Monsters (2010) Review

22Nov11

Monsters (2010) is a British sci-fi film that combines a post-apocalyptic alien take-over with romance and slight political themes. I can only say that I am truly mixed on this film. The landscapes and set direction are stunning and the effects, while cheesy, are pretty well done; but the acting is sub par and the story leaves something to be desired. It was suggested to me by… Netflix… so we can guess how good it will be.

Here’s the synopsis from the official site (monstersfilm.com): “Six years ago NASA discovered the possibility of alien life within our solar system. A probe was launched to collect samples, but crashed upon reentry over Central America. Soon after, new life forms began to appear and half of Mexico was quarantined as an INFECTED ZONE. Today, the American and Mexican military still struggle to contain “the creatures” … Our story begins when a U.S. journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through the infected zone to the safety of the U.S. border.”

As I go through this, I will attempt to give my opinion without giving too much detail; because while I personally didn’t like it, I feel that it’s at least worth a perusal.

I feel like the whole film is trying to combine District 9 (2009) (imdb.com) with The Mist (2007) (imdb.com). It also tries to throw in some romance (between Andrew, the journalist, and Samantha, the damsel in distress) and political undertones. However, it doesn’t succeed in either endeavour.

The embedded love story is bland and foreseeable. It offers nothing new to make us fall in love with the characters.  Because of the characters’ situation (isolation and survival), we would expect them to fall for each other. Right from the get-go the plot sets up the two characters. She’s engaged to someone she doesn’t want, and he’s alone and running from his past.

While I commend any script that attempts to make a political statement, it needs to be done right. Because Andrew is a photo-journalist, he takes pictures of everything. Which should give the film a perfect opportunity to delve into all the political commentary they want to make. Instead, the film uses it as a way to beat us over the head with a message that’s already been said a million times: “The US isn’t so powerful after all.”

Now for the pros! The scenery and art direction in this film is absolutely gorgeous. The cinematography is clean, and makes good use of the shooting environment. Even the special effects (mainly in the giant, walking, octopus-elephant aliens) is decent; ultra cheesy, but well done.

I don’t know how they found these locations, but I would’ve loved to have helped with location scouting. Most of it is shot on location, in Mexican tropics. At least it looks like it is. If it’s green screened, then that just makes the effects team even more impressive. There is so much detail in the art direction that may go by unnoticed, but it really does add a lot to the story. EX: when the main characters are holed up with a Mexican family, the kids are watching a cartoon that explains about staying safe near the “Creatures.” There are only glimpses of the cartoon, but it gives a lot of backstory that might otherwise go unsaid.

Overall, I’m glad I saw Monsters. I’m also glad I didn’t have to pay anything (other than my Netflix fee) to see it. Rotten Tomatoes (rottentomatoes.com) has it rated at 71% and I agree. The killer scenery alone make it worth watching. But what could’ve been a great sci-fi film, falls flat because of poor scripting and acting.

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