Tuesday, 18 January 2011

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MONSTERS [Review]


Opinion: A-

With a title like "MONSTERS", one cannot be blamed to expect spectacular CG creatures wreaking havoc and taking over the world of mankind. You'll soon realise that it's much less blatant as a creature film and so much more as a film about life forms in general. Gareth Edwards' debut sci-fi feature has a beautiful story and riveting visual effects that manage to emerge without an extravagant budget.


Six years ago NASA discovered the possibility of alien life within our solar system. A probe was launched to collect samples, but crashed upon re-entry over Central America. Soon after, new life form began to appear and half of Mexico was quarantined as an INFECTED ZONE. Today, the American and Mexican military still struggle to contain "the creatures"...

Our story begins when a US journalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) agrees to escort a shaken American tourist Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able) through the infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border.

As you read this article, it is already firm that Director/Writer/Cinematographer/Visual Efects Artist/ Production Designer Gareth Edwards will be helming the pending remake of Japanese monster hit "Godzilla", knowing that MONSTERS is only his first feature film.

It will be of interest for one to learn that Edwards is a Visual Effects artist and his first sci-fi feature film isn't exactly all about visual effects, although his VFX competency didn't go unnoticed. He's a VFX artist who has the heart and mind of a filmmaker, he wanted to tell stories. So he uses VFX to enhance his movie making experience, which is a warm reception by myself personally.

His budget for a sci-fi genre production? Around half a million US dollars.

Sci-fi and $500,000 simply don't match up, especially when we are talking about a fine film like MONSTERS that doesn't feel cheap despite being a budget production. All the run-down destructive nature of the location sets are simply captured in reality to help cut down visual effects post-addition. How is it possible?

All thanks to the aftermath of the hurricane. Probably.

I've been saying how MONSTERS isn't about monsters and visual effects, it's really about the journey of its central characters Andrew and Samantha as they discover more about each other as well as some truth behind certain uninformed perception.

They make their way through a promisingly treacherous Infected Zone in the northern half of Mexico and receives guidance and assistance from native strangers whom they've never met. When Andrew and Samantha were entrusted into another group of native armed escorts, Andrew questions the act simply based on their intimidating lethal demeanour. It's true that people often form impressions of people base on appearances and often stick to them for good.

MONSTERS is set sometime in the near future where the so-called creatures have been residing in Mexico for six years, so it isn't exactly about an alien invasion. These gigantic tentacular creatures have been living amidst human beings and are only active at night.

But during the course of the film, you will notice how the Mexicans have long taken all these "inconvenience" as part of their lives and get on. They get on with daily affairs as per usual, albeit with some night activity constraints. This comes as a huge shocker to Samantha, who is seen asking the locals if they really feel safe living under such conditions.

The references go much further beyond.

Notice how Edwards has scripted two very different lead characters from contrasting backgrounds and have them learn about each other as they journey to safety back to American borders? It's beyond developing romance between these two, they do learn about each other's way of life prior their meet. Likewise, the creature scenario in Mexico is highly referential to the current US-Mexico immigration situation. The US sees Mexicans as aliens and often keeps a tight leash on border control with her neighbouring nation. The constant military action taking place in the film somewhat reflects on how the US reacts to everything that it disagrees or finds fault with.

It boils down to embracing and accepting everyone as who they are.

These towering creatures may have offered some lurking tension teases to the audience's mind by means of "Jurassic Park"-like style, but towards the end one will likely change their mind and view them more as strangely beautiful life forms. The only monster aspect of these creatures is their massive size in comparison to human beings (monster also means enormous).

Yes, these creatures may be very different from us, but it doesn't make them unacceptable. The great intention of this film is to highlight the issue of prejudicial misperception and its resultant misfortune. Often we are blinded by one's ugly appearance and miss out the possible inner virtues hidden underneath the said facade. Is everything about MONSTERS beautiful in a subtle sense?

Well, perhaps less the film title.

You decide.


4 comments:

  1. I gave it a 7.00 out of 10. It was way better than I expected it to be, and I still can't believe it was made with only $15,000! It looks 100 times more expensive. Great review!

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  2. @Nebular Thank you George! Yes I was expecting something along the line of "Skyline" but I'm so glad that it wasn't! Yes, their control of finance is really good. They manage to keep the budget so unbelievably low!

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  3. Sounds like I need to see Monsters. I love understated sci-fi. BTW, great blog!

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  4. @Sammy Hi there! I'm so glad that you stumbled upon my site and found it to your liking and interest! Thank you so much! Although I liked MONSTERS, there's a large native community around me who didn't like it as it isn't considered mainstream entertainment. You'll have to watch it to which camp you will find yourself in! :)

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