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Successfully adapting video games for TV and film has historically been one of those near-impossible tasks, the kind of Holy-Grail quest that has frustrated far more creators and studios than it's rewarded. Whether in critics’ scathing appraisals or in fans’ hearts at the box office, bringing beloved game franchises over to screens both big and small has typically meant tough sledding.
But that’s not been the case for Milla Jovovich. Already a sci-fi icon for her unforgettable role as Leeloo in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, she went on in the early 2000s to team with director Paul W.S. Anderson (her eventual real-life spouse) to light up Raccoon City, starring as Alice for six theatrical adaptions of Capcom’s Resident Evil game franchise.
Now taking up the protagonist’s role once again with Anderson in the director’s chair, Jovovich is slicing up theaters as we speak as Captain Artemis — the key character in Monster Hunter, another movie with roots in a major Capcom game series. As Artemis, Jovovich brings an entirely new face to the franchise, one not found in the video games. It’s the same strategy she and Anderson deployed with her original character Alice in the Resident Evil films: a strategy aimed at helping viewers see things through a newcomer’s wide-open eyes.
Both in the games and in theaters, Monster Hunter goes big: big landscapes, big battles, and big monsters, including the series signature beasties Rathalos and Diablos. And, interpreting the games’ sweeping landscapes and fantasy vistas often meant trekking (almost literally) to the ends of the Earth to get just the right shots.
SYFY WIRE recently spoke with Jovovich for a fun Q&A about the extreme conditions of location shooting, bringing the games’ visual effects to life, and the sometimes-quirky dynamics of collaborating with a spouse to make movie magic.
You guys went above and beyond to get location shooting right, even if it meant roughing it. What keeps the cast bonded and sane when you’re encamped in some isolated natural area that’s far from real civilization?
It’s facing those challenges together [that] really made us feel like we were a team. To go through these harsh landscapes that were incredibly beautiful but, at the same time, very extreme… I mean, it was intense, and I feel like it was worth it though. Because the game — Monster Hunter — is just such an incredible, immersive experience. The landscapes are so beautiful… I think we were able to capture that really well because of the locations.
…Of course, it’s amazing to see these big CGI spectacles, but there was something that made this so realistic because we were on location and because we, you know — nobody had to spray us with sweat, and nobody had to put drops in our eyes to make them red. I mean, we were suffering to make this movie, in that sense. It was very physically challenging. And the only thing made in a computer, in the end, was the monsters.
So it was really incredible to be...to feel like our characters, like, struggling in these environments. It made it much more real for us — and I think it will make it much more real for the audience.
Captain Artemis is new to the Monster Hunter universe, so you get to create and inhabit a character without any background expectations from fans of the games. How’d you approach that?
We wanted to let the audience experience it through a new set of eyes. It was the same movie [decision] in Resident Evil. That’s why my character wasn’t Jill Valentine or one of the characters from the game, because we really wanted the audience to enter these worlds with me, and see it with my eyes, which were kind of ‘pure’ in that sense. [As Artemis] I’d never seen any of this before… For people who haven’t played the game, it’s amazing for them to be able to enter the world and understand it through a newbie’s eyes — which is me!
What’s the creative give-and-take like between you and your husband when production’s underway? You both have such vast experience in these types of sci-fi and fantasy worlds.
I think when you’re in a creative relationship with somebody that you’re so close to, there’s definitely always gonna be conversations going on. You know, I try and be really respectful of Paul because I know how hard he works, and how organized he is. So you know, I try and give all of my suggestions, and all of my critiques at the beginning — before production… [But] it was my idea to, like, charge the dual blades in the movie.
...Once I’d played the game — and it’s such an important part of the game to charge your weapon — I was like, "You need to spend the money on the visual effects to do that; I think that’s really important… you need to put that extra cash in there to charge these weapons and to show them in that mode, because it’s one of the most important parts of the game — and it’s something that I think fans will really appreciate."
…On one of the Resident Evil films, like, I’d done something — I don’t remember what — and Paul came up to me, and he was like, "No, no, no; can you just do it the way I wrote it?" — cuz we were improvising, and you know, Paul lets us improvise on movies and stuff… And I was like, "Okay!"
And Ali Larter (Claire Redfield) turns to me, and she’s like, "I can’t believe like, he just like told you, and you don’t argue with him! Like, if that was me, like that was my husband, I would give him, like, all the reasons why I think it needs to be done this way." And I was like, "Well, but I mean, in the end, he is the director!"
Monster Hunter is now playing in theaters nationwide, where you can catch Jovovich taking the fight to the big beasties alongside costars Tony Jaa (The Hunter), Clifford "T.I." Harris (Link), Meagan Good (Dash), Diego Boneta (Marshall), and Ron Perlman (The Admiral).