in an alternate world to battle the enormous monsters that live there.

Captain Artemis (MILLA JOVOVICH) is an Army ranger who's leading a squadron -- consisting of Lincoln (TIP "T.I." HARRIS), Marshall (DIEGO BONETA), Dash (MEAGAN GOOD), and Steeler (JOSH HELMAN) -- in search of another Army squadron that mysteriously vanished without a trace. They soon learn why as they're quickly overcome by an immense storm that sends them through some sort of dimensional portal to a desert world. There, they find the remains of the missing squadron, but also a gargantuan monster that's seemingly immune to their firepower and quickly makes waste of them.

Able to escape from a nest teeming with huge spider-like monsters, Artemis ends up the lone survivor and eventually finds a graveyard of wrecked schooners from long ago. There, she runs into a primitive man, the Hunter (TONY JAA), who initially views her as an enemy and vice-versa. But they quickly realize -- despite not speaking the other's tongue -- they must team up to survive the monster attacks, eventually running into The Admiral (RON PERLMAN) who knows the lay of the land, much like the Hunter.

Facing an even more deadly monster, they do what they can to fend off that fire-breathing dragon, all while Artemis hopes to get back to the portal to return to her world.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10

The fun of a kid's imagination at play -- especially in terms of action-fantasy -- is something to behold. The sky -- and then some -- is the limit and pretty much anything goes, including cribbing characters, creatures, and scenarios from both their creativity as well as things they've already seen in their short lives.

It's entertaining to watch (or remember doing if you were so inclined way back when), even if things don't always make sense and despite the lifting of material previously used by others. And that's simply because they don't care and it's often zany entertainment, both for them and their friends as well as any adult "audience" members.

When it's grown-ups at play, though, people often tend to cut them far less slack, especially if that involves commercial properties and people being paid for their creative experience. That came to mind while watching "Monster Hunter."

Based on the action-role playing video game of the same name (which I've never played and reportedly is parent company Capcom's second best selling offering after the hugely popular "Resident Evil" series), this is the latest in a long line of cinematic adaptations of such games.

In general, I'm typically not a big fan of those, mainly due to the disappointing track record (with a few exceptions) of such game to movie offerings over the past decades. That said, I was willing to give this latest such flick from writer/director Paul W. S. Anderson (who helmed most of the "Resident Evil" flicks) a chance and for a while, I was sort of grooving on the monster mayhem.

The flick begins with Mila Jovovich leading a small squadron of Army Rangers out in the middle of nowhere trying to understand how another team simply vanished into thin air. They soon learn through direct follow-up experience, however, that a mysterious geomagnetic sandstorm somehow sent their predecessors through a dimensional portal.

They end up on a desert-covered planet identified as "The New World" by on-screen credits, something we saw in a prologue where a goofy looking Ron Perlman is the admiral of a long-ago schooner sailing, well, through the sand when a giant monster attacks, sending one of the crewmembers (Tony Jaa) overboard.

Jovovich's Army captain ends up meeting the latter after the rest of her crew end up as meal tickets for baby spider-monsters. But he's some sort of more primitive man, and with the two not understanding the other's language, they start as foes -- with some fighting sequences that are edited to within an inch of their cinematic lives -- but quickly join forces to battle the critters as well as somehow get off to a lightning-laden mountain monolith they believe holds the answers to what's happened.

During all of that, Anderson unabashedly cribs from "Starship Troopers," "Alien/Aliens," "Tremors" and more in a sort of guilty pleasure way. But by the time the club-tailed Ankylosauruses show up, followed by a fire-breathing dragon and then, of all things, a humanoid cat sous chef that blows a kiss to Jovovich's beleaguered captain and gets a huge clump of cat hair in Perlman's beverage of choice, I finally had enough (especially with shades of last year's feline fiasco, "Cats," still in my head and fear that this cooking kitty was suddenly going to break into dance and song).

You might think I'm joking, but that cat does show up, inexplicably. Except, I'm guessing, to those who've played the game, but who knows, the filmmaker is on such a looney looting spree that he might have figured what the heck.

Alas, while that appearance might have you suddenly humming along to "Memories," there's nothing memorable about this offering. Fun for a while until it completely derails, "Monster Hunter" does indeed feature monsters and hunters, but jumps the shark (or cat, in this case) far too often. It rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed December 16, 2020 / Posted December 18, 2020

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