If you’re familiar with the “Resident Evil” video games and movie franchise, then you’re probably no stranger to British filmmaker Paul W. S. Anderson. The writer-director’s latest project, “Monster Hunter”, is another adaptation of a popular Japanese video game series that launched in 2004. But now get ready to witness this movie in Hollywood fashion, with more blockbuster elements and effects.
The “Monster Hunter” (モンスターハンター) video games were sold very well in its country of origin in Japan as well as other Asian countries including Malaysia. Potentially, the movie adaptation could produce the same amount of attention here for the box office.
Paul W. S. Anderson started making films in the 1990s and has shown no signs of stopping. Known as a king of thrillers, the British filmmaker has 22 films (and counting) under his belt. Anderson has been most noticeable for creating film adaptations based on popular Japanese video games such as “Mortal Kombat”, the “Resident Evil” movie franchise, and now, the “Monster Hunter” movie. He has also created movies based on popular properties such as “Alien vs. Predator”, “Death Race”, and “The Three Musketeers”.
But the main highlight of Paul W. S. Anderson’s career in the movie industry has centered on his film adaptations of video games. His whole intent in creating these movies was for entertainment purposes as the films tend to pay attention to peculiar characteristics or elements of video games. It’s merely just a gorgeous display of performances Anderson showcases in his films.
Furthermore, his films tend to capture the atmosphere of video games instead of exploring the narratives. This results in Anderson’s films having unexpected revelations that are different from the games that may appeal to both video game fans and the general public. Thankfully, lacklustre reviews from critics hasn’t deterred the British director from making films the way he wants.
Another well-known aspect of Paul W. S. Anderson is working alongside wife and actress Milla Jovovich. The two got married in 2009 and have been together in most of Anderson’s directed films, mainly the “Resident Evil” film series, where Jovovich plays the main heroine Alice. Now we get to see her star in her new lead role as Artemis in “Monster Hunter”.
Jovovich also mentioned how playing her new role in “Monster Hunter” felt more real compared to her previous character Alice. Her motivation to play Artemis came from her parents, especially how her dad used to serve to fight in wars.
“Monster Hunter” was already released in the US alongside China last year in December, with certain people praising its faithfulness to the original games. The film doesn’t just provide gut-wrenchingly yet action-packed imagery, but fans of the video games got to see their favourite monsters come to life on the big screen. Milla Jovovich as lead role Artemis who promises to provide some great badass moments as the main heroine. If you’re a fan of the “Resident Evil” movies, you will surely not want to miss out on “Monster Hunter” with Jovovich’s empowering moments.
In addition, the film also consists of Thai actor Tony Jaa (ทัชชกร ยีรัมย์), known for his fantastic stunt performance while giving out some great acting skills in the “Ong-Bak” (องค์บาก) films, and the actor is bound to attract the attention of Thai and Southeast Asian fans alike. He will be playing Hunter, with some high expectations of great action scenes from the actor himself. Maybe some Japanese fans would look forward to the movie as well with Japanese actress Hirona Yamazaki (山崎 紘菜) playing Handler. This and the fact the video game is made from their country.
We sat down and interacted with Paul W. S. Anderson virtually via Zoom, where he shared and discussed his inspiration from the game, the gargantuan monsters, his wife Milla Jovovich and daughter Ever Gabo Anderson, and the future of the movie industry:
1. So you’re no stranger to adapting video game properties for the big screen with the Resident Evil Franchise. And you’ve been a fanboy of Monster Hunter since you started playing it over 10 years ago. What about that world and those landscapes that stood out to you?
Well, I first played the game about 11 years ago in Tokyo and that was when the game was pretty much only known within Japan. And I just immediately fell in love with these giant creatures and the landscapes they inhabited. It felt like a really well rendered and thought-out world. It was very convincing to me. And I thought this is an amazing world to explore and I thought it had a movie written all over it.
I thought if I can bring this into a movie, then this is a world that an audience would love to explore for two hours and really lose themselves. Just as I had kind of enjoyed being immersed in that world. So really it was a very immersive world filled with fantastical creatures that I just thought was really right to turn into a film.
2. “Monster Hunter” is a huge game as of now with a lot of fans. So what do you think fans of the game can come to expect from the film itself?
Well, you know, the movie is called “Monster Hunter”, so if you make a movie called “Monster Hunter”, you’ve got to get the monsters right, and they’re obviously a massive part of the game. There’s something that we really had to get right for the movie so I took it very seriously. I travelled to Japan a lot, and I met with “Tsujimoto-san” (Ryōzō Tsujimoto (辻本 良三)) and “Fujioka-san” (Kaname Fujioka (藤岡 要)), the director and producer of the video game and the creators of the world “Monster Hunter”. I consulted with them to get the real fine details of the creatures, as accurate as possible.
So they went into the fine detail of how sharp the Rathalos’ teeth were, how pointy the nails of the Diablos were and its claws, and the pitch of the voice of Nerscyclla. We really went into the fine details because I felt since they were the gatekeepers of the world, and if I could please them, then I could really please the fans. So I think the fans will really get a kick out of seeing the creatures they know from the game come to life in a movie. And then all of the costumes and the weaponry are completely super accurate as well.
So I think it’s going to be really fun for the fans to immerse themselves in a really rich world that they recognise from the game, but then if you don’t know the game, and maybe you don’t even play video games, it’s still a fantastic world to discover, just as a cinema-goer or as an audience or person watching the movie at home.
3. How much of the Monster work is CGI and how much of it is practical effects?
There’s virtually no CGI in terms of the world. I wanted to make the world as convincing as possible and I knew the monsters had to be CG because no one was going to allow me to breed 50-foot (15.2m) monsters and watch them fight. If I could have done, I would have done, but no one allows you to do that. So I thought if the monsters have to be CG then the world they inhabit should be as realistic as possible. That’s a decision I made because I’m not a fan of just shooting things against a green screen because then the monsters have to be CG, the landscape has to be CG, and then suddenly everything starts feeling a little synthetic.
So I wanted to kind of make the monsters as realistic as possible by locking them into real landscapes, you know, real epic landscapes real lens flare, real dust, and real heat. So we went and we found the most epic landscapes we could that match the landscapes from the game and that was a big challenge because these landscapes are often in the middle of nowhere.
They looked amazing but they would be 200 kilometres from the nearest town. So for most of the movie, the cast and crew were all living in tents because we were out in the wilderness shooting these fabulous-looking landscapes. It was great for the actors though because they felt like they travelled to the Monster Hunter world already.
4. The giant monsters here are also quite fascinating. Do you have a favourite?
Well you know we chose the monsters, as a combination of fan favourites, which would be like the Rathalos and the Diablos. But my personal favourite, just for me as a player, which I brought to the party was Nerscylla. I find them totally horrifying. This cross between a giant spider and a crab with a bit of alien mixed in. Their horrific scary creatures and I love the fact they lurk in the darkness. They’re fantastic and my personal favourites.
But I deliberately chose the creatures for the movie because there’s obviously a lot to choose from as the world of the game is very big. I chose monsters that I felt were very different from one another so they could deliver different kinds of action. Each action scene with a monster was fundamentally different so the action didn’t become repetitive.
There’s only one creature that burrows down to the ground, the Diablos. There’s only one big flying creature which is the Rathalos. There’s only one group of creatures that hunt in packs which is the Nerscylla. Each one of those creatures delivers a completely different kind of action, which keeps the movie kind of fresh and exciting.
5. Milla and Tony’s characters seem to have a very interesting relationship in the movie. Can you talk about their unique dynamic?
I think the two of them just had wonderful chemistry. It’s a classic movie trope, where you have two people who start as enemies but become friends. In this case, they need to because both Milla and Tony are trapped on this island surrounded by this ocean of sand and if they go onto the sand, they get attacked by the Diablos. So it’s kind of like a shark circling a desert island and the only way Miller and Tony are going to get off this island is if they learn eventually to cooperate and learn from one another.
The two of them were great because they really are from two different worlds. Milla is from the Western action cinema world, and Tony is from the Asian action cinema world. So it’s like two of the cinema greats from different worlds going head to head and I really enjoyed that. Working with Tony was on my bucket list and I wanted to work with him ever since I saw him in “Ong-Bak” (องค์บาก). Milla and Tony also have different fighting styles which are very obvious in the movie.
So it’s really fascinating to see these two people start as enemies, eventually come together and become friends and I just thought the two of them as actors had tremendous chemistry. They really got on and they have a lot of humour between them. A lot of that humour just came out of improvisation between the two of them which was great. They did a lot of improvs and I kept a lot of that in the movie because I felt it was real character building that just came from the actors.
6. So apparently, you and your wife Milla have been working together for the longest time, which is the 5th time now. What’s the best part of having your wife on set?
She’s a fantastic asset to any film director and I think any director is really lucky to have Milla in their movie because she really gives her all or 100% to the movies that she’s in. As I said, this was a physically very hard movie to make. We’re out in the wilderness and sometimes during the day, it will be 50 degrees centigrade temperatures, so insane and hot. Then as soon as night fell, it would go below zero, freezing cold. There would be huge storms that will blow away all the tents that we were trying to live in.
So it was physically a hard movie to make and having somebody who’s supportive and as strong as Mila in the lead role just sets the tone for everybody else. So she built a lot of camaraderie amongst the cast and the crew which was really excellent. She’s a great leader on set which is wonderful, and then creatively, she’s full of great ideas. I’ve always said if Milla wants to give up being a movie star, she would make a great studio executive because she’s got great taste in action scenes and how to put a movie together. She’s got a lot of good ideas.
7. Given that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, what are your thoughts on the climate of cinema? Do you see more people gravitating towards streaming platforms since many of the cinemas around the world are still closed and plans are getting pushed back? What are your thoughts on this?
Well, I’m happy to be releasing a movie right now because I really feel and I’ve heard this from a lot of my friends, people want entertainment. Everyone’s kind of trapped at home and a lot of studios are hanging on to their movies and pushing them back, pushing them back, and pushing them back. So we’re very happy to be delivering something that I think is an amazing cut to our entertainment to people, which has big monsters and big visual effects.
And I think that as you look to the future, yes, definitely cinemas are going to reopen but I think increasingly, people are going to be more picky about what they choose to go to the cinema to see. I think people are increasingly and probably going to watch more and more at home. I don’t think they’re going to stop going to the cinema, but I think they’ll go to the cinema when they really want to see something on the big screen and I think that kind of puts pressure on filmmakers to make things specifically for the big screen. If you want people to come to the cinema, you’re going to have to kind of put something out there that they can’t get at home.
8. Your daughter, Ever, has a role in “Black Widow” and that was supposed to come out last year and it kept getting delayed. I wonder if she came to you and Milla for any advice since you guys are pros in this industry?
I mean she grew up watching us work on movie sets while we were making films, so she’s very aware of the way we work. We’ve tried to instil into her and she’s heard it; the importance of being respectful on set and treating everyone with a lot of respect, a lot of dignity and I think she brings that and I think that’s wonderful.
That’s something you’re always looking to get from your actors, somebody who doesn’t matter who the person is, whether they’re talking to another actor, to the director, or to someone that’s just made them a cup of tea. You treat everyone equally and with great respect and it makes me very proud when they see Ever doing that in the movies that she’s making as well. I’m very happy to see her pursuing the career she wants. She’s a very talented actress but also she just loves doing it, so it makes me very happy to kind of watch that.
Check out both the main and international trailers here:
Rent “Monster Hunter” from 8th April on Astro Best (Ch 480) or stream On Demand.