Director Paul Anderson is one of the few in Hollywood who has figured out a formula for success in adapting a video game for the big screen. After tackling Mortal Kombat for New Line Cinema, the director worked with Sony Pictures to bring six Resident Evil movies to cineplexes starring Milla Jovovich.
The last film, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, is out now on 4K, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD, after earning over $300 million at the box office. The Resident Evil franchise has topped $1.2 billion globally over the six films, making it the most successful video game adaptation of all time. He’s now preparing another Capcom game, Monster Hunter, for a big screen adaptation.
“The great thing about filmmaking is it’s a constant learning process, and that’s the fun thing about looking back at the Resident Evil franchise,” Anderson told AListDaily. “The look and the feel of the last movie is so different to the first movie, so even within that franchise I feel like as a filmmaker I’ve learned a lot and developed a lot and I brought the lessons of Mortal Kombat to Resident Evil, and I’ll bring the lessons of Resident Evil to Monster Hunter.”
Capcom has sold nearly 40 million copies of Monster Hunter games to date, which makes it a bigger franchise than when Anderson adapted Resident Evil. There are an additional 15 million Chinese gamers paying to play Monster Hunter Online.
Anderson hopes to turn Monster Hunter into another film franchise. He’s written the script for the first film, which will focus on an American working in a dead-end job who gets dragged into this parallel world where monsters exist and for every creature there’s a hero who can defeat it.
“It’s definitely intended to be a franchise because the movie starts in our world and then it goes to the Monster Hunter world and then the final act comes back to our world and it’s basically this epic battle in and around LAX,” Anderson said. “Then at the end, we’re suddenly confronted with the fact that the mythological creatures of our world have come back to wreak vengeance. So we definitely have the second film where that would be planned out.”
Anderson said the thing that really impressed him about Resident Evil, which is very similar to Monster Hunter, is how incredibly cinematic it is.
“That’s what I’m always drawn to, and it was the same with Mortal Kombat as well,” Anderson explained. “With these properties, it’s like cinema is built into their DNA. And talking with the creators you can see the movies that they were influenced by in the games. That’s what I’m always looking for because I think that really makes a great video game adaptation—when the fabric of cinema is woven into the DNA of the video game itself. It makes the transfer back into film a little easier. And Monster Hunter has incredible landscapes, these fantastic creatures . . . it’s got big cinema written all over it.”
While the Resident Evil films have succeeded with an R rating, Monster Hunter opens up a more kid-friendly PG-13 universe.
“It’s on the level of a Star Wars movie in terms of world creation,” Anderson added. “There are no real central characters, so it’s a bit like when we first approached Resident Evil and imposed our own characters and story on that world. This is a perfect IP for us to do exactly that same thing again.”
Anderson hopes to film this adaptation in either China or South Africa. He’ll reteam with Toronto-based visual effects house Mr. X, the company behind the Resident Evil special effects, to keep the budget around $50 million.
“I’ve been pursuing the rights to Monster Hunter for almost five years, so it’s been a long journey already on that franchise,” Anderson said. “But it’s been worth pursuing because it really is incredible. Anyone who has played the game will tell you that, and also a valuable IP. I think it’s perfect for a movie adaptation. What it presents is a wonderful, rich cinematic world onto which I will impose characters in a narrative which are not suggested by the game itself. So in many ways, it’s a perfect adaptation because the story is something that isn’t in the video game. It’s something fresh that I can bring. And that helps with bringing something fresh for the gamers. But also I can build something that is also accessible to people who don’t know Monster Hunter from a hole in their head.”
This film also gives Anderson the ability to control the cinematic future of the property. He and Impact Pictures partner Jeremy Bolt, along with Mr. X’s Dennis Berardi, acquired the rights for the game directly. The Resident Evil IP was acquired by Constantin Film.
“Everything is about world creation, nowadays, and how can you build a world where you can have multiple stories going on,” Anderson said. “I thought this was our opportunity to have a cinematic universe that we could build a whole world around.”
While video game movies haven’t always connected with American audiences, in Asia it’s a different story. And the popularity of Monster Hunter in Japan and China almost guarantees a box office blockbuster.
“Capcom has the most successful video game adaptation of all time, and especially being a Japanese company and how big the Japanese grosses were on these Resident Evil films,” Anderson said. “With the last movie, we out-performed Star Wars, certainly in the game’s home territory. You couldn’t get bigger.”
Anderson’s script brings monsters to life, including giant spiders and flying dragons that are as big as a city block. There are also different locales, including LAX in our world and giant deserts in the Monster Hunter world, which creatures burst out of.
With Capcom continuing to expand the video game franchise, there will also be unique cross-marketing opportunities with the big screen (and later home video release) of the Monster Hunter films and the interactive franchise. That’s something Capcom and Sony Pictures worked together with over the years, culminating in Resident Evil 7 and the last Resident Evil movie launching the same week this past January.