I begin this review with a couple of disclaimers. First, I have only come into the world of Monster Hunter with Monster Hunter World. Secondly, I tricked my teen—who has only watched me play MHW a couple of times—into watching Monster Hunter: Legends of the Guild with me so that I can share his expert opinions. I’d like to think that our level of experience with the games helps us to bridge the gap between veteran gaming fans and newcomers who may have only discovered it while perusing Netflix to add more shows to their watch lists. The latter may find it to be a passable adventure, though somewhat lacking in depth overall. The former may feel the same but at least find some affinity with the nuggets of lore and game references, which the movie manages to incorporate with reasonable success.

Monster Hunter: Legends of the Guild

Director: Steve Yamamoto
Composer: David Wurst
Cast: Dante Basco (Aiden), Stephen Kramer Glickman (Nox), Brando Eaton (Julius), Erica Lindbeck (Lea), G.K. Bowes (Nadia), Brian Beacock (Navid), Karen Strassman (Genovan)
Capcom, Pure Imagination Studios, Capcom U.S.A., Inc. for Netflix
August 12, 2021

The story is a basic one: a young boy named Aiden—who looks like a teen version of Atreus from God of War—does his best to protect his village from predators, but when the monsters start getting too big, he’s going to need some support. A Guild hunter named Julius is in the area, warning villages of their pending doom as an elder dragon scorches its way toward them. Unsurprisingly, the villagers are torn between fighting off the giant fire-breathing monster with their pots and pans or fleeing their homes to find safety and rebuild later. Aiden, eager to prove himself worthy of becoming a hunter, wants to fight. Grudgingly, Julius agrees and rounds up some support from other hunters in the area.

Fans will recognize Aiden as the Ace Cadet from Monster Hunter 4 and the Excitable A-Lister in MHW. Here, he is voiced by none other than Dante Basco of Rufio (Hook) and Zuko (Avatar: The Last Airbender) fame. The animation takes care with the character, with moments where he looks quite realistic. In comparison, characters like Julius and his comrade Nadia look good in design (with armor that hopefully is now available in-game), but their lip-syncing struggles to look natural, with mouth movements and facial expressions sometimes exaggerated too much or not enough. Character physicality is excellent throughout, though, especially when the monster battles begin. This is what I lured my teen in with, and he deigned to express some positivity toward the execution, particularly with the final battle where the visuals moved from soft and muted coloring to more robust and explosive colors. He did note, however, that while the music fit the energy of the moment, it also served as a bit of a distraction because it wasn’t quite loud enough. The crescendos are powerful, but then the intensity drops, leaving you straining to hear the notes.

There’s a theme of balance that is very briefly touched on in the beginning and used to justify Aiden’s climactic decision that “saves” the village. Julius mentions, almost in passing after fighting off an early monster, that thwarting poaching is one of the reasons for the Guild’s creation. He notes that life is sacred—even monster life—and hunters don’t waste their kills. This all sounds lovely, except there is no follow-through on this as other monster carcasses are simply left to rot as the hunters move on to their bigger game.

Coming in at only 58 minutes, Legends of the Guild covers a lot of ground storywise, unlike the 2020 feature film featuring Milla Jovovich, titled Monster Hunter, which covered a lot of ground thanks to characters moving across the same sparse desert landscape. Where the Netflix movie feels like an hour-long cutscene, it’s far more interesting than the 2020 theatrical film managed to be. For one thing, we get a lot more monsters and battles that are engaging to watch as the characters leap and strike with movements, tools, and weaponry right out of the game.

Another plus that the Netflix movie has over the theatrical film is that a Palico plays an active role. These anthropomorphized cat creatures play support in various ways in-game. Here, one particular one named Nox provides comic relief. Nox edges on being too obnoxious to be funny with his petty thievery and antics, but as he becomes more involved in the planning and battling, he earns his place as one of the better characters.

Much like its 2020 feature film counterpart, Monster Hunter: Legends of the Guild clearly serves as an introduction to their world. It’s what the former could be, if a sequel chose to take us deeper into that world instead of skirting its edges by leaning too much into the modern and militaristic instead of the fantasy adventure it should be. Legends of the Guild allows new fans to easily step into the world of monster hunting while letting veterans enjoy it as a kind of bonus to their gameplay.