Slow news day and with his Godzilla reboot in full production, I decided to revisit Gareth Edwards’ first feature.
Monsters takes place in an ‘infected’ zone in Mexico after a deep space satellite has broken up there depositing samples of an alien life form. These large, squid-like creatures are now growing and multiplying and The U.S. is desperately trying to keep them out with military intervention and a wall built across the Mexican border. While the message about illegal immigrants is obviously not missed, it is the story of American photographer, Andrew (Scoot McNairy) trying to escape Mexico with his boss’s daughter, Sam (Whitney Able) in tow that is the film’s focus.
Monsters is an impressive production for it’s reported well under $500,000 budget, with some really nice effects and visuals, but the film itself is very slow moving and sometimes even a bit tedious. Director/writer Gareth Edwards does create some nice atmosphere, but there is very little tension built for a scenario where strange creatures are lurking all around and could appear at any moment. The lack of chemistry between the leads, who were, ironically, an actual couple and are now married and the lack of any real energy in their performances, doesn’t help either as we never really get drawn into their plight enough to more than casually care. Some of the Mexican locals who now have to live with their new neighbors draw far more of our emotional investment than the leads. There are some very effective scenes from Edwards’ lens such as the night spent by the river with some locals, anything involving the creatures and the climactic scene at a deserted gas station, but aside from that and the interesting premise, there isn’t much else to really grab us. Edwards gets the most effective moments when his monsters are present making them mysterious, yet with hints that they are far more then simply monsters, but chooses to focus on his bland human characters instead and that drags the film down despite all the good stuff. His desire to make a monster movie about people dealing with a life among monsters, than about the monsters themselves is commendable, but for that to work we have to be far more emotionally invested in the characters and we aren’t. The monsters are simply more interesting and barely get much screen time.
So, in conclusion, Monsters is a very impressive low budget production, but a few effective scenes aside, overall, is just not that great a movie. Still shows a lot of potential for Edwards and hopefully he lives up to it in his upcoming Godzilla reboot.
2 and 1/2 (out of 4) space calamari…I’d be more generous due to the good stuff, but after multiple viewings, the main characters still leave me cold.