In Monster Hunter, Milla Jovovich plays an outsider. Her character, a US Army ranger named Artemis, is mysteriously transported from our world to a fantastical realm filled with giant and dangerous monsters. American soldiers aren’t something you’ll find in any of Capcom’s Monster Hunter games. But Jovovich believes Artemis helped provide an important perspective — almost serving as a stand-in for a player jumping into their first experience with a Monster Hunter game.
“When my character gets transported into the Monster Hunter world I was able to see it with the same eyes as when I first saw the game,” she tells The Verge. “I was just like ‘Whoa, it’s so beautiful.’ We really wanted people to feel like that when they watch the movie, like they were playing the game for the first time.”
Jovovich says she was introduced to the franchise through her husband, Monster Hunter director Paul W.S. Anderson, who “had been really obsessed with this property for over 10 years.” Eventually he got the rights to the franchise, and went through a few iterations of a script. But it wasn’t until rewriting the story to have Jovovich as the lead that things really clicked.
There was also something about the fictional universe that spoke to her. Monster Hunter isn’t a typical kaiju story with giant creatures destroying the world. You wouldn’t mistake it for Godzilla. Instead, it’s about a place where humanity is deeply invested in the natural world around them. In the games, you don’t just hunt monsters to kill them; you use them to craft food, weapons, and other items. It’s all about survival, and it gives Monster Hunter its own distinct vibe compared to other action games, with slow, methodical gameplay based on careful planning and preparation.
“I really like that feeling of having to use every part of the animal, and there’s no waste,” Jovovich says. There are even scenes in the film where downed monsters are put to good use, just like in the game.
She says she was able to better understand this aspect of the universe by playing Monster Hunter. This experience also helped inform her character’s fighting style. In the movie, Artemis joins forces with a local hunter, played by Tony Jaa, and the two have very different techniques. Jaa wields a massive glaive, whereas Artemis eventually adopts a pair of twin blades (which at one point are lit on fire). “I really liked the dual blades, and there are certain moves that go with the dual blades that we wanted to film,” she explains. But those two distinct fighting styles weren’t the original plan.
“I felt at the beginning like our fighting styles were too similar, in the sense that the choreographer was giving me some really cool-looking moves, but they just felt too film martial artsy,” Jovovich says. “I was like, I just feel like my character wouldn’t be able to do a butterfly kick. That’s not her training. Her training as a soldier would be much more close-combat … Whereas the martial arts that Tony does is so much more cinematic and beautiful. I felt like it was good to let him do that stuff, and then for us to have very different fighting styles. Because it’s more realistic, but also I thought it was more interesting for our characters as well.”
Adapting an existing property is always a tricky proposition. Fans come with preconceived expectations, and it can be tough to meet those while also making things accessible for new audiences. It’s something that Jovovich and Anderson are experienced with, having worked together on the long-running Resident Evil series, which also happens to be based on a Capcom game. The new movie provided a slightly different challenge. Since the release of Monster Hunter World, the franchise is as popular as it’s ever been, but it’s still not exactly a household name.
“When you’re dealing with a 90 minute version of something, you’re always going to have to make certain sacrifices,” she explains. “If this was Monster Hunter the TV show, it would be very different. You would have a lot more time to spend on little details. The most important thing for us when making a movie was to have the spirit of the game.”
Monster Hunter is available to purchase digitally now and will be out on Blu-Ray and DVD starting March 2nd.