Monster Hunter is bigger than ever. Monster Hunter: World launched in 2018 and finally cracked the West after the niche series spent years trying to find its footing, while Monster Hunter Rise released to critical and commercial success earlier this year. In-between all that, a Monster Hunter movie adaptation – shepherded onto screen by video game movie mainstay Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat) – launched in the US, and it’s now finally roaring its way across onto cinema screens in the UK and Ireland.
Ahead of its release, we spoke to Anderson about all things Monster Hunter. With the video game movie curse still looming large over the industry, Anderson offers up a more optimistic long-term outlook for those hoping the medium will make more successful leaps to the big screen.
Plus, the director talks all about the challenges behind condensing the series – of which Anderson himself is a long-time fan – into a 90-minute action movie. Anderson even touches on something Monster Hunter fans will be craving: the process behind bringing the series’ detailed and dynamic creatures to life – and why it even bests the beasts in some other notable big-budget blockbusters. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
GamesRadar+: When considering the size of the video game industry – why do you think video game movies haven’t quite hit the heights as, say, comic book movies in the last decade? How does Monster Hunter aim to change that?
Paul W.S. Anderson: Comic books have been around for a lot longer. You have a kind of groundswell of knowledge when it comes to comic books.
When it’s hard to quantify how many people know about Batman, for example. Maybe the latest comic book only sells 10,000 copies, but Batman is still Batman. He’s a piece of pop culture iconography that’s been around for a long, long time. I think comic books have that advantage. When you’re talking about the Marvel [Cinematic] Universe and comics that have a groundswell that is multi-generational as well, whereas video games compared to comics are in their infancy.
I’m a generation that grew up playing video games, so I absolutely loved video games. I’m sure that these IPs… if you extrapolate the next 30-40 years, they’ll still be around. Our video game version of the Batmans and the Marvels of this world will still be around and probably will have the same kind of groundswell of support that comic books do.
What’s the process like when picking and choosing what elements from Monster Hunter make it into the movie? Especially when considering it’s sometimes a 100-hour experience for some gamers and you’ve got to distil that into 90 minutes.
I was led by a passion for the project. I played the video game 12 years ago in Japan, where it was pretty much a Japanese-only phenomena. I fell in love with the immense, beautifully designed creatures, but also these incredibly well-rendered landscapes and the creatures around it.
For me, that was my guiding light. The great creatures were a given. I just wanted to make it as accurate as I possibly could do, which I did by closely working with the game creators to make sure that every single detail, down to the fingernails of the sand creatures, is as close to the game as it could possibly be.
Then also the design of costumes, the weaponry – I wanted it to be completely spot-on. I wanted to put these amazing creatures in landscapes that they deserved, which led to us shooting on these very remote landscapes in Africa because they were so beautiful and reminded me of the landscapes from the games.
My guiding light was to bring what is obviously animation in the game, make it photoreal and bring it to life on a movie screen. Because that’s what I felt the passion for when I first played the game. I just thought it was so cinematic, so I didn’t want to shoot in the studio backlot against a green screen and then create the landscapes in the computer. I wanted to go to reality and have that reality to lock the creatures into.
Those are the things that I was striving for. Then, in the creation of the story itself, I wanted to delve in the mythology and the mystery of the game a little bit more. One of the things that always fascinated me is the theme that runs through a lot of these games, which is of this ancient civilization that had fallen into rack and ruin long ago but is the basis of this entire culture and civilization that exists when you play the game.
You mentioned working with the creators. Are there any monster designs left on the cutting room floor that you wanted to include but, for one reason or another, you couldn’t?
No – the creatures we built are built to a greater resolution than the monsters in Jurassic World. So, the builds are incredibly long, incredibly detailed. You don’t want to build a creature and then not use it.
We didn’t build anything that we [then] threw away. Capcom would give us the models from the video game and that would give us our exact geometry of the creatures from the game.
When you do a movie, you have to build in greater detail, but we take the geometry of the creatures from the game, and then we would layer increasing detail over the top of that.
It was a very, very organic process which we consulted with the creators all the way along… because sometimes you look at the video game and because of motion blur and lack of resolution, it's hard to tell exactly what the sharp detail is. They would give us the fine detail like ‘the fingernails or the toenails of the Diablo should be more rounded rather than appointed’ and things like that. So we went in and really got into the detail to try and really deliver for the fans.
You have pretty much more experience than anyone else when it comes to video game movies. Are there any other franchises that have caught your eye to adapt? Or any you’d like to see come to the big screen?
I've done three big video game adaptations with Monster Hunter and Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat. Each of them have been real passions for me. So, the things I've been passionate about, I've pursued and I've made, so I don't know what the future holds… but I’m waiting.
Monster Hunter hits UK and Irish cinemas on June 18.