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Six years ago NASA discovered the possibility of alien life within our solar system. A probe was launched to collect samples, but crashed upon reentry over Central America. Soon after, new life forms 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 U.S. journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through the infected zone to the safety of the U.S. border.
Deleted and Extended Scenes
Behind the Scenes of Monsters
Monsters: The Edit
Interview with Gareth Edwards
Interview with Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able
New York Comic Con Discussion with Gareth Edwards
HDNet: A Look at Monsters
Also From Magnolia Home Entertainment Blu-ray
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Now, for the good stuff. Warning: Spoilers Below!
I'm going to breakdown the different aspects of this movie first, and then give my overall review.
Action: Minimal, but not too over-the-top for the scenes it did have. I felt like they were realistic.
Effects: While I've seen better, considering that this was a low-budget film, it honestly did way better than some big budget flicks I've seen recently. They didn't show a LOT of the aliens, but it's obvious they put a lot of work into the bits they did show, and it's appreciated. The scene where they find the alien eggs, sprouting like bio-luminescent mushrooms on the trees? That was beautiful. (I'm going to talk about this particular scene more later)
Casting: While some of the side actors were a bit iffy for me, I liked the two mains. I would have liked to see a bit more emotion from them once or twice, but overall I think the fact that they WERE so subdued brought this level of realism to the whole thing. For example, the scene where they find the little girl? Other movies might've had them both breaking down, sobbing, etc, but instead they were both quiet. The scene where Sam DID cry, at the ruins, was very tastefully done, and her reaction to his questions about the little girl were very real. She didn't want to deal with the truth, so she put it off.
Plot: Considering that this movie is obviously not meant to be an action packed thrill ride, there was enough action to keep you interested. This entire movie wasn't about the Aliens, it wasn't about the big bad government, it wasn't about anything but these two characters and how this experience changed them. How it shaped them. In that regard, I think it did fine.
Why I took off 1 star: It wasn't for anything I talked about above, it was simply because there were things they could have done, but they didn't. I know it's probably because it was lower budget, but I feel like some of these things were written of as nothing...
1: The fact that the aliens are laying eggs in the trees! He's a photographer, for god's sake. This is big news, that obviously people don't know! He didn't bother to take any pictures... That would have been worth big money, and there was no reason not to, since he took pictures of everything else.
2: They never tried to explain why the aliens were attacking early, just that they were. They never really explained much of anything. Just... Hey! Giant tentacle monsters! We don't know anything about them whatsoever than vaguely what they look like, that they like the water, and they usually come out at night. Oh, and they lay eggs in trees. I know the movie wasn't about them, but I would've liked to know, nonetheless.
Those were the two reasons I took off a star, personally. Would I recommend this movie? Heck yea I would, it's one of the best of it's kind I've seen in a while.
And that's exactly what this is, an indie drama about two strangers coming together to survive in a tense and unpredictable situation. It's more of a gradually growing romance than a horror story so it's no wonder some people don't like it. In fact it's really well done with the two principals acting very natural throughout their adventure-ordeal. Some viewers don't like the characters, considering them rich and spoiled, but that's another thing entirely and not valid film criticism. There is a plot contrivance that sets everything that follows into motion that makes a character do a particularly stupid and juvenile thing and that's a bit annoying, but without it you'd have no film, so you have to let it pass.
In fact you have to let a lot of plot holes and unbelievable things slide in order to enjoy the film but I found the film so compelling and enjoyable that I was willing to do so. The monsters themselves when they do appear onscreen, look really good but the exobiology is impossible. Even if such huge creatures could inhabit the sea under the ice of Europa (their source in the film) could they take the much hotter climate of Earth? And being confined to underwater life how is it that they can walk on land at all, much less withstand Earth's much heavier gravity? It's things like that that can bug you, but like I said, the human drama is good, so you let it pass. Whitney Able as Samantha Wynden also manages to stay awfully clean and good-looking despite this horrible trek through the jungle, but that's pretty standard in films.
This movie looks really great for its half-million dollar budget and the fact it was shot with consumer-level video. The scenes were mostly shot on location (in Mexico and Guatemala) using whatever locals were around as characters and extras, almost extemporaneously. Only the two principals are experienced actors. The special effects were amazingly all created on home computers using special effects software available to the general public. This is hard to believe when you see it. Had director-writer Gareth Edwards wanted to make an action film of Monsters, he could have done so. Monsters - that was probably the worst name they could have come up with for this film as it really does infer a creature-centered film.
If an independent film drama in a near-future science fiction setting appeals to you by all means see this film. It's unique and different
EXTRA NOTE ON CRAZY GEOGRAPHY: As much as I liked this film, I couldn't get over the director's total misconception of Mexican geography. The "Infected Zone" shown on maps several times is clearly the Northern third of Mexico up to the U.S. border. The characters seem to be shown on the map (when they plan their route) near the west coast around the latitude of Acapulco. Yet the whole trek takes place in the jungle. In fact at one point they are looking at the U.S. border (clearly marked by a huge wall - LOL) from the top of a Mayan pyramid surrounded by jungle. All I can imagine is that the British director, who shot everything near and in Central America, simply thought it was the same all the way through Mexico. It would have been a very simple thing to simply write it taking place in Guatemala or the Yucatan. As it is it's weird and a bit distracting.