Monster Hunter Legends of the Guild feels like a Disney movie in all the best ways. It’s got that weird feeling that reminds me of a Sunday night, seeing whatever movie the Disney Channel was going to feature at 8pm next, and I love it for it. But for whatever reason, it also just falls short of being anything amazing.
The story follows Aiden – the somehow most prolific character in Monster Hunter lore, as you watch him be the Ace Cadet in Monster Hunter 4, to the excitable A-Lister in World. Heck, he’s even in the live action movie, though not that that has anything to do with anything. He meets Julius, the Ace Commander at the start of his journey, with the goal of saving his village from an oncoming Lunastra.
The Actual World Of Monster Hunter
I gotta say, Monster Hunter Legends of the Guild is amazingly consistent with its worldbuilding. If nothing else, it’s a great mainstream-ification of the world of Monster Hunter, which was never really explained outside of some dialogue in a few quests. Early on Julius explains the reason for the Hunter’s Guild, with a pretty convincing reason for why the world is the way it is. Meanwhile Aidan himself gives a pretty great counterpoint, saying that the beaurocracy of the Hunter’s Guild is troubling for small villages, since The Guild can’t possibly cover them all.
It’s not presented in some kind of angsty conflict either, it’s just a fact of the world- small villages have no time to travel two weeks to wait in line for a quest to be posted, and that’s how kids like Aidan end up being the village handyman.
That being said, I’m glad they didn’t go too hard on the fanservice- for the most part the story is allowed to flow naturally, without needing to constantly take breaks for “see don’t you recognize this thing though”. Every reference to the game is relevant to the plot, which should make for a well-paced story.
“Should” being the operative word here. All through Monster Hunter Legends of the Guild I can’t help but feel like this was promised to be a series, and then got cut down to movie status for time. A lot of really important arcs aren’t given the gravity they deserve, especially during the final showdown with Lunastra. Moments like the obligatory “Julius stops trusting Aidan” beat feel almost fickle, since Julius was literally chumming it up with him in the last scene, and it just makes him come off like an ass instead of the supposedly “too experienced for his own good” tragic hero they’re clearly setting him up as.
A Cast of Characters And Great Monsters
Overall, I actually really like the cast of characters in Legends of the Guild. Julius is a great character to show as a by-the-book hunter. He’s annoying, self-righteous and such a boy scout that of course he’d see a kid fighting a Velocidrome and ask him where his paperwork was. Meanwhile The Ace Gunner, Nadia, is a lot more carefree, and seems more like the average Monster Hunter player- she’s here to fire the big gun, just let her keep doing that.
There’s also new characters as well, in the quirky scientist Mae, as well as the disgruntled smithy Ravi. In a sense they’re also really great for the movie’s sense of worldbuilding, since Mae is the total opposite of Julius and Nadia – she’s a scientist first, and you meet her while she’s collecting data on some Nerscylla. Again, whether by design or accident, Legends of the Guild is an amazing piece for actually showing what day to day hunters are like- considering your hunter in games like 4U, Gen and World always seem to be caught in extraordinary circumstances, it’s great to see that the average hunter sometimes just follows giant spiders around with a notebook.
Of all the characters Ravi is probably the most wasted- his character is introduced as showing that not all hunters are happy with the way the Guild does things, either. But thanks to the movie’s 1 hour runtime we never really get to see why, and his eventual joining of the party is more like “well I changed my mind” and we learn pretty much nothing about him as a person.
As for the monsters themselves, they’re probably the thing Legends gets most right- while the fights aren’t particularly great, every scene with a monster doing its own thing is absolutely dripping in Monster Hunter’s signature charm. There’s a fight with a Deviljho about halfway through the movie, and every shot of the giant-ravenous T.Rex is a sight to behold.
Similarly, the series places a great importance on just how terrifying elder dragons are supposed to be, and on that front they deliver. While yes, fire-breathing monsters run around all the time in the Monster Hunter world, an important focus is just how *much* fire comes spewing out of Lunastra. There’s also a great moment for anyone who’s ever hunted one before, that really feels different when you’re looking at it from a ground level.
For everything it does right, that’s not to say Legends of the Guild doesn’t also have its own set of gripes. One thing I’d mentioned before was the pacing- so much is crammed into the back end of the movie, it’s weird that they didn’t opt to just make it a 3-part miniseries or something.
The other is with the actual quality of the movie. It’s not too big a deal considering the strengths, but a lot of the models don’t look great in motion. I really love that the rendering team mimicked the color palette for Monster Hunter 4, but a lot of the time the animations themselves look a little weird, and it’s hard to put my finger on why without multiple rewatches. The fight scenes, while not bad, are also a little lacking, in part thanks to the terrible sound design. It’s a shame because some better fight choreography could have really made this better recommended.
Finally, there’s the tone of the series itself. For the most part, it’s a great light-hearted romp about the coming of age for a young hunter, and that’s clearly where it’s at its best. The movie suddenly takes a sheer turn towards the end, trying to paint the Excitable A-Lister narrating the story into this tragic figure scorched by PTSD. It feels extra weird because after the movie’s climax past Aidan literally doesn’t mention it at all, so it almost feels like his older self is just embellishing the guilt on to make himself cool in front of the Serious Handler.
At the end of the day, Definitely give Legends of the Guild a watch if you’re a Monster Hunter fan. In a way, it’s got a a unique problem, in that it’s a great Monster Hunter movie, but kind of falls apart as a good movie overall.
Still, it’s a fun romp. The tonal shift right at the end is extra weird, and I’m sure someone will mention that Monster Hunter has always been that way- but considering how often good properties are chopped up into generic movies for brand recognition, I’d put Monster Hunter Legends of the Guild pretty high on the list.