Retro review: Monsters: Dark continent

spoiler-free

In 2010 Gareth Edwards came bursting onto the scene with Monsters. It was a remarkable effort for the writer and director’s debut feature film, not least because it had the appearance of a huge Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster when in fact it was an independent film with a budget under half a million dollars, which still sounds a lot but pales in comparison to other contemporary monster films. For instance, Edwards’ next feature Godzilla (2014) had a budget of $160 million and the cgi is pretty much indistinguishable.

Monsters had a tiny crew with the very talented Edwards taking on multiple production roles and it was shot guerrilla style meaning that they didn’t always have permission to film and many of the extras just happened to be in the area they were filming. So even without considering the originality of the film itself it is apparent that this film is incredibly interesting for fans of cinema.

Despite the title and the amazing special effects, this film wasn’t really about the alien creatures that the director added in to the Mexican skyline in post production. Instead the Rogue One director has stated that he intended to create a film about humans and how life goes on after a devastating event, he created a film that begins years after most monster movies end, and the result is a film which is almost mundane and ordinary compared to other apocalyptic science fiction but nonetheless has this extraordinary backdrop. This might not be the film for you if you are a typical monster-movie fan.

Five years later, the film got a sequel with the fairly ridiculous subtitle “dark continent” and it was almost universally panned. The film actually passed me by during it’s initial release although I am a big fan of the aforementioned Monsters. Gareth Edwards didn’t return to direct this although he was an executive producer. It seems his involvement may have been very limited however by his commitment to Godzilla (2014) and some have linked his absence to the failure of the film.

One unfair criticism of Monsters: Dark Continent is that it doesn’t focus on the monsters or make much use out of them. This is a very odd invention of a war film with a few monsters thrown in for seemingly no reason. But to follow in the footsteps of it’s predecessor it had to normalise the monsters, it was right to make them part of the scenery. It’s a shame however that the war story at the heart of this film isn’t very exciting or thought-provoking. It’s quite boring and that long run time feels even longer. Unlike the earlier film, it’s hard to care about the characters or relate to their situation. It’s not even very clear what they are trying to achieve or what they are fighting for, which I guess could be a political point about war. Still, there’s nothing to enjoy in this film as there was with Monsters.

Monsters (2010)  green-gun-icon

Monsters: Dark Continent (2015)  gun-icongun-icongun-icongun-icon

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