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Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Little Late Film Review - Monsters (2010)

You know?  While watching Monsters I was speaking with a friend and he suggested they make a movie about a giant squid with swords in each of its arms.  I don’t know how you could make a movie with that premise and it be boring.  Then again, I don’t know how a movie called Monsters could be so damn boring either.  While watching I checked the time on the film, just to see how far in I am and noticed that nothing exciting has happened for more than 45 minutes.  Then I realized, about the same time, that I’m not even an hour in.  I began to do things to pass the time.  I would count how many times the leads stared woefully, or how often we get hammy shots of limbs or articles of clothing strewn across the ground, or how many times we get “art” shots of the camera peering through obstacles, the actors just out of focus in the background.  Might be a fun drinking game, but you may want to relinquish your car keys before you start playing.

Sometime (made unclear), earth falls under attack by monsters who take over northern Mexico (for reasons unclear) and the military struggles to keep the beasts at bay.  They even resort to building a “Great Wall of Border Fence” to keep the monsters South of the border but who cares, we have twenty-somethings who have to talk about stuff!  This is the attitude of this messy movie.  We have a film about lethal monsters who terrorize North America and we are focused on two moderately attractive stars as they trade banter with each other and mope about natural landscapes, often staring off into the distance.  So we follow a photographer named Andrew who is charged with escorting his boss’s daughter, Samantha back to America.

This is an almost entirely dialogue-driven film, which is fine, but only if the writing is good.  The writing in Monsters, unfortunately, isn’t.  I found the inane screenplay to be exceptionally dull.  The characters trade innuendo with each other and point out the obvious.  They use the traditional “Wait!?  Did you hear that!?” and “Stay here!” lines to build phony tension.  These thrills pay off in the worst ways possible; one scene actually having a bag lady stand there, silent, the music builds as Samantha walks toward her, urging a response.  The bag lady turns and then barks like a dog before she walks away.

The climax (taking up roughly fifteen of the last minutes of the film) takes the leads to America, where a town is ravaged by monsters and is in ruins.  We spend our last moments waiting for a military escort at an empty gas station when the heroes come under attack by badly animated tentacles.  Even this scene is boring, a blatant rip off of the raptors-in-the-kitchen-scene from Jurassic Park, only done poorly.  The scene ends with the actors staring in amazement at the creatures, then they turn to stare at each other when the monsters leave.  More staring…

The “action scenes” in Monsters are exceptionally weak.  The all take place in the dark, so that we can’t actually see how bad the effects are, then we get very obscured shots of some tentacles or other body part moving across the screen.  There’s screaming, gunfire, quite for a second, then a cheap scare tries to conjure some response from the event.  I believe they were trying to take the Jaws approach here.  Making it so you don’t actually see the monster until the end (noting that in Jaws that was not the original intention.  Sometimes technical difficulties are good!), the problem is the action is not tense, or scary, or even interesting.  These are muddily-shot, dark scenes that seem less like an artistic choice and more like they are trying to cover up the effects.  These attack scenes are the worst parts of this film.

Monsters is a film with a lot of build-up and zero payoff.  The ending is anti-climactic, the dialogue is dull and tiresome, the characters are uninteresting and the film is just boring as a whole.  Monster movies, even bad or low-budget (or both) ones are supposed to be fun.  Not only is this movie not fun, it’s a downer.  It’s shot in depressed tones, lots of sandy browns and grays (or pitch-black), and the characters are all so sorrowful.  It’s bitter and it’s dismal.  Don’t be fooled by the weak acclaim this film has received.  It is misplaced.

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