Monday, September 19, 2011

Monsters

What if NASA and the ESA launched an unmanned mission to Jupiter's moon Europa with the intention of collecting some harmless samples for return to Earth. And what if, on its way home, the probe crashed into the Pacific Ocean and unleashed a plague of big, purple, tentacle-wielding sea monsters.

Six years have passed since that unfortunate accident, and this is Andrew Kaulder's big break as a photo journalist. His trip to Mexico is turning out better than expected. The alien migration has come early this year, catching a lot of tourists off guard and south of the border, but for Andrew it's the right place at the right time. Photos of live aliens and dead children bring the biggest bucks, though neither is easy to come by. And then the phone rings with a call from Andrew's editor: "Andy, there's been a change in plans. The boss's daughter Samantha is in Mexico on vacation. She was injured in an alien attack last night. Listen, I need for you to go to the hospital and make sure she's alright. Next, I need you to get her to the coast and onto the next boat home."

Wait a second, let me get this straight. The oceans are filled monster amphibians and the only two options for travel past the infected zone of northern Mexico are by land or by sea? Surely I missed the explanation of why there aren't any commercial aircraft ferrying people to and fro in this near-future world. Along with some gaping holes in the film's plot, the story unfolds not unlike the campaign mode of your average video game (rescue the girl, battle aliens, follow the map to safety).

I wasn't expecting a lot, but was surprised by the movie's high production quality. I thought that their choices in CGI effects were tasteful and integrated well with the film's live action--everything except for the angry, flailing, purple octopus atop an apartment building, trumpeting as it swats away fighter planes. I'm pretty sure that (and the movie's name) was intended to poke fun at the whole monster movie genre. And even though writer-director Gareth Edwards cast Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able partly because of their real-life relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend, I'm not sure that decision paid off with any bonus in on-screen chemistry.

See this film, not for it's overall vision, but for its scenic vistas:

  • A slumber party at the top of a Mayan pyramid (inspiring).
  • A giant, hundred foot tall concrete wall separating the U.S. and Mexico (humbling).
  • Walking through a bombed-out border town with gas mask on (creepy).
  • Leaving a 2 dollar hooker alone in your hotel room with all of your belongings (stupid, just plain stupid).

Over their summer break, the reviewers at Ebert Presents have been running some 30 year old episodes of Gene and Roger discussing the genesis of particular movie genres. That got me wondering about Monsters in terms of what originally kicked-off the romantic + sci-fi + unwanted + immigrant + extraterrestrial + joint + mexican + american + urban + warfare storyline.

- Ron Shaker

Venue: Netflix streaming
Country: UK
Language: English and Spanish
Genre: Drama, sci-fi, post-alien immigration
Rating: 3.25/5

IMDB
Magnolia Pictures
Official Site

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