In a frame story that books the short animated film from Netflix Monster hunter: Legends of the Guild, a hunter, Aiden, takes a page from the skilled seaman Quint in Steven Spielberg’s jaw. On a ship sailing into a new world, excited hunters chat about how they will defeat the elder dragon Zorah Magdaros. Aiden doesn’t run his fingernails over a blackboard to silence them, or poetically put make-up on dolls’ eyes, and he’s a redhead in his twenties, not a grumpy old fisherman. But the mood is the same. Older dragons pose a serious threat, and Aiden shares a story from his past with his new hunter friends to illustrate why they should be scared.
Aiden is a supporting character from several Monster Hunter games, however Legends of the Guild follows a much younger Aiden, a kid from a small village who wants to become a guild-sanctioned monster hunter – just like the players in the franchise. And while the 58-minute film is messy, it nails that early Monster Hunter feeling of being new to the hunt and eager to take down some large living beings.
Every hunter’s journey
Aiden’s journey begins, like many players’ stories, with the fact that he is hunting a small, relatively harmless monster. But unlike the early missions of a Monster Hunter game, Aiden’s Velociprey hunt is interrupted by a Velocidrome, a much larger version of the raptor-like monster. Before the Velocidrome can kill Aiden, a more experienced hunter rushes in and takes him out with ease – a feeling that every new hunter who has played with experienced friends will be familiar with.
The rest of Monster Hunter: Legends of the Guild‘s Runtime shows Aiden and Julius – the Geralt doppelganger guild hunter who saved Aiden – trying to stop a raging Teostra before it wipes out the villages of a valley. And here we see Aiden go from a would-be hunter with a cast iron frying pan to a true beast killer.
Aiden’s “training” is something Monster Hunter: Legends of the Guild comes right. He not only asks excitedly about the larger, more terrifying monsters he wants to hunt, but fails spectacularly at every monster he and Julius encounter. While Julius and other hunters try to take on creatures, Aiden takes on the role of player avatar, is lined up in nets, dragged through arenas and hit by most of the monster’s attacks.
In true Monster Hunter fashion, Aiden’s mistakes make his team’s hunt a lot harder than it needs to be. But when the chase is over and Aiden is beaten, injured and covered in guts, he is delighted with the small achievement of his team. It’s the same enthusiasm that drives all players through their early Monster Hunter journey, no matter how hard they fumbled. During Aiden’s story, he builds new confidence and folds when things get difficult. But it grows with every hunt.
Getting Monster Hunter Right
It’s a bit mundane, though Legends of the Guild does a good job of advancing Aiden on the hunter’s path. He goes from fumbling through a hunt to having false confidence to failing at the first sign of real trouble and finally to that hero hunter that each player ends up on as if they stick with the series. It’s a relatable journey and one that Monster Hunter fans know well.
While Legends of the Guild works well with the license – the hardest part of doing something like this – it fails on some pretty basic levels. Editing can lead to confusing cuts and uneven camera shifts. The CG animated art style looks decent on the poster, but the faces are flat and boring to the movement. And the film tries to pack too much of the characters’ backstory into a very short running time.
But as a fan of the games, I didn’t feel that the time I spent watching Aiden’s hunt was completely wasted. Legends of the Guild is clearly made by people who understand how the games work and want to see this translated into another medium.
Director Steve Yamamoto has worked on visual effects – mainly as a supervisor for pre-visualization – for some visual festivals like Justice League, Deadpool 2, and the Transformers movies. but Legends of the Guild is his directorial debut, and there will certainly still be some contractions. The film’s problems could be resolved in a sequel with a bigger budget, a less uncomfortable medium-length runtime (either longer or shorter would be more appropriate), and a more experienced director, be it Yamamoto’s second time behind the wheel or a new director. But maintaining the Capcom license cannot be taught.
Monster Hunter: Legends of the Guild can result in a shared movie experience: viewers unfamiliar with Monster Hunter won’t get much of this story, but hunters will see themselves in Aiden’s adventures, and that’s worth an hour of messy editing and ugly art.
Monster Hunter: Legends of the Guild is now streaming on Netflix.