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It's advertised by a poster that displays two young people making their way through a decimated city with ominous signs warning of an infected zone splayed about.  A second poster shows the same couple in gas masks with an amorphous tentacled being behind them.  The very title of the movie in question would waive fault to anyone who had a certain expectation of what Monsters would be.  I dunno, maybe itís about Monsters?  That people have to flee from?  Monsters is a film that takes a long and bizarre way around to tell the story of a pretty standard romance.

There are indeed monsters in Monsters.  The earth has been invaded by space squids that leave devastation wherever they go.  The worldís military are in pursuit of the giant, floaty octopi that have been cornered for the time being in a section of Central America.  An ambitious young photographer, anxious to get on the good side of his publisher reluctantly agrees to shepherd his bossís wayward daughter out of the region and into the safe, loviní arms of the good olí USA.  Along their long and arduous escape route, theyíll run into the corruption of those who would put a dollar sign on survival and the desperation of the have-nots for whom escape from the advancing space horde isnít financially feasible.  The pairís face time with the creatures will make them question the truth of what theyíve been told about the aliens, as well as reconsider their own places in the universe.

Terribly low budget, this, and thatís not a bad thing.  The imagination one must utilise to make something palatable to a viewing audience on extremely small funding is always interesting.  Gareth Edwardsí best move was in acting as his own cinematographer because many of the images in Monsters are lovely.  We are plunged into the lives of the people in this endangered area, whether crawling out from under the rubble of the creaturesí wake, or watching as an entire town gathers to pray, mourn, then celebrate what might be their last night on earth.  The rolling landscapes as the American couple hitch various conveyances to the north reminded me of the remarkable mountainsides and green panoramas of 2009ís Sin Nombre, where the beautiful scenery was practically a costar.

Where Edwards goes wrong is in presenting an undercooked romance between a rich girl and a scrappy fly-by-the-seat-of-his pants photojournalist as compelling enough to carry the brunt of the story.  Edwards seems to want his tale to be some sort of allegory for the journey of true love, but itís all too telegraphed and contrived.  It felt like a lot of bait and switch, not just for the reasons mentioned above (- Which, perhaps, the director might not have had a hand in.), but because a much more action-packed affair is clearly what weíre meant to expect judging from the boom-tastic opening with fighter pilots taking on the mighty invaders and all the destruction this defense wreaks.  Itís as if knowing the romance wasnít enough to keep people interested, Edwards throws in the monsters; ĎDonít like our pallid, predictable love story between two shallow, barely likeable characters?  Donít worry; the monsters will be back.í  The trouble is, either by design or by financial limitation; there isnít nearly enough of the creatures to keep audiences entertained.  When they do appear, itís hard to imagine all the military of the world having such a hard time against such glacial, slow-moving beasts.  The threat to our heroes is negligible at best, so the thriller aspect is gone.  There are the life lessons thrown in for the benefit of the young couple and the worthy note about what people will go through to find shelter; a simile for the current immigration arguments taking place in the US and other places, but we donít go too far into that.  The picture just meanders about, not meaning much of anything and saying even less.  Monsters is a film that must have been a marketing nightmare, not only because of its misleading setup, but because it disappoints, failing to reach in every direction it aims.

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Oct. 29th, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photos

(Courtesy of  Magnolia Films)

 

 

 

 

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