Monster Hunt 2
Updated: Feb 6
Monster Hunt 2, an odd Chinese fantasy action comedy, is a seemingly awkward combination of genres. But it works well enough in an amusing, goofy kind of way.
The first Monster Hunt (released in the US in 2016) introduced viewers to a feudal world where monsters used to live with humans. The humans decided they could not co-exist and the monsters were sent to their own world, with the Monster Hunt Bureau created to take care of monsters that came into the human world. As that film began, the monster king had died and his pregnant widow was on the run in the human world. She stumbled across bumbling human Song Tianyin (Boran Jing) and, as she died, passed her baby on to him. He gave birth to the creature (don’t ask), named Wuba, with the help of struggling monster hunter Xiaolan (Baihe Bai). Together, they protected Wuba from the evil forces trying to kill him.
At the end of that movie, Song and Xiaolan reluctantly sent Wuba to the monster world to protect him. In Monster Hunt 2, some time has passed and they decide to look for Wuba. This takes them to the Monster Hunt Bureau and brilliant monster hunter Yun Qing (Tony Yo-ning Yang). Meanwhile, Wuba ends up in the hands of conman Tu (Tony Chiu Wai Leung) and his monster companion, BenBen. Even more meanwhile, the evil monster king has sent his servants off to find the missing Wuba.
As you can tell, there is a lot going on in these movies. This one is even more overstuffed than the first. There is so much story and so many characters that, eventually, I stopped trying to make sense of everything and just went along with the amiably silly tone. It mixes history, fantasy, comedy (most of it physical) and action. It does all of these things well enough, but it is the combination that makes it work. As a viewer, it kept me on my toes. I never knew exactly what direction it was going to take. The story is fairly derivative of other fantasy films, but the goofy tone, fast pace and good looking production and character design keep it pretty consistently entertaining.
Monster Hunt 2 (103 minutes, plus a couple of minutes of dancing and outtakes during the end credits) is also visually impressive. There are many different monsters in the film and they all look unique. I have no idea if all of the monsters are of the same species or not, but they each have their own distinguishing characteristics. There are ones with wings, horns, spots, fangs and spikes. And then there is little Wuba. He looks like a cross between a radish and a squid and is absolutely adorable. He is still a baby, so he cannot talk, but the filmmakers do a very good job with his movement and expressions. His main character trait is being really cute and it is pretty effective.
These films have developed their own mythology and are filled with some decent action scenes and solid physical comedy. Even though I am not really enthusiastic in my praise, I would not mind seeing another movie in the series. They do not take themselves seriously and are never boring. These are not great movies, but they are fun and inventive in the way they mash genres together. If you only see one Mandarin language historical/fantasy/action//family comedy/ monster movie franchise, you could certainly do worse than this one.
3¼ out of 5
Boran Jing as Song Tianyin
Baihe Bai as Huo Xiaolan
Tony Chiu Wai Leung as Tu Sigu
Tony Yo-ning Yang as Yun Qing
Yuchun Li as Zhu Jinzhen
Directed by Raman Hui
Screenplay by Alan Yuen