Monsters

MonstersEvery now and then I go a bit crazy and check out as many movies as I can from my library. These tend to be the movies that are on my secondary “to-watch” list, the kind of movies that I feel I should watch because they’ve gotten a lot of buzz or movies that I probably shouldn’t want to watch but I’m just kind of curious.

Well, Monsters ended up in the batch I just checked out a week or so ago. I remember when it first came out in 2010 that a review mentioned it was supposed to be a commentary on the state of illegal immigration, which, honestly, lost my attention. I don’t like heavy-handed political statements in my entertainment, whether I agree with what they are saying or not.

But I wanted something to watch and I had been curious about this film despite the political message it was trying to send. And at least I know now.

About 6 years before the movie begins, NASA had sent a probe into space to collect samples of intelligent life. This probe (naturally) crash landed in Mexico, of all places (let’s be honest- it is far more likely it would have landed in an ocean but ok. Belief suspended.) And then a slow but sure alien invasion began taking place. The “infected” area, a large swath of northern Mexico, has been quarantined, and the world has begun to adapt to the giant squid/octopus creatures that came from the probe.

The movie opens with an attack on a hotel and we quickly meet our main characters: Andrew Kaulder, a magazine photographer (played by Scoot McNairy), and Sam Wynden (played by Whitney Able), an attractive young woman hurt in the attack and also the daughter of the owner of the magazine Kaulder works for. Kaulder is improbably roped into making sure that Sam makes it to the coast in time for the last ferry home, otherwise she will be stuck in Mexico for another 6 months. Because of the creatures’ annual migration or something? I missed why time was an issue.

Well, of course things go wrong and Sam and Kaulder are left to find an alternative way home which leads to walking through the infected area. Along the way we get treated to conversations about why America building a wall to keep the creatures out is a bad idea because America is really just boxing themselves in. And how America looks different when you’re outside the wall. You can’t see me, but I’m still rolling my eyes. We also get to watch 2 characters with no chemistry and very little depth of character try to convince us they are falling in love. Kaulder is the brash, cynical journalist but who turns out to have a son and is actually really caring! And Sam looks like every pretty girl you’ve seen in any B-Hollywood movie but she’s not just a pretty rich white girl because look! She’s fluent in Spanish and gets along really well with the natives! Blegh.

Ultimately, I’m not sure what message the movie is trying to send since the creatures are incredibly destructive and the wall is useless but maybe I’m reading too much into the immigration parallel. There are no real surprises and for a film titled Monsters, they seem to be a secondary consideration. Despite this, it wasn’t a particularly bad movie but not one I’ll ever be interested to watch again.

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14 thoughts on “Monsters

  1. It’s not a great movie, but I liked it more than you did.

    I hadn’t heard about the immigration angle, although it sounds obvious now that you mention it. I just heard about how it was an indie film made on a very low budget. The dialog was all improvised not scripted and the extras were all people they met along the way. The scenes of destruction were all actual scenes of hurricane damage: the destroyed buildings the beached tanker.

    The scene where the guides are telling them about the aliens was their actual guides telling them about seeing a UFO once. (You can check this if you know Mexican. I don’t).

    I like the idea of alien invaders who aren’t intelligent, just alien animals. The six month time the border is closed is the alien mating season. The aliens are very active and dangerous during this time. When the mating season is over it easier and safer to cross the “infected” area. (The only reason a boat wouldn’t solve this problem is is the “infected” area goes all the way around the world at that latitude, even on water. Which it theoretically could.)

    I thought they did a pretty good job of implying menace and using found material to tell a story. And I thought the final scene of the aliens mating over the gas station was amazing.

    The ending was a surprise for me. I didn’t expect it to go that way. Even with the opening scene teaser.

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    • Mary says:

      I had heard about the low budget but I didn’t know all that trivia you just mentioned, which is pretty cool actually!

      I was a little confused about that ending, because I thought that opening scene was the hotel attack but then we hear the soldier singing his theme song again at the end. So do they get attacked again on their way home? That seems a bit disappointing! How do we know if they survived then?

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      • Yes the opening scene was a teaser of the closing scene.

        I’m pretty sure someone says they both died. That’s why I said the ending surprised me. They got all the way to the US and died at the gas station.

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  2. I guess that I was more interested in the film because of the circumstances of under which it was made. The film was made on a miniscule budget (for a SF film, anyway). I understand that the entire crew consisted of 5 people, and the extras and incidental characters were all drawn from the local population wherever they were filming. The creature effects were done by the director in his apartment, using off-the-shelf equipment and software. Not too bad.

    Finally, on the basis of his work on this film the director was hired to helm the new Godzilla movie, which I quite enjoyed.

    Also, like all really good SF it had the element of social commentary.

    So, not a great film perhaps, but certainly noteworthy.

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    • Mary says:

      You’re right; considering the budget and that it was the director’s first movie, it was pretty good. I haven’t seen the Godzilla movie yet, but probably will once it shows up on DVD in my library- I didn’t realize it was the same director. And it wasn’t necessarily the social commentary that bothered me, it was the broad way it was done. I would rather walk away from a film being able to make my own conclusions about the message rather than being force fed one.

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      • Hey now, You can’t have it both ways. Was the message “force fed” to you or was it unclear and confusing as you seem to suggest in your reply to jubilare?

        For the record, the Director says the immigration angle was not intended.
        http://techland.time.com/2010/10/18/filmmaker-gareth-edwards-talks-about-his-monsters/

        So, if you were force fed anything you did it to yourself.

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      • Mary says:

        Again, I disagree, Eva. It’s entirely possible for somebody to try a push a message but to do it poorly, resulting in confusion. But, as it seems the director never intended to make the immigration message, it makes sense that it would result in confusion, as I am trying to read a message that isn’t there or wasn’t intended to be there.

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      • jubilare says:

        *To Eva*
        I don’t think that is necessarily true. A story can very easily be both heavy-handed and unclear. Have you never felt that you were being preached at, and yet couldn’t quite decide what message someone was trying to shove at you?

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  3. jubilare says:

    Not seen it, but I am also wary of heavy-handedness.
    From what you say, though, I am not sure what the message is supposed to be, or at least, if it says what it thinks it says.

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    • Mary says:

      Right? Because if it was meant to be against the creation of a wall to prevent unwanted entrances, then why were the creatures so destructive? If they were peaceful, or beneficial, or even only dangerous when attacked or provoked, I could understand what the movie seemed to be pushing better. But maybe I really am just reading too much into the immigration theme and should just accept it at that point as nothing more than a monster movie.

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      • jubilare says:

        Sometimes that’s all we can do, aye?

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      • Yeah, I don’t think the immigration angle really adds anything to the movie.

        But if there is an immigration angle I don’t think the alien monsters are the immigrants. The main characters are the immigrants and the alien monsters are the barriers to immigration. You have two people who are trying to get to the US. They can’t get there through official channels (the ferry). So they hire guides to take the illegal path that is very dangerous. And even after they get to the other side they still aren’t safe. As a parable about immigration that is about as far as you can take this movie.

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      • Mary says:

        I disagree. In my opinion, if there is an immigration angle, it revolves around the efficacy of a wall. The wall was intended to keep out the aliens, but failed. As symbolism for the immigration issue (either for or against a wall), it fails miserably, as the aliens are very destructive. I read the article you posted above and I find it interesting that the director didn’t consider this when he made the movie, especially when setting the story on the U.S./Mexico border. But maybe these issues aren’t as closely followed by non-Americans since if I remember, the director is British? The idea of creating a wall for aliens can be done without seeming preachy (see: Pacific Rim), so if Gareth Edwards truly never meant to make a comment on American illegal immigration it’s a shame that the movie comes so close to seeming like it does, if that makes sense. Because it overshadows what could be a fun monster movie. Although I have to admit I still found the main characters a bit flat.

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  4. I really enjoyed this movie, but that’s because I’m a sucker for anything about monsters/aliens. 🙂

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