Going into Monsters expecting some kind of War of the Worlds meets Godzilla extravaganza might lead to being more than a little disappointed.
Happily I knew beforehand that the title might be a little misleading and I guess the other eight people in the cinema did too. Monsters is less a movie about a monster attack than about two people tracking through a hostile world that happens to feature monsters.
The story is that a NASA probe returning from Jupiter’s moon Europa with a sample of “newly discovered lifeforms” crashes in the atmosphere, creating an infected zone where alien monsters thrive. The zone is between Mexico and America making it even more tough for Machete to get his people to the states – and for everyone who is not Machete it’s either “take the boat for 5000 dollars if you have an American passport” or try your luck by hiring Mexicans that guide you through the jungle.
The movie follows photographer Andrew who has to bring Samantha, the daughter of his employer, safe back to America, naturally the easy way gets blocked by convenience, so the two have to settle for a mission to Jurassic Park that at some time felt like Apocalypse now.
There are sequences of them driving on a boat when suddenly something is moving in the water, strange noises are heard – the monsters are for some reason very present and real although we see almost nothing of them. What we see are the wreckages of military and civilian vessels, lying in the jungle or drifting in the water, enhancing the threat although there is not much conflict.
One of the biggest aggressor in this movie is the American military, constantly patrolling the borders and attacking the monsters so that very soon the question arises if the chemical gases used by the military are doing more harm than the monsters.
But make no mistake, this is no Umbrella corporation type of military nor is it an Avatar-esque “that’s how you scatter the cockroaches” military. The army force is a faceless force doing their job, we just witness the consequences.
The central conflict is the (very) predictable story that develops between Andrew and Samantha but although pretty standard the environment and how they react to it saves the story from being overpowered by the cliché. There is also a very beautiful sequence when the protagonists discover the maturation cycle of the aliens as well as a scene that represents the climax of the movie where we are reminded how much awe something so terrifying can cause. There is an ongoing conflict between the wonder and the fear of something so massive as those squid-monsters.
Overall this is a movie that is more interesting to watch from the standpoint that it is a 500.000 dollar production with the entire special effect work done by the director alone. Monsters is a testament to how much movie making has evolved and how it is now possible to create alien invasions without a multi-million dollar studio behind you.
Originally I had intended to watch the movie during the Slashed-Filmfestival, but sadly the seats were all taken. Thankfully I had the same “festival movie” attitude when I was watching Monsters in the megaplex. This movie is not a perfectly balanced blockbuster, it is the work of a director, trying to make the best possible movie with limited ressources and compared to monster-blockbusters like (God)Zilla (1998) Monsters succeeds in delivering the occasional sense of dread and constant danger.
On a funny sidenote: the director Gareth Edwards has been hired to direct the new (American) Godzilla reboot – let’s just hope he is given creative freedom.