Paul W.S. Anderson’s Mortal Kombat remains a cult favorite among fans over a quarter of century later, and the filmmaker has long since established himself as the go-to guy for crafting action-packed video game adaptations. Having recently ended his time at the helm of the six-film Resident Evil franchise, which became the highest-grossing console-to-screen series in history with over $1.2 billion in the bank, Anderson’s latest effort Monster Hunter sees him back on familiar ground.
Based on Capcom’s second biggest-selling video game property ever, ironically behind Resident Evil, Monster Hunter stars Anderson’s wife and regular collaborator Milla Jovovich as Lieutenant Artemis, an elite soldier transported from our world to a dangerous new reality inhabited by fierce and ferocious creatures.
To mark the impending release of Monster Hunter on home video, We Got This Covered had the chance to speak to the director in an exclusive interview where he reflects on the movie’s success, the possibility of sequels, a potential return to Resident Evil, remakes and much more, and you can check it all out below.
Ten weeks in the Top 10 at the domestic box office is an impressive achievement regardless of the circumstances. It must be encouraging to see audiences willing to check out Monster Hunter on the big screen, even with the way things are at the moment?
Paul W.S. Anderson: Yes, absolutely. It’s swings and roundabouts right now, because obviously I made the movie as big screen entertainment, so I was disappointed, you know, in America 60% of cinemas are closed, only 40% of the country can go see the movie, and even then a lot people are deciding that they don’t want to go to cinemas. So, you know, we didn’t do the business I was anticipating when I was making the movie, but then definitely week on week, I’ve followed the box office and other than The Croods 2, we had the lowest decline of any movie in the Top 10, and that’s been true ever since we released the film.
Which, to me, says the movie’s got great word of mouth and people are really enjoying it. There are movies that have released more recently that have kind of flopped out of the Top 10 really quickly, so it’s definitely been very encouraging that people have been checking out the movie, and definitely enjoying it. Obviously, we get all of the exit polls and everything, so it doesn’t surprise me. The movie’s really entertaining and people are really enjoying it. I think in these times it’s fun to escape to a different world for a couple of hours and if Monster Hunter is one thing, it’s a fun movie, that’s for sure.
It’s a big effects-driven film, but you can still tell that a lot of the stunts and action were achieved practically. Was it important to keep things as grounded and tangible as possible, despite Monster Hunter being a creature feature?
Paul W.S. Anderson: Well, I felt I made the movie as a reaction against the way a lot of Hollywood blockbusters are made now, where they’re made on the backlot of a studio against a green screen, and the creatures and the environments are all CG, and that can lend a very sort of synthetic look to your movie, and I wanted to kind of ground the creatures as much as possible. So, I felt that if I went and shot real amazing landscapes and put the amazing creatures within those landscapes, then the creatures themselves would look more real, which I think is exactly the case.
You know, I think the creatures in Monster Hunter look fantastic, and that’s partly because we went and we found some of the most fantastic landscapes we could on Earth and shot there for real, rather than the easy way, which is shooting the whole thing against a green screen and kind of make the whole thing in a computer, but then you can end up with a kind of look, which is almost like you’re looking at an animated film, and that’s not the look I wanted for this picture. I fell in love with the landscapes and the creatures of the game, and I really wanted to bring them to life in the most realistic way possible, and I felt that shooting on real landscapes would just enhance that immeasurably.
The game series doesn’t have much of a linear narrative to draw on for inspiration, did that pose more of a challenge writing the script in terms of creating the world and making sure Monster Hunter would appeal to both fans and non-fans?
Paul W.S. Anderson: There are distinct characters from the game which we put in, that really give fans something to kind of hang on to, in terms of ‘this is like the game come to life.’ You know, Tony Jaa’s character, Ron Perlman’s character, The Handler as well. All of these characters are non player characters within the video game, so there’s a lot of characters we took from the game, and there’s a lot of the landscapes and locations that are directly inspired by the game. The creatures themselves are exactly from the game, they look and sound very close to the game, down to the look of their fingernails, because I had the creators of the game chime in, even on the fine details.
What the game is rich in is themes, and we really tried to incorporate this whole idea of, ‘to kill a monster, you need a monster.’ That’s the game, the game is kind of a grinding game, where you have to kill creatures, fashion armor from those creatures so that you can kill bigger creatures, and that’s a key part of the movie as well. So, I think that while you’re right, the game might not be really strong on narrative, there’s a lot in them, and there’s no doubt that if you’re a fan of Monster Hunter the game, then you can see that the DNA of the game is very much woven into the fabric of the movie.
There’s clear franchise potential in Monster Hunter and the ending is pure sequel bait. Is that something you’re still hoping to do, or have the goalposts been moved at all by COVID-19 and the state of the theatrical industry, even though it’s shown great legs at the box office?
Paul W.S. Anderson: Creatively, I’m super pleased with the movie, I think it’s fabulous. I had a great time making the movie, it was a great adventure, kind of like shooting in the middle of Africa with the cast and crew, living in these tents in the middle of nowhere, and I’m very pleased with the chemistry between Tony Jaa and Milla. So, creatively for me, I’m very fulfilled by the movie.
Financially, it used to be that you could usually tell whether your movie had worked or not opening weekend, because you had a day and date release around the world, and by Friday night you knew if your movie had worked or not. Now, of course, times are very very different, because back then you’d release your movie and probably three of four weeks later you’d be out of the Top 10 because there’s another big movie releasing every single weekend. Now, you know, movies hang around for longer, they have a bigger multiple over time than they normally would do, they probably have bigger video on demand numbers because people aren’t having the opportunity to see them in cinemas, and you don’t have a day and date release.
We’re still releasing all over the world, and countries where COVID-19 really isn’t a problem like Taiwan for example, or Thailand, the movie’s kicking ass big time and making a lot of money, and playing on all the IMAX screens you would want. So it’s hard to tell. I don’t think the final result for the movie financially will be in for six months or so. It’s going to take that long or longer for everyone in the world to actually get a chance to see the movie, whether that’s in the cinema or whether that’s video on demand, or whether it’s buying a DVD.
The business has changed completely over the last year.
Paul W.S. Anderson: Absolutely, so for me the indications are pleasing. The box office isn’t what it used to be, but as you started out saying, the fact the movie’s hung around for so long and had such small declines each weekend has been very encouraging for me.
Resident Evil is still big business with the reboot and Netflix series on the way. Do you see yourself ever getting involved in that world again, or is that chapter of your career over?
Paul W.S. Anderson: You know, I did six movies and spent fifteen years of my life working on that franchise, so obviously Resident Evil is something I love, and I gave a lot to the franchise. And I made a movie called The Final Chapter! So, I kind of closed it out, and I have lots of other things that I want to do, but in the words of the late, great, immortal Sean Connery, ‘never say never again.’
A lot of properties you’ve worked on in the past like Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon, Alien and Predator, The Three Musketeers and Resident Evil have new movies or TV shows in the works. Hypothetically speaking, if you could return the favor and get your hands on any property, what would it be?
Paul W.S. Anderson: That’s a very interesting question. What would my favorite property be? That’s really, this is really hard because the movies I love I would never want to see them be remade. So I have my favorite movies, but I love those movies, you know? The remakes that I did, The Three Musketeers, we just had a very different take on it. Times have changed, and I love the Oliver Reed version, but we were in a very different era when we made that movie, so you could make a very different movie. And Death Race, I love Death Race 2000, but again we made a very different movie to it. The classic movies that I love, or properties that I love, I don’t think I would want to mess with. Sometimes as a fan, you’re a little annoyed when people go back and they remake things just for the hell of it because they think there might be an audience, so I don’t know.
If you had to name just one…
Paul W.S. Anderson: Oh my god, what would I do? If I could walk out of this door right now, and go make… I think I’d probably like to make an action comedy. Increasingly, I’m putting more and more humor in my work, I feel like I’m never going to leave action behind, but kind of moving into the action comedy world would be great. So I’m just thinking about great action. I mean, I’d love to make Smokey and the Bandit, how about that? I’d love to, you know, fast cars, jokes, trucks, Burt Reynolds. That’s the challenge, who’s going to be Burt Reynolds? Yeah, go on then, Smokey and the Bandit, I love it! I’ll go with that. You put the financing together and I’ll go shoot it!
That concludes our interview with Paul W.S. Anderson. Monster Hunter is still playing in theaters everywhere, and the movie is also available now on digital and VOD, with the DVD, Blu-Ray and 4K release coming on March 2nd.