Gareth Edwards’ Monsters is perplexing to me. It plays like a bizarre cross of District 9, City of God, and an Antonioni flick, with just a dash of Terrance Malick for taste and good measure. That’s a delicate balancing act, very tricky to pull off. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, Edwards doesn’t quite pull it off, in my opinion.
The movie tells the tale of the near future, where a portion of Mexico and Central America has been deemed “Contaminated” from an alien space crash. What began as small life have now become full grown monsters. (Title!) Every year around the same time these monsters grow agitated and start to attack villages and ruin shit. Sort of like fire season and earthquakes in LA, most of the people just deal with it when it becomes a problem.
After a random attack on the Central America side of the Monster land, this douchebag Photo Journalist Andrew (who has the far more fascinating real life name of Scoot McNairy) is tasked with bringing his boss’ daughter Samantha (Whitney Able) safely back to the US. These two become reluctant traveling companions through the “infected” lands, as necessity requires them to think they’re falling in love.
The leads are my fundamental problem with movie. They generate no chemistry, and I found whatever they had to say boring and stilted. Like watching your friends perform i an improv group that you know is not really that good, but you want to pat them on the back for trying in the first place. Regardless, I would have watched a story about anybody else who ives in this environment, some of the crazy people who are just used to this lifestyle of seasonal monster attacks… Anything but the story that’s presented here.
The behind the scenes notes inform me that Writer-Director Gareth Edwards did all the FX work himself as well on his home computer, in addition to shooting on location and using only consumer cameras. This is light years beyond Robert Rodriguez’ one man show El Mariachi. Edwards delivers the goods in the FX department, seamlessly weaving in images you can’t tell what is real and what is digital anymore. Almost frightening.
Greatest point about the film: Awesome music score by Jon Hopkins. Very moody and evocative. Quite Eno-like in its hypnotic qualities. Hopefully this will be released at some point. My favorite part.
Gareth Edwards will hopefully have a long future ahead of him. Monsters is a very good start. While I didn’t care for it, there’s no denying the sound of a new filmmaking voice ready to mix the fantastic with the grounded. I look forward to his next movie.