Film Review: Monsters: Dark Continent

I can clearly remember the first time that I ever tried a mince pie. Being offered a little pastry parcel, biting into it expecting to find a warm and delicious meaty treat and instead being met by a mess of soaked fruits and crumbly, shortbread chewiness. To say I was disappointed is an understatement, I felt cheated, I felt lied to and I have never eaten a mince pie since.

And that is exactly how I feel about Monsters: Dark Continent. I feel as though it is a false representation of what it really is. I wanted bolognaise in a pie. I was given oranges and lemons and the bells of St. Clements. It is a mess and how it can even claim to be related to Gareth Edwards 2010 original is beyond me. They are so far apart in almost every way, that you wonder whether Tom Green (director/co-writier) and Jay Basu (co-writer) have even seen the original. It’s such a shame that Edwards left the franchise to move on to Star Wars and Godzilla.

Gareth Edwards - Monsters: Dark Continent

I had a horrible feeling this would be the case though. I love the original film, and the moment I heard the “sequel” was coming, I went as far as to proclaim it one of the 10 films I was most looking forward to seeing this year. But I quantified that with a worry that the two films would share little more than a name, and sadly it proved true.

Mosters: Dark Continent just doesn’t work. I have no idea why or how the story is meant to have developed from the original. They don’t explain how the “infected zone” has under gone this monumental spread. The original is set through a trek of South America and suddenly, they ask without explanation to believe the Monsters now inhabit the middle east as well. I’d buy into it if they told me how the Monsters got there, or even what the rest of the world was like, but they don’t. They just up sticks and hope you won’t notice or question why.

I also hate the fact that they’ve changed the tone so much that it’s lost its identity, although they attempt to shoe horn it back in later. The original was about real people out of their depth, fighting to survive and finding by products in love and compassion along the way. This is just a poor war film into which Monsters have been crammed in an attempt to give its existence reason. It’s nothing more than a military unit just wasting ammo in a fight that makes no sense. And because they have moved it to the Middle East and created a tension between the American military and the local populations it creates huge comparisons to “The War On Terror” and if I had wanted to watch the Americans trade rounds with insurgents then I have American Sniper, Lone Survivor, Kajaki and a lot more besides that do a far better, more thought provoking, and more realistic impression.

The Hurt Locker (Explosion)

As I said though, the film does attempt to shoe horn back into its story the original idea that it’s us, the humans, and not the Monsters who are the real enemy, and the longer the film goes on, the more destructive, mentally and physically, we see the characters become as they fight with themselves through fear and panic. But it’s too obvious and simplistic. I appreciate that tensions would run high and nerves fray at the sight of something so big, unknown and uncontrollable, but the way it’s portrayed is just clumsy and without skill. And the longer it goes on, the worse it becomes as characters collapse around each other in ways that just don’t fit the reality of mental illness and disorder.

Monsters: Dark Continent just fails completely to get under your skin. You’re presented with characters that are meant to be scared, frightened, suffering and yet you feel nothing. There is no suspense and no danger. You’re constantly removed from it because it doesn’t feel real. You’re heart never races, you pulse never fluctuates. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that emotionally, Monsters: Dark Continent is devoid of everything.

In fact, the only part of this film that is fairly powerful or thematic are the Monsters themselves. They are given far more screen time than before which is a shame, and they have evolved into a variety of difficult species but they still have a lingering sense on being nonplussed. placid and pacifistic, simply happy to survive  and not requiring the reaction we give them. And while the plots greater interest in military warfare means they feel totally out of place in the plot, their are moments when they are given a chance to shine. Yet once again they totally dismiss everything that made the original film work and twist them into a strange by product that doesn’t add up. For instance, the original has a stunning and heart wrenching scene of two Monsters caressing and sharing at a Petrol Station. They attempt to recreate that and the clarity and beauty of it in this by having one Monster kill another in the name of reproduction. Make Love Not War. It just feels cheap and inferior.

Monsters Petrol Station

I don’t understand the story, I don’t understand the characters, or the actual motives behind them. You can follow it superficially, but I haven’t got a clue why anything plays out like it does. It’s far too insular and withdrawn and it creates so many unanswered questions, huge questions, that the longer it went on the more and more bored I became and the more and more I just wanted it over. The original film is such an impressive piece because it feels gentle and real. This just feels savage and fake. It lost my interest in the opening few minutes and never won it back. It has no narrative voice to make you side with it and the longer it went on the more I looked at my watch, to such an extent that by the end I was virtually counting the hands round, praying for the credits.

If you’ve seen the original, I would beg you not to see this, and if you haven’t don’t waste your time. It’s awful and while thankfully, it will destroys the name of it’s older sibling, it is so poorly connected and poorly executed, that the memories of the original survive.

3 out of 10 stars (3 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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