Monsters follows photographer Andrew, played by Scoot McNairy, who has been ordered to escort his boss’ daughter, Sam, played by Whitney Able, from South America to the safety of the American border.
Six years ago there was an international incident which resulted in aliens or monsters, if you will, landing on earth and causing havoc. The space between South America and North America, i.e. Mexico is a specially infected area where attacks of the monsters occur frequently, Andrew must accompany Sam there and hopefully avoid being killed by these monsters.
Monsters is extremely sporadic with its visuals, at times, Monsters looks extremely beautiful, with colours popping and is awe inspiring, but then at times the picture is gritty, dull and extremely washed out. Then when it comes to the actual monsters the visual effects are very poor which take away from the extreme realism this film pushes for, which is indeed a shame because the way this film was approached was extremely realistic. It is extremely obvious that there was a lot of love and passion involved in making this film, all the possibilities of what could happen if something like this really occurred are explored and laid out perfectly.
There is tension throughout the film, which is due to not only the actors but also the scenery and the music. The scenery is, again extremely realistic, there are bleak scenes of mass graves, memorials, destroyed vehicles and weapons, all combined with the grit of South America really give the film an eerie feel and certainly do a great job of convincing the viewer that this attack genuinely happened. This, combined with the amazingly creepy music, used at the perfect times and never over used just make the film feel so real, at times it felt more like a documentary than a sci-fi film.
This film has the wrong title, it gives audiences the wrong impression, this film isn’t about monsters/aliens at all. This is a film studying the human condition and how humans could be affected by something as unexpected as an alien invasion. In fact, there are very few appearances of the monsters themselves, except for a decent action scene at the beginning, another decent action scene in the middle and a very weird appearance of the monsters near the end, which was completely not needed and served no real purpose, also before anyone bitches at me saying that it represents the characters meeting and connecting, that is extremely contrived and just poorly written and executed.
I would have been much happier with the film had those monsters not been shoved in at the last minute, because after almost watching a whole film about these two characters I am much more invested in them than the stupid monsters.
The two main characters, Andrew and Sam, are both the audiences eyes through the film yet also part of the human study. You see these two strangers who start out on a pretty formal basis, evolve and grow closer as the horrors of the world unravel in front of them. Their shared experiences are also shared with the audience which makes the audience feels attached to them, which obviously leads us to want them to end up together as well as hoping they survive.
These characters wouldn’t be nearly as accessible or likable if it wasn’t for the genuine performances from Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able. Now I am not going to say their performances were amazing, they weren’t, but they were genuine and relatable. The performances are subtle which is exactly what these roles required, these characters needed to feel less like characters and more like real people, and in that respect, McNairy and Able did a brilliant job.
Gareth Edwards was the writer, director and visual effects master behind this film and he passed in 2 out of the 3 for me. The story was fantastic, original and extremely interesting, the script however had a few problems, mainly with how the characters interacted and abruptly come together but also there are a few dialogue problems, but nothing too major. As a director Edwards did a great job here, there were some inventive shots, the cinematography was gorgeous, but again, the scenes with the monsters left a lot to be desired, which is a shame as you can tell that he is very talented.
Then we get down to the visual effects *sigh* I really wanted these monsters to look good because of how good the story was, but they just weren’t. The alien designs were pretty creative, the way their body reflected certain energy and stuff was pretty cool, but when it came down to the actual visuals, it just looked fake and kind of ruined the film for me, it would definitely take most people out of the film. I understand it is an indie film, but look at District 9 and how amazing those visual effects were, I think that District 9 set the bar high, but Monsters didn’t even come near it visually.
This film definitely had some problems, there was a slight pacing issue at around the 30 or 40 minute mark which, firstly, the films is just over 90 minutes, pacing should not be an issue, but it made me feel like I missed something, because before this pacing issue, the pace was great and the characters were slowly connecting, but after the pacing issue, the pacing is back to normal but all of a sudden these two characters become really close, whether that was because there was stuff cut out of the film, or whether it was a creative choice not to show us some part of their night, either way it was jarring for me as I am sure it was for others.
Overall I would definitely recommend you watch this film, it is a very interesting film and is definitely worth your time, I do however believe that watching it once would suffice, I have a feeling that this film will not have re-watch value, unless you are in love with the film. So watch it, but don’t buy it.