MONSTERS. Gareth Edward’s post-apocalyptic low-budget science fiction
The film should defend itself. And in several ways, Monsters defends itself quite effectively. In the cinematic reality, people encounter life on another planet. Unfortunately, the spacecraft transporting collected samples is destroyed upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere and crashes somewhere in Mexico. As one can easily imagine, this way our planet becomes “infected” with an alien form of life, and the governments of North America create a closed zone extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, isolating themselves from the alien life forms with tall walls. The story presented in the film begins six years after this event when a photographer travels to Mexico (at the request of a friend) with the task of ensuring the safe return of his employer’s daughter to the USA.
Similar to District 9, the residents near the wall have become accustomed (to the extent possible) to the presence of visitors from another planet. However, their problem is not insect-like humanoids but gigantic “octopuses,” whose appearance is revealed from the very first scene. The depicted world is created with simple means (by industry standards, the film was low-budget), but it is believable. As is often the case in sci-fi cinema, aliens are a politically neutral opponent, and the setting is a “universal” zone of armed conflict. So, the first act of the film is dedicated to people – people who are well aware that danger lurks every day but have become accustomed to it and decide to take risks just to avoid abandoning their homes. The title Monsters is particularly relevant to this first act, as the creators pose the age-old question: who is the real monster? It turns out that during the fight against the aliens, civilians suffer immense losses, and for the military, they are just a line of text in a report, under the “collateral damage” column. It’s not a problem that the theme may seem unoriginal; after all, cinema has often proven that the way a story is told can be more significant than its content. In my opinion, the part of the film that takes place in the city is successful, and details like graffiti depicting tanks battling the tentacled aliens effectively build the atmosphere. However, problems start later.
It quickly becomes apparent that Monsters is a road movie. The characters must travel through the closed zone and reach the United States border and, following the rules of cinema, undergo a transformation or realize something important. In this regard, the film disappoints because the main characters are boring and entirely predictable. He – a photographer eager to capture The Photo that will bring him fame and fortune. She – a lost girl who is soon to be married but is uncertain about her feelings. From the very first scenes, it’s clear that He will have the opportunity to capture an extraordinary moment, and She will change her mind and develop feelings for a new companion. There are no surprises here, no emotions, everything is clear from the beginning. Sometimes, the behavior of the characters can also be annoying as they seem unaware of the situation they are in, acting quite foolishly. A prime example is the main character’s genuine surprise upon seeing the mercenaries who are supposed to escort him. His surprise arises from the fact that the mercenaries are armed, which is entirely logical given the dangers lurking at every step in the alien-infested tropical forest. However, this doesn’t stop the protagonist from asking a disarming question: “Why do they need weapons?”
The physical journey the characters undertake is also uninteresting. Watching rusty shipwrecks and crumbling abandoned buildings wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t presented so schematically: wreck, buildings -> a scene of the characters talking about nothing -> another wreck -> another scene of meaningless conversation (or about whether working as a war correspondent is moral) -> yet another wreck, another building. At some point, one might conclude that they’ve seen everything at the very beginning of the journey, and the rest is just more of the same, as the editor tries to add a few minutes to an otherwise too short film.
So, it seems that the interesting ideas ran out for the creators around one-third into the film. The initially intriguing backdrop, balanced against the unremarkable characters, lost its significance when the film transitioned from a border town to a deep jungle setting. And the emotional scene of finding a child’s body doesn’t achieve its intended impact in the second half of the film, as the director’s affinity for Steven Spielberg’s films becomes apparent, copying scenes from Jurassic Park and War of the Worlds.