Friday, October 29, 2010

Movie with Abe: Monsters

Directed by Gareth Edwards
Released October 29, 2010

“Monsters” exists in a world set in the not so distant future, where technology isn’t much more advanced that it is now and society operates generally the same way, with one not so small difference. Giant alien monsters landed on Earth several years ago, and a giant chunk of territory between the United States and Mexico has been cordoned off by the government and designated as an infected zone. Though they come into contact as infrequently as possible, the idea of extraterrestrials existing just over a fence isn’t made to seem strange: this is just a truth about society in this film’s universe.

The film is immediately reminiscent of last year’s Best Picture nominee “District 9,” where humans and aliens live in semi-harmony separated only by fragile barriers, both physical and operational. In this case, however, the aliens don’t communicate with their fellow terrestrials, and instead they serve as the occasional cause of an enormously destructive – and usually deadly – rampage. When a wealthy businessman’s daughter is stranded in Mexico after an attack, a low-level employee of his is tasked with bringing her back home safely. Unsurprisingly, the journey is filled with plenty of obstacles, beginning with a greedy station master charging $5,000 for the last ferry ride north.

For a movie with a title like “Monsters,” this film doesn’t deliver as expected. The action scenes are few and far in between, and most of the film is taken up by banal conversation between Samantha (Whitney Able) and Andrew (Scott McNairy). It’s rare rather than the norm for the greatest active danger to be these lurking giant beings. While it’s supposed to be subtle, it’s considerably underwhelming, and the film hinges mostly on its most action-packed moments while providing all-too-extensive buildup to them. One important note is that this monster movie was made for a mere $15,000, which makes the technical achievements considerably more impressive than they might as first appear. Additionally, the action scenes are fairly terrifying and well-done.

What keeps “Monsters” from being a great film is the lack of urgency in its duller moments. It’s not necessarily that its characters shouldn’t be permitted some peace or that the monsters need to be appear more often, but instead that the time Samantha and Andrew spend together as they experience this grueling voyage would be better spent on more intelligent conversation than is present in the film. Sometimes, it feels like the original “Night of the Living Dead,” but in whatever way that is meant as a compliment, it also applies to the heinous and often laughable dialogue. It’s not a bad movie; it’s just that the script could have used a considerable overhaul that would have made it infinitely more interesting and engaging.


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