Monster Hunter (2020)


Introduction

Monster Hunter is a 2020 science fantasy action kaiju 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 Anderson’s wife Milla Jovovich in their fifth time working together as director and lead actor.

Outline

In the New World where humans co-exist with a wide variety of large and savage monsters, a Hunter, a warrior trained to hunt and kill these powerful creatures, is separated from his team when their ship is attacked by Diablos, a horned subterranean monster.

In the real world, United States Army Captain Natalie Artemis and her United Nations (UN) security team search for a missing team of soldiers in the desert. A sudden storm pulls them into a portal to the New World where they find the remains of the missing soldiers and their vehicles. As the Diablos approaches them, the Hunter, who is observing the group, fires a warning signal. Impervious to bullets and grenades, the Diablos attacks and kills several members of the squad.

The survivors hide in a cave, where they are attacked by a pack of Nerscyllas. Everyone is killed except for Artemis, who runs into the Hunter while trying to escape. They briefly fight before grudgingly agreeing to cooperate. Artemis learns that the portals are created by the Sky Tower, a structure located across the desert. To reach the Tower, the Hunter reveals they will need to kill the Diablos in order to cross the desert safely. Artemis learns how to fight using the Hunter’s unique bladed weapons and helps him set a trap for the Diablos to kill it with Nerscylla venom. The attack is successful, with Artemis delivering the finishing blow, but the Hunter is badly wounded. Constructing a makeshift stretcher, Artemis dutifully carries him across the desert.

The pair reaches an oasis populated with herbivorous creatures called Apceros. When a Rathalos, a fire-breathing wyvern, flies by and causes the Apceros to stampede, Artemis and the Hunter are rescued by a group of Hunters led by their chieftain: the Admiral. The Admiral explains that the Sky Tower was built by the first civilisation to inhabit the New World, using the monsters to protect it. Artemis agrees to help kill the Rathalos so she can return home.

In the ensuing battle, Artemis falls through the portal, returning to the real world. The portal doesn’t close in time, and the Rathalos emerges and begins wreaking havoc. Artemis is able to slow it down long enough for the Hunter to slip through the portal and deliver the fatal shot. Though she has the chance to stay, Artemis decides to go back to the New World and remain with the Hunters to protect the real world from other monsters. The Admiral approaches her, just before the appearance of another flying monster known as Gore Magala. He notes that as long as the portal remains open, there will always be the threat that monsters will pass through to the real world. Artemis concludes that finding a way to take down the Sky Tower is now their primary objective.

In a mid-credits scene, Palico, the Admiral’s companion, arrives to help fight the Gore Magala, while an ominous cloaked figure observes the battle from the top of the tower.

Cast

  • Milla Jovovich as Artemis, a US Army Ranger member of a United Nations military team.
  • Tony Jaa as Hunter, one of many skilled warriors that fight giant monsters.
  • Ron Perlman as The Admiral, the chieftain of a group of Hunters.
  • Tip “T.I.” Harris as Lincoln.
  • Diego Boneta as Marshall.
  • Meagan Good as Dash.
  • Josh Helman as Steeler.
  • Jin Au-Yeung as Axe.
  • Hirona Yamazaki as Handler.
  • Jannik Schümann as Aiden.
  • Nanda Costa as Lea.
  • Nic Rasenti as Captain Roark.
  • Aaron Beelner as Palico.

Production

Development

In 2012, Resident Evil director Paul W.S. Anderson was then-rumoured 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 a 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 in which the Monster Hunter series is set, learning how to fight monsters, and then having 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 (2009) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). 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.

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.

Casting

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 universe 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 25 September 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, 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.

Pre-Production

Furthering on Anderson’s appreciation of the game, he stated that all of the armour 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 armour, which reflects on the player’s ability within the game to mix and match armour sets for beneficial results. Anderson wanted to use various settings in the film to match the variety in a game, though recognised 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.

Filming

Constantin Film produced 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 million budget. Special effects studio Mr. X VFX, which worked on the Resident Evil films, were also involved in the production.

Principal photography on the film began on 05 October 2018, in Cape Town, South Africa. Milla Jovovich announced on Instagram that principal photography was completed on 19 December 2018.

Release

Marketing

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.

Box Office

Monster Hunter was released in the United States on 18 December 2020. The film was originally scheduled to be released on 04 September 2020, but was delayed to 23 April 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, before being moved up to 30 December, 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 18 December 2020.

The studio spent just $1.3 million on television ads in the week leading up to the film’s US 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”.

As of 19 February 2021, Monster Hunter has grossed $12.9 million in the US and Canada, and $15.5 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $28.4 million.

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 US and Canada, opening in second behind holdover The Croods: A New Age. It went on to debut to $2.2 million from 1,738 theatres, 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.” In the film’s second weekend it fell 48.9%, grossing $1.1 million, then made $1.3 million in its third weekend, finishing fourth both times.

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 theatres, 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).

Home Media

The film is scheduled to release on digital movie services starting on 16 February 2021, with retail Blu-ray editions to release on 02 March 2021.

Chinese Controversy

Just after the Chinese release on 04 December 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!”. 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 lines.

Constantin Film apologized for the dialog and stated they will remove the 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.

Trivia

  • T.I. says that his youngest son convinced him to hop on board, because he is a fan of the video games.
  • Director Paul W.S. Anderson and the crew travelled to remote locations in South Africa and Namibia to capture the film’s expansive vistas.
  • Milla Jovovich’s seventh movie based on a videogame.
  • The latitude and longitude of the UN zone places the characters in Afghanistan, proximal to Kabul.
  • Milla Jovovich plays a character named Artemis, while Tony Jaa is credited as ‘The Hunter’.
    • Artemis is the ancient Greek goddess of the hunt.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Paul W.S. Anderson.
  • Producer(s):
    • Paul W.S. Anderson … producer.
    • Dennis Berardi … producer.
    • Jeremy Bolt … producer.
    • Howard Chen … executive producer.
    • Edward Cheng … executive producer.
    • Andre Coutu … post producer.
    • Kaname Fujioka … associate producer.
    • Genevieve Hofmeyr … producer: South Africa.
    • Robert Kulzer … producer.
    • Hiro Matsuoka … executive producer.
    • Martin Moszkowicz … producer.
    • Donovan Roberts-Baxter … line producer.
    • Ryozo Tsujimoto … associate producer
  • Writer(s): Paul W.S. Anderson (script) and Kaname Fujioka (video games series).
  • Music: Paul Haslinger.
  • Cinematography: Glen MacPherson.
  • Editor(s): Doobie White.
  • Production:
    • Constantin Film.
    • Impact Pictures.
    • Capcom Company.
    • Tencent Pictures.
    • Toho Company.
  • Distributor(s):
    • China Film Group Corporation (CFGC) (2020) (China) (theatrical).
    • Constantin Film Verleih (2020) (Germany) (theatrical).
    • Constantin-Film (2020) (Austria) (theatrical).
    • HKC Entertainment (2021) (Pakistan) (theatrical).
    • Praesens-Film (2021) (Switzerland) (theatrical).
    • Screen Gems (2020) (USA) (theatrical).
    • Sony Pictures Releasing Argentina (2021) (Argentina) (theatrical) (through United International Pictures).
    • Sony Pictures Releasing (2020) (Netherlands) (theatrical) (through Universal Pictures International).
    • Sony Pictures Releasing (2020) (Singapore) (theatrical).
    • Sony Pictures Releasing (2021) (UK) (theatrical).
    • Toho Company (2021) (Japan) (theatrical).
    • Towa Pictures (2021) (Japan) (theatrical).
    • United International Pictures (UIP) (2021) (Argentina) (theatrical) (through).
    • Universal Pictures International (UPI) (2020) (Netherlands) (theatrical) (through).
  • Release Date: December 2020.
  • Running Time: 103 minutes.
  • Rating: 12A.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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