By Phillip Guy Ellis (Northampton, England)
Star – The Monsters
Genre – Science Fiction
Run Time – 2 hours
Certificate – 18
Country – U.S.A
Awards – 2 Nominations
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Monsters (2010) was a cracking low budget effort from Gareth Edwards where the director begged and borrowed to make what can only be described as the first off the shelf Lo-Fi action Science Fiction movie, using software programs you can buy from PC world to do the key special-effects, which he pasted into his film in his own bathroom. He borrowed the big cameras from the BFI film school and cast just two actors (and not very good ones) in his movie of extremely large scope and ambition, considering the budget and requirements. It was the showcase of real talent, earning him a Star Wars movie 6 years on. I said at the time this guy was very special and would go on to great things.
The original set up is a clever one. Aliens have arrived on Earth, via spores on a NASA spacecraft that crash-lands back on Earth in Mexico. They reproduce into huge tentacle dragging 10 story sized monsters and roam Mexico in restricted zones as North America goes to war with them, even though the monsters have no real intelligence or means of fighting back other than a tentacle swipe and clearly just looking to eat, drink and reproduce in their new hostile environment.
So film two arrives and Gareth Edwards has moved on, leaning early on he was one of the three directors to do those new Star Wars films for Disney and so left his penned sequel to someone else to give them a directing break, here writer director Tom Green, and time for Edwards to prepare for Rogue One, his dream job ever since he was a kid.
• Johnny Harris as Frater
• Sam Keeley as Michael
• Joe Dempsie as Frankie
• Jesse Nagy as Conway
• Nicholas Pinnock as Forrest
• Parker Sawyers as Williams
• Kyle Soller as Inkelaar
• Sofia Boutella as Ara
• Michaela Coel as Kelly
Ten years later from the previous film and there are more monsters than ever, not just roaming Mexico. Four friends and US soldiers from Detroit —Michael(Sam Keeley), Frankie (Joe Dempsie), Inkelaar (Kyle Soller) and new father Williams (Parker Sawyers) —are deployed to the Middle East for their virgin tour, the boys first encounter with the monsters as the creatures colonies are popping up all over the world. Sunni v Shiia tensions still rage in the region and US forces, targets in some areas.
The boys are cocky as they meet their squad leaders in the field, Forrest (Nicholas Pinnock) and the bearded and disciplined Frater (Johnny Harris), who is on his tenth tour, and has become estranged from his wife and daughter because of.
On their first mission they investigate a farm house and interrogate the Arab owners, tension quickly rising. During the encounter, one of the monsters approaches the group and they are forced to shoot it down, their first alien kill.
Three months into their tour, the squad receives a search and rescue mission for some soldiers who have gone missing in a monster zone in the desert. As the humvies race along in formation they hit a hidden IED which disables vehicles, killing Forrest and two of their team. The remaining group is then set upon by Arab insurgents.
Forced to abandon US soldier bodies, they race for cover, eventually captured by the bad guys. The increasingly unstable Frater knows they will be tortured to death if they don’t escape their new prison, if the monsters don’t get them first, monsters that seem to be getting bigger.
The critics panned this but just not fair for me. It’s not something I would recommend as a film to see as there are much better in the genre out there but it’s not too bad. I went into it believing it was a terrible sequel by the new people taking over the trilogy but it’s perfectly fine. I guess most of the original script for the sequel was already written from Gareth Edwards and in place here and down to the director to make it his own. I think Green has done an OK job with the special effects, a film full of striking images, and although the original magic of Monsters is not really here the ending does set up the trilogy pretty well. In fact it’s one of the best endings for a while and the highlight of the movie. I would see film 3 just to see how that pans out.
What I loved about the first film the most was this passive alien force that acts as a clever metaphor for illegal immigration from Mexico to America. But that intelligent side has disappeared in the sequel and the monsters have simply become target practice for the macho chest bumping US Military and so no longer an interesting film. The Mexicans and the monsters coexisting in Monsters was really pleasing to me. I hadn’t seen that before in a Sci -Fi movie set on Earth.
On the whole it ends up an arty ‘shoot em up’ with a good look and feel and rather lose political points made – and missed – on an ISIS like force. The monsters are just monsters now and as beautiful an iridescent spectacle they are in the film the point of Monsters is lost as they are mindlessly blown up and gunned down, many of those bombs hitting the script, replacing plot holes with pot holes.
IMDb.com – 4.3/10.0 (8.234votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 18% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 42% critic’s approval
Independent – ‘There are some inventive moments along the way, but these are interspersed with lots of posturing, yelling and brawling’.
Daily Telegraph – ‘If the idea is to show that war makes monsters of us all, then writer-director Tom Green can’t quite seem to bring his film to say it’.
Time Out – ‘A desert-set men-on-a-mission movie complete with jabbering jihadis, macho hysteria and the occasional extraterrestrial waving its tentacles in the background as if to say: ‘Isn’t this supposed to be about me?’
The Mail – ‘Although Edwards is onboard for the new Monsters: Dark Continent as an executive producer, the sequel bears no resemblance to his original, thematically or stylistically’.
Film Stage – ‘Deprived of sympathetic characters, thrills, and Edwards’ skilled touch, the film makes for a disappointing follow-up to some impressive sci-fi cinema’.
The Sun – ‘Basically it’s a war movie with four or five shots of giant monsters. The film would be exactly the same without them. And the characters are underwritten and unmemorable’.