In terms of the critical consensus, Monster Hunter looks to be one of the better entries in Paul W.S. Anderson’s filmography, with the video game adaptation tied alongside 1995’s Mortal Kombat on a career-best Rotten Tomatoes score of 48%, which is admittedly nothing to write home about. However, his latest effects-heavy blockbuster is also poised to become the lowest-grossing of his movies, which is partly due to the Coronavirus pandemic and also because of a joke that offended the whole of mainland China.
A terribly written gag in a terribly written script managed to see Monster Hunter pulled from Chinese theaters less than 48 hours after it was released, forcing the studio and the filmmaker into issuing apologies. This effectively torpedoed the film’s chances of commercial success, because China is the only country where the box office has shown any sustained signs of recovery over the last few months.
Monster Hunter did manage to top the domestic charts after being released in the United States and Canada last Friday, but a haul of $2.2 million is dire even by the current standards. That gives it the unwanted distinction of the lowest opening weekend scored by a new number one title since The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run claimed the top spot in mid-August with a meager $865,000.
In fact, it barely edged out runner-up The Croods: A New Age, which had been the number one movie in America for the last three weeks and is now available on VOD. The theatrical industry is certainly not in a good place right now, and there’s not much chance of things getting any better for a while yet, but Monster Hunter still managed to underperform even when expectations are at their lowest.