I watched this movie a while ago, on a flight between Sapporo and Bangkok. I needed something light and funny to fill the seven hours, and Monster Hunt (2015) was my first choice!
What’s it about?
After a civil war in the Monster Realm, the pregnant Queens flees to the human world, pursued by supporters of the new regime. Although she runs the risk of being found out by human monster hunters, she is protected by the husband-wife duo Gao (Eric Tsang) and Ying (Sandra Ng). Young village mayor Song Tianyin (Jing Boran) lives oblivious to the turmoils of the Monster Realm when he encounters the small group, disguised as humans. He welcomes them to his small inn, but when hunter Huo Xiaolan (Bai Baihe) enters, chaos ensues as she tries to capture the group. Tianyin and the Queen have a brief encounter in which she ‘marks’ him, later to return to give him her unborn baby. Xiaolan stays with the now-pregnant Tianyin, and convinces him to travel with her to sell the baby, which she suspects will go for a high price. But now with both monsters and humans after the two and the baby they carry, will they simply be able to sell it and move on with their lives?
What I really liked about this movie is that it’s just such a light and easy watch. The plot is straightforward, slightly predictable, but entertaining nonetheless. With a healthy mix of adventure, fighting, and romance, it was very well rounded, keeping me interested the whole time. I also found it really funny. Although the majority of the comedy is of one type (see below), there are also quite a few witty lines and more subtle humour flying around. It’s the kind of movie where you can just sit back enjoy, since it’s aimed at kids, there’s not too much to think about, but it still keeps you entertained!
Another thing I really liked about this series is that the characters have a really nice dynamic on screen. Tianyin, the ‘ordinary character’ of the movie, was really likeable. I liked that he either just rolled with what was happening around him or was completely oblivious. He continuously tries his best, despite all his failings, which is always a good quality for the hero to have. I think that it’s really interesting the writers decided to give him a physical disability, but then not focus nor expand on it, and have him as the hero despite it. It’s something you don’t see often in Western movies, and it adds a nice touch. The female main, Xiaolan, was also a character I really appreciated. She’s sly and cunning, a lot more clued in than Tianyin, but proves that she’s not as cold-blooded as she’d like you to believe. Separately both characters are good, and together they are fantastic. I really liked that they were the focus of the movie; their chemistry and interactions were one of the highlights for me. As for the other characters, they were all fairly likeable (at least all the “good guys”, the “bad guys” were what you’d expect for a kids’ movie), making enough of a presence in scenes to be memorable and distinct.
Finally, the mix of CGI animation and live-action works pretty well together. Sure, the CGI isn’t the top-notch Hollywood quality you’re probably used to seeing, but it was better than my expectations, and I think it worked really well. Throughout the movie, the interaction between the CGI and live-action is handled very well and is very convincing, really shining in the fight scenes. Plus the baby Monster King is so cute! The sound effects, personality, and animation made me want a little Monster King of my own!
This movie won’t be for everyone, and a lot of that has to to do with the style of comedy. It tends to be on the more physical comedy side (although not as much slapstick as you’d expect), and tends to be a little on the odd side. There are also a lot of elements that are over-exaggerated or over-played for comedic effect. However, this is fairly typical for family movies (in which kids are expected to be part of the audience), and is especially the case for Chinese comedies. Having said that, though, it won’t be to everyone’s taste.
On another note, one thing that I was disappointed by in this movie was the fact that not all plot points are explained or make sense. I’m not sure if there was something lost in translation, or the writers just assume that the audience will either forget about it, or later figure it out. A throw-away sentence here or there would have easily solved this problem.
Story: 7/10. Not breaking any story-telling boundaries, but enjoyable and enough to keep you invested in the movie. Lots of fun and laughs to be had along the way.
Characters: 7.5/10. A really good male and female lead, who had a really good dynamic.
I wouldn’t consider this movie a “must watch”, but if it sounds like your kind of thing, or you’re looking for something simple and easy to entertain you for a couple of hours, you should definitely consider watching this movie. It’s funny, the characters are interesting and likeable, and it’s just a lot of fun. Overall, I give it a 7/10.