Monster Hunter is certainly tracking some mixed fortunes. The film, the latest from director Paul W S Anderson (Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon, Resident Evil) and his wife / regular leading lady Milla Jovovich, is based on the video game by Capcom and the recent trailer suggests a more explosive take on Stargate. Its synopsis reads: Behind our world, there is another: a world of dangerous and powerful monsters that rule their domain with deadly ferocity. When an unexpected sandstorm transports Captain Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her unit (TI Harris, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta) to a new world, the soldiers are shocked to discover that this hostile and unknown environment is home to enormous and terrifying monsters immune to their firepower…
Having arrived in China last week, the film appeared to shoot itself in the cinematic foot after audiences complained of what they saw as a racist joke in the action film. (A scene in question sees a character, played by M.C. Jin, point to his legs and comment they are ‘Chi-knees’ – which some felt related to an old derogatory schoolyard rhyme). It’s unusual for anything that could be deemed even remotely controversial for a domestic audience to be allowed by Chinese authorities, though that apparently didn’t happen in this case.
The film-makers, including Anderson, formally apologised for the joke and stated they had no intention to offend, but it has undeniably hit the all-important eastern box-office numbers.
“I am absolutely devastated that a line from our movie, Monster Hunter, has offended some audience members in China. I apologize for any anxiety or upset that this line and its interpretation caused,” Anderson said in a statement to industry site Deadline. “Monster Hunter was made as fun entertainment and I am mortified that anything within it has caused unintentional offense. We have respectfully removed the line from the movie. It was never our intention to send a message of discrimination or disrespect to anyone. To the contrary — at its heart our movie is about unity.”
Now there’s also a change in the US release strategy. The film has already shifted its release dates several times this year – hardly unusual in the current pandemic climate, though it is almost unique in insisting on a cinematic/movie-theatre release. It moved from September 2020 to April 2021 but then was moved again, back to a 30th December date and then 25th December. Now it’s shifted once again, though somewhat unexpectedly to an even earlier date – and will now arrive next week, on 18th December.
Given its problems but also the lack of direct competition at the multiplex, it’s hard to dictate what Monster Hunter‘s US fortunes will be… it will arrive in the UK and other territories next year.