Apr 30 2014

Why Haven’t You Seen It: Monsters

Published by at 11:00 am under Columns,Movies

monsters-movie-

Over the next three weeks, it is pretty safe to assume every film fan is going to be talking about the new Godzilla movie, coming out May 15th. What most people talking about this massive Summer movie don’t know is that the director of that remake, Gareth Edwards, landed that film by making Monsters first. The thing that has me, though, is that no matter how good Godzilla ends up being, there is a good chance it will not top Monsters for me. Simply because Monsters is an oddly intimate tale told in a very different fashion than most movies like this usually are. It is a story about two people finding each other amid madness, and acting as a sort of port in a crazy storm. There are no epic building crumbling moments. There are very few scenes of monsters eating screaming civilians alive. In many ways, it redefines the way a massive monster movie can be seen. I just feel like Godzilla had way too many hands in it to make it a movie that will be as powerful as Monsters is. So let me ask, why haven’t you seen it?

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How this film cost a mere half a million to make is just mind blowing to me.

The premise of the movie appears simple enough on the surface. A NASA deep space probe lands in Mexico, and a hoard of creatures come with it and quickly spread. This leads to a quarantine of the Northeast part of Mexico. We meet Andrew, a photo journalist who is looking for that one shot that will make him rich. He is a very shallow character at first, but we get to see that evolve across the length of the movie. A big part of that evolution comes from this time spend with Samantha. The daughter of his boss he is trying to help get out of Mexico before it all locked down. The move basically starts with Andrew being given the task of finding Samantha and getting her to safety. Flash forward a bit, he finds her. They end up taking a train from Mexico to America, and the movie ends.

Just kidding.

Obviously, things go wrong.That is how movies work.

There has to be some sort of conflict, and Sam and Andrew’s conflict arrives when they find out that the train tracks have been wrecked, and that within the next few days, all air travel will be halted, and no one will be getting in or out of Mexico. This ups and ante quite a bit. Suddenly, these two realize they need to get out or else they could be stuck there. Does it seem like an adequate time for a trailer? I believe so. Though I almost recommend not watching it, as some trailers do tend to give away too much. In this case, I feel like the trailer paints it to look like an action film, and it isn’t. It is a story of two people amid chaos. To watch or not to watch, the choice is yours.

The movie is not as Cloverfield as the trailer lets on, but that is not a bad thing.

You can see while watching the trailer why the big wigs gave Gareth Edwards Godzilla, though. He worked with a very small budget for Monsters (under half a million. WHAT???!!!) and he made a movie that feels much larger than it actually is. There are scenes when Andrew and Samantha are going through abandoned old towns and floating down rivers, surveying the damage, and it feels like a much more epic film than the cost would hint at. In the same breath, I am scared about Godzilla. I don’t like the idea of a major studio already trying to turn this guy into another Roland Emmerich. Yes, the new Gojira looks dope, and Bryan Cranston is in it, which bodes well. But we cannot let ourselves forget for a moment that this is a major studio, big budget remake of Godzilla. It has failed before, and has so much potential fail in it in general, and I would hate to see a brilliant young director sullied. But it is too early to know, and only time will tell. Overall, I have great faith that if anyone can do Godzilla right, it is Gareth. Much like the movie execs, Monsters is the film that convinced me.

Looks good. Great director. Killer cast. Yet I am still a skeptic.

But I need to remind you all, as much as the name may say otherwise, this is not a monster movie. Yes, there are some monsters. Yes, there are a few action scenes. But this movie is more about the moments AFTER the storm. It is a personal study of two people who are trying to figure out what to do as it feels like their world is falling in all around them. If you sit down to watch this movie expecting a Cloverfield, you will be disappointed. Yes, those moments exist, but this is a much more intimate movie than that. Yes, I am using the word intimate on purpose. The best films do not make us feel like we are watching them. They make us feel like we are experiencing them, and that is just what Monsters does. You feel like the silent third wheel, along for the journey. Samantha and Edward are not perfect characters, and that is just what makes them feel so damn real.

So should I talk about the actual monsters now? Don’t worry, no spoilers here. I just wanted to take a quick moment to say that I think the creature design is stellar in this film. Simplistic, but unlike most massive creatures you see in movies like this. There is one scene in particular, when our two leads get a chance to silently observe these things from a distance, and it is a jaw dropping scene. Just the sound direction in that scene alone is oddly moving and adds so much to the scene. But yes, as far as I am concerned, the monsters in Monsters are super badass, and really compelling to look at. But let it be known, they will not be on-screen much. Whereas sometimes that can make a monster movie fail, here it only works to its benefit.

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Please completely ignore the creature graffiti in this shot.

So please, do me a favor? See Monsters before you see Godzilla. See what this guy can do with half a million dollars. See that, and ask yourself: Does he do more with the 160 million dollar budget of Godzilla, or with the half a million he had for Monsters? I cannot wait to answer that question myself in a few short weeks. I would also be lying if I were to pretend I wasn’t a little bit nervous. Monsters will be a hard movie to top for me.

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13 responses so far

  • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

    Because of this film, there is pretty much no doubt in my mind that the new Godzilla will be amazing. I was amazed that I watched Monsters expecting one thing and got something utterly unique. I was thinking there would be all of this action and giant monsters and horror and what it really was was a socio-political examination of American post 9-11 fears, prejudices, and paranoia with the monsters replacing immigrants as scapegoats for our problems. Can’t say I saw that coming.

    • Remy Carreiro

      Nicely put, Nick.

  • NecroB

    I honestly was bored to death with this movie, the trailer is completely misguiding, the monster design was brilliant, but because of it i expected some sort of lovecraftian monster horror flick

    • Remy Carreiro

      But we have never gotten a good Lovecraftian monster flick, so was the fault not your own for expecting something super awesome that no one has ever really delivered on? I do agree about the trailer, though.

      • http://www.nogunarmy.com/ monstrinho

        Dagon is a great Lovecraftian film. Bit campy and wooden at times but so are the lovecraft written stories, The makers clearly had a lot of love for the source material and fun fact, Dagon is a major source of inspiration for Resident Evil 4.

    • http://www.nogunarmy.com/ monstrinho

      i have to agree. it’s amazing that it was made for half a million on kit you can buy off the shelf. (if i remember it was composited in after effects.) but i found it very dull which upset me because i was expecting to like it.

  • Ugo Strange

    HA! I’ll be watching this fairly soon!

  • David R

    Ergh, I keep meaning to get around to this. Really need to make that happen before I go watch him step up to the big leagues.

  • Nick Ramsay

    “Over the next three weeks, it is pretty safe to assume every film fan is going to be talking about the new Godzilla movie”

    I don’t anyone is really excited about Godzilla other than Unreality. When most people’s experience with Godzilla is the disastrous 1998 film, it’s a bit of an ask to get anyone’s hopes up.

    • Remy Carreiro

      Even we use the term “excited” loosely, but I do love this movie, so I am gonna give it a shot….

      • Nick Ramsay

        Don’t get me wrong Remy, you’ve got me excited for it. But “every film fan” is a stretch.

  • Tim

    Remy, I absolutely adored this film for all the reasons you mentioned. I’ve told my son he needs to look this one up on Netflix before seeing Godzilla too.

    I still don’t fully understand that hatred this film attracts in some circles. It’s like complaining that “Schindler’s List” is boring because there aren’t enough battle scenes with Nazis…or like that woman that tried to sue a theatre chain because “Drive” wasn’t like another Fast & Furious movie.
    Really, in the 21st century, people should be savvy enough to know what kind of film they’re about to see and not judge it based on their own mistaken preconceptions.

    Hating on a film because it’s not what you expected seems like an incredibly self-centred way to experience life.

    • Remy Carreiro

      It makes me sad how quickly people brush off slower paced movies. I truly believe they do themselves a huge injustice. Good to know you are passing this wisdom down to future generations.

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