Paul W.S. Anderson Interview: Monster Hunter

Since 2004, the Monster Hunter video game series has entertained audiences all over the world. Initially a cult favorite, the release of 2018’s Monster Hunter: World introduced the brand to a whole new audience, and has since gone on to sell over 16.8 million copies, shattering the series record by a wide margin. Coinciding with the massive surge in Monster Hunter‘s popularity, a film adaptation of the game released in late 2020, and is coming to home video soon.

Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil), Monster Hunter stars Milla Jovovich as the leader of a squad of soldiers who are magically transported to a world of mythical beasts, filled with ferocious creatures, where danger lurks around every corner. The film is a non-stop thrill ride complete with beautiful representations of some of the series’ most iconic monsters, kinetic action, and all the crowd-pleasing spectacle audiences have come to expect from a Paul W.S. Anderson film.

While promoting the release of Monster Hunter, Paul W.S. Anderson spoke to Screen Rant about his work on the film, from choosing which monsters to use in the story, and consulting with Capcom’s Ryozo Tsujimoto and Kaname Fujioka to figure out which fan-favorite creatures would make the cut. He also discusses his approach to franchises, and how he prefers to take things one movie at a time.

Monster Hunter is out now on Digital, and releases March 2 on Blu-ray.

Hello there!

Hey man, how are you?

I grew up with Mortal Kombat, and I came of age to Resident Evil, so I’m very excited!

Oh, fantastic!

And out of respect for that excitement, I’m just gonna jump right in.

Okay, great, I’m ready!

This movie’s scary! First act, I wasn’t expecting it to be so scary! Tell me about, when you’re writing for this particular game, deciding on a tone.

Well, I think… I’m making a movie called Monster Hunter. You know, monsters are in the title! When you think about monsters, they’re generally not friendly things. And when you play the game, the game can be surprising. You’re walking around, and suddenly these things leap out at you. It’s a game that takes you by surprise. We’re making a monster movie, and monsters should take you by surprise. Although it’s a PG-13 film, and it’s not gory in any way, I definitely felt like it should be shocking at times and definitely keep you on the edge of your seat. That’s what I love about Meagan Good’s character, and Tip’s character, and Diego Boneta, you know, these people die a lot faster than you would generally expect, and I think that takes people by surprise! And I think that’s good, because it kind of keeps you on your toes.

Totally. In the early stages, tell me about deciding what monsters you were gonna use, and which ones you were gonna have to put a pin in until later.

I came to the movie as a real fan of Monster Hunter the video game. I played it 11 years ago when I was in Tokyo, so I knew about the world before it became a worldwide phenomenon, definitely. And I just fell in love with the creatures. Obviously, over the last ten years, there have been more and more and more creatures. There’s probably over 100 creatures that you can choose from. So I leaned very heavily on the creators of the video game. I consulted with Ryozo Tsujimoto-san and Kaname Fujioka-san, and asked them which were the real fan-favorites, you know, so I’d be sure to get those in the movie. And that’s really where the Rathalos and Diabolos came from. And then I chose some of my favorites, as well. The Nerscylla was my choice from one of the earlier games, from before Monster Hunter World. And the rationale for choosing the creatures was not just choosing the most popular creatures, “which are the creatures the fans would like to see?” But also, “Which of the creatures would deliver us an action scene different from the action scene you just saw?” There’s a danger in a movie like this, where it’s non-stop action, that the action can become repetitious. I never wanted the same fight scene again. The same battle again. I had to have a different battle. So, each creature has a different strength, a different weakness, a different battleground that our characters have to fight in, so that you never get that sense of repetition. Each monster brings something fresh to the party. And that’s kind of how I chose them. That’s what I love about the Nerscylla. They lurk underground, there’s whole packs of them, they’re in the darkness. They’re very different to something like the Diabolos, for example, which fights in broad daylight.

Sure, yeah! I imagine that, for whatever a blockbuster is in 2020 and 2021, I guess we’re waiting to see, like, home video and VOD, whatever, all that stuff, because the box office is just a non-factor right now. Do you have monsters and a story ready to go, ready to pull the trigger for part two?

It’s funny, back in the day, pre-Covid, back in the olden days, you kind of knew whether your movie had done financially well, pretty much on Friday night. If you knew what Friday’s numbers were, you could extrapolate the whole weekend, and you were usually having a day-and-date worldwide release, so you kind of knew how you were doing in Japan and everywhere else at the same time. Now, of course, your release is staggered over a much longer period of time. We’re rolling out Monster Hunter in territories where… Some territories are like North America, where some cinemas are open, a lot of cinemas are closed. Some territories, there are no cinemas open! And some territories, cinemas are open, Covid’s not really a factor, and we’re doing killer business. I’ve never wanted to live in Taiwan so much in my life, ever! Because we did giant business there! We’re playing on giant IMAX screens, people loved the movie. Thailand, I wouldn’t mind moving to, as well. I haven’t been there since I made Mortal Kombat. And Monster Hunter did huge business in Thailand, which is really pleasing. And with North America, although box office across the board is tiny compared to how it used to be, it’s been good over the past eight-to-nine weeks that we’ve been in release. I’ve been checking out the charts, and Monster Hunter, other than The Croods, Monster Hunter has had the lowest percentage decline of any other movie in the top ten. Which, to me, says that people are really enjoying the movie, and they’re going back to see it again, and the movie is really holding well. So I would hope that gets reflected on Video on Demand, as well, and people can just enjoy the movie wherever they get to find it.

Sure! I live in New York, the theaters aren’t really open, but I saw it on my TV. It’s a good TV, but I wish I could have seen it in IMAX, you know what I mean?

That’s what I built it for, was for a big-screen experience. But having said that, you know, someone once said to me, “movies are like cakes: it doesn’t matter where you slice them, they need to taste good.” It doesn’t matter! Movies, it doesn’t matter where you watch them, they need to play. I’ve watched Monster Hunter, because I’ve done all the different versions of it, I’ve watched it on an IMAX screen, I’ve watched it on a regular screen, I’ve watched it on a TV screen, and I’ve also watched it on my iPhone… And I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, no matter what format! It’s a movie with a lot of heart, and it’s a lot of fun, and it’s a very immersive movie, I think, no matter where you watch it. Obviously, the bigger the screen you can watch it on, the better, but it’s still a great two hours. It’s the right movie for right now. You know, the world, the shape it’s in right now, it’s a fun time to escape to a different world for a couple of hours.

Literally!

And Monster Hunter definitely allows you to do that.

Do you have long-term franchise plans, or are you the kind of filmmaker who plays it one sequel at a time?

I’m always one movie at a time. I feel like so many potential franchises came to grief because they spent so long thinking about the whole arc of the franchise, that they forgot to make a really good movie for the first film. And guess what? If the first film isn’t great, then nobody’s going to want to see the sequel.

Right, exactly!

It doesn’t matter how much pipe you lay, and what your mythology is and what your plans are; you’ve gotta concentrate on one movie at a time in my opinion.

Sure. It’s funny you mentioned Mortal Kombat earlier. I feel like 2021 is the year of… I mean, they were games first, but Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat are both getting new movies in 2021. Do you have any involvement in those, or are you going in as a fan? Have you seen them at all?

I have no involvement, and I haven’t seen anything. I’m excited to see what they do with it, you know?

I have one last question. There’s the legend of the mythical lost Event Horizon footage. Are we ever going to see that? Is there hope in my lifetime that we’ll get to see that 4K Blu-ray, or is that a pipe dream?

I think, at this point, if you want to see Laurence Fishburne go through more hell, I have to have him again and de-age him and shoot some of that material one more time. I don’t know if that footage is really out there anymore.

That’s a shame, but it’s still a great movie. Any way you cut it, like you said.

Thank you!

Well, thanks so much, it’s been a delight to get to talk to you, I’m such a huge fan of your work, and Monster Hunter is another hit for you!

Monster Hunter is out now on Digital, and releases March 2 on Blu-ray.

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