DVD Movie Review: Monster Hunt

By Drew Hurley 30.12.2017

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Monster Hunt (UK Rating: 12)

Monster Hunt is the brainchild of Raman Hui, an animation veteran in Hollywood who has previously worked on numerous DreamWorks titles, from designing the characters on Antz, to co-directing Shrek the Third. While working on each of the Shrek movies, and working on the Gingerbread Man sequences, in particular, Raman was inspired to tell his own story. This eventually became Monster Hunt. The story is loosely based on an old Chinese book that described the various monsters living in ancient China. The story sees a world with both humans and monsters where the Queen of the monsters is about to give birth to a child of prophecy who will change both worlds. Monster Hunt comes courtesy of Manga Entertainment and is available from 29th January.

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The movie opens on the queen monster, heavily pregnant, fleeing with her loyal retainers as renegade monsters try to stop them, led by a general that looks like a heavily deformed cross between Goro and Toothless. It takes some getting used to the monster designs; the weird, tubby, blobby creatures looking part jelly baby, part creepy Shrek style Orc. The fleeing monsters come to a human village, which lies on the border between the human lands and the forests of the monsters, a village headed up by the young Song Tianyin, mayor to the village and hero of this story.

The introduction to this village sets the tone for the film; it's a very slapstick style comedy action flick. Song finds himself between the monsters and a pair of monster hunters - the beautiful, but short-tempered, Huo Xiaolan, and the veteran hunter, Luo Gang. The Monster Queen is stuck between a rock and a hard place with the mammoth monster still on their tale and now these monster hunters tracking them down, and with her last breath she passes her baby to Song and begs him to keep the baby safe. Song ends up teaming up with Huo thanks to her beauty and her overpowering temper. She's new to monster hunting and thinks that the huge bounty on this baby monster will set her up for life. That bounty has been placed by a shadowy Chinese lord who kidnaps Song's entire village, who seem to have some secrets of their own.


 
The plot is rather silly, with little thought behind some of the major elements, but it serves its purpose as a backdrop for tons of Chinese wirework, comedy Kung-Fu, and a mish-mash of CGI and practical effects that start out looking very dodgy but have their moments. Monster Hunt is chock full of human on human, human on monster, and monster on monster face-offs, and the fight choreography is great, thanks to veteran choreographer Hue Chiu Kiu, a master who has worked on series with the best Kung-Fu fights on TV - Enter the Badlands, for instance - along with a whole host of films, like Romeo Must Die and Journey to the West. There are surprisingly touching scenes, too; watching the strange makeshift family bond, for example, and a weirdly violent romance bloom.

Few will be familiar with the cast but there are some major stars from China taking part in this. Bia Baihe as Huo is clearly the star here, and her manic and often insane performances break out ahead of Jing Boran's wimpy hero. There's a bigger story there, though. Boran was not originally cast as the star here, with that instead being Taiwanese actor Kai Ko; in fact, the whole film was finished with him starring. Then, while in post-production, Kai was arrested in Beijing for drugs. China takes a hard stance on drugs, so much so that the whole movie was completely re-shot. The backstage drama would make a fascinating film itself! While the new hero is so-so, the supporting cast makes up for it. Jiang Wu is a likeable villain/eventual anti-hero and the Queen's retainers - played by venerable comedy duo, Eric Tsang and Sandra Kwan Yu Ng - are perfect as comedy relief both in combat and in their human forms.

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There are two bonus features on the DVD; a trailer and a "Making of" featurette. Considering the mixed media method of producing the special effects of the film, and the mixed production crews from around the world, this is absolutely fascinating. The first minute and a half or so of this looks to be a really enjoyable piece, and then it ends. This is a terrible missed opportunity; it's like a trailer for the making of, giving glimpses of the making of the practical effects, interviews with the actors, and on location filming, only for none of it to be included.

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
The plot may be convoluted and the strange wobbly CGI creatures frequently off-putting, but the end result is a wonderful and magical film the whole family can enjoy. It is absolutely perfect for this time of year. It's a shame there's no dub for the younger children in the audience, though, but they will at least enjoy the slapstick battles that are abundant throughout. Those who do enjoy Monster Hunt can look forward to the sequel, which is due for release in China next year.

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