Fans of Monster Hunter, myself included, were really excited when back in May it was officially confirmed that a movie based on the popular Capcom franchise was getting a film adaptation. Since then, the hype has been hemmed back a bit due to other announcements about the film. Mainly those stemming from suspicions about the ability of Impact and the rest of the team involved to accurately and enjoyably recreate the material for fans.
The film brings the same director, and much of the creative team, that created the massive and successful Resident Evil film franchise. Capcom like any other company loves making money, and the Resident Evil films made a ton of it. The line of six films grossed more than $1.2 billion worldwide, with the last film having the worst opening weekend with $13 million at the gate. Although it still went on to pull in more than $300 million globally, the best in the franchise.
Paul W.S. Anderson has brought together a stable of excellent actors like Milla Jovovich, as well as actors like Tony Jaa, Ron Perlman, T.I. Harris and Diego Boneta. There’s some great names in that list, and there should be enough experience and financial backing to translate to a decent campy film.
There’s always a lot of variables at play in filmmaking, just like in video game development, and you should take everything about this film with a grain of salt. It may turn out that Paul W.S. Anderson and the team of high-end actors manage to pull together a great film and product that does an excellent service to the source material.
Problem is, there’s some new details that make that assumption a bit less likely to come true.
A plot synopsis was released to the media earlier this month, and made things look kind of bleak, at least for me as a fan hoping for a faithful recreation. The Hollywood Reporter explains the plot like this:
The movie’s plot centers on the leader of a UN military team named Artemis, played by Jovovich, who is transported to another realm populated by monsters. There she meets the Hunter (Jaa), with the two teaming up to close a portal to prevent monsters from attacking Earth.
Now if that sounds familiar to you, it should. There are probably an endless string of TV shows, films, anime and games that rely on this exact plot structure to tell their story. Now it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Incredibly well-done and successful films like Pacific Rim rely on a similar thread in their storylines. The anime/manga franchise GATE is almost the exact same overall plot structure for example, and it was actually pretty good for what it was.
Although since we know that the Monster Hunter film franchise has already suffered production delays and a rehash from it’s original plot, things aren’t looking good for the success of the film. By the way, the original plot is remarkably similar, but seems to have been adapted to put Milla Jovovich in a starring role, or at least that’s the impression I get. Here’s how Impact Pictures described the plot to Variety:
For every Monster, there is a Hero. An ordinary man in a dead end job discovers that he is actually the descendant of an ancient hero. He must travel to a mystical world to train to become a Monster Hunter, before the mythical creatures from that world destroy ours.
There’s a larger problem here, aside from the cookie-cutter generic plot. Even with a huge budget of nearly $60 million, there may be some underlying problems that no amount of polish can disguise. This issue is simple, Monster Hunter isn’t a narrative-driven franchise.
Part of the reason that the liberties taken with the Resident Evil films worked, and led to a fair amount of success, is because those games had a narrative plot that meant fans went in expecting to see a story set in the same universe, but with lots of connective tissue reminding them about the source material. A team of badass mercs taking on hordes of zombies, and getting absolutely decimated, is a constant in many RE games, so the setup made sense in context.
Trying to tie-in the modern world to Monster Hunter doesn’t make sense, at least not for fans. From a business perspective, you could rationalize it by increasing marketability beyond hardcore fans and into general audiences. But it could lead to a cluttered and badly executed mess of bad plotlines and terrible characters that just doesn’t work. Think of terrible films like Battle:Los Angeles or Skyline, action-heavy films that tried to tie real-world events and thematic elements into increasingly unrealistic plots. Though they made money, the films were still pretty bad.
It’s hard to say whether the story inconsistencies and previous track record of these kinds of video game adaptations will have an impact on Monster Hunter as a film, but I’m a lot less enthused about the film than I was a few months ago.