District 9 ushered in a movement in cinema where Hollywood caliber movies are being made on the cheap, proving you donâ€™t need star power or fancy equipment to make a good movie. Armed with a hunger and $15,000 worth of equipment, Gareth Edwards brings us Monsters, a below the radar indie science fiction film that looks to further reiterate the no frills method of movie making.
District 9 ushered in a movement in cinema where Hollywood caliber movies are being made on the cheap, proving you don’t need star power or fancy equipment to make a good movie. Armed with a hunger and $15,000 worth of equipment, Gareth Edwards brings us Monsters, a below the radar indie science fiction film that looks to further reiterate the no frills method of movie making.
In Monsters, NASA discovers evidence of alien life within our solar system. They send a shuttle to collect samples, but the probe crashes upon reentry over Central America, causing an infection that gives birth to giant squid-like monsters that terrorize the land. Andrew Kaulder is a photojournalist on assignment in Mexico when he’s tasked with escorting his boss’s daughter safely through the infection zone onto US soil.
The universe of Monsters shows promise as Gareth lovingly takes Mexico's landscape and transforms it into a war torn country wrought with imagery. It plays out like an odd mix between Lost in Translation and The Road as it combines the culture shock of being in a foreign land with living in the aftermath of this infection. The interactions between the main characters and the natives make for evoking subject matter, as real life issues of border control and war are incorporated into the script.
What Monsters suffers from most is its subtlety. The characters lack any real depth or chemistry to them, making the journey more interesting than the character’s journey. In the first act of the film, Edwards creates a world of suffering and adapting that is brought to the forefront, but somehow it's all squandered once when they get to the infection zone. Once they leave civilization, we're stuck with these dense characters alone in a jungle.
For a film called Monsters, you’d figure that the focus would be on the creatures themselves wreaking havoc. Instead, small glimpses of the monsters blend in with the habitat creating no real sense of terror. The designs of the monsters are almost as uninspired as the main characters, as they are nothing more than large tentacles towering over trees. There’s never a real sense of danger or struggle, as the characters seem to make it through every struggle with ease. The film’s conclusion is even more anti-climatic, as a confrontation with the creatures plays out like a wildlife show on Discovery channel.
Clocking in at 94 minutes, Monsters moves at a slow crawl that leaves you dejected by the ending. It’s a beautiful film and a testament to the fact that one could make a great looking film on a small budget, but sadly that’s the biggest thing Monsters has going for it. I can’t tell if fell victim due to the budget or the writing, but either way I look forward to Gareth Edwards sophomore effort.
6.45 – Okay. 6s are just okay. These movies usually have many flaws, didn’t try to do anything special, or were poorly executed. Some will still love 6s, but most prefer to just rent them. Watch more trailers and read more reviews before you decide.
I have to hand it to writer/director Gareth Edwards for his commendable effort in creating a film with such limitations. Given the small budget, he’s able to take the landscape of Mexico and transform it into a universe of chaos and ruin. It’s worth seeing as a testament to guerilla moviemaking, but other than that it doesn’t really contribute much else.