Friday, November 26, 2010

Mannequins On The Move

Directed By Gareth Edwards

The most impressive thing about “Monsters” is that it was made on a limited budget.

The plot involves alien creatures crashing in Mexico and evolving into giant monsters that resemble a Godzilla size cross between a squid and an elephant.

Bizarre as this sounds, the facts of the film are used purely as window dressing for a story about an unappealing duo, coming together as a couple (though the actors are married in real life, you'd never notice).

Millions dead and military and ecological chaos is just there to bring, to these very noticeably (all the more so in their "exotic" jungle locale) wealthy white folks together who Armond White does not inaccurately describe as "[those] who resemble Cameron Diaz and Ethan Coen wannabes, the kind of hipsters you see at the Independent Film Awards."

Though White's relationship to these "hipsters" in his criticism can often border a pathological resentment; they occupy the same shadowy monstrous/inhuman place that the Hollywood system occupies in the criticism of Jonathan Rosenbaum, to be fair.

Godzilla films have typically long involved romance sub-plots; the handsome scientist and the general’s daughter, the plucky reporter and cop in over his head, etc.

I always wondered what the purpose of these insect like figures scurrying beneath the legs of titans, was.

Do we really require these man-like puppets to add a “human core” to the impossible events?

I used to love these old monster flicks but I couldn’t tell you the names of any characters that were less than 50 feet tall.

They were not important to me as a viewer, and with a few exceptions in the sci-fi disaster genre it is humanity and our frail and petty desires which rightly take backseat as the monster/invasion/devastation/events begin and social well-being and selflessness replace individual concerns.

“Monsters” despite it’s title, tries for a reversal of a mechanism it does not fully understand (like similar dismal indie apocalypse “Time Of The Wolf), and is more interested in scenic road movie ambiance than action, horror, adventure, pathos, or being interesting.

The leads are unappealing; the boarder crossing metaphor was more half baked than “Sleep Dealer”, and the scenery and backdrop more appealing than anything that happens.

“Monsters” would be better if the leads had more personality than spoiled and out of touch or bland and generic, because this just leaves us waiting for “Monsters” who seldom appear.

Even if I were of the mind to agree with the consensus that monsters are better heard not seen (which I am not) there are better works featuring off camera scares like Pontypool”, “Session 9”, or the obvious, yet still underrated “Blaire Witch Project”.

That being said for the budget this is impressive. If director Gareth Edwards had even twice the funds he had here (still lower than the average film of it's type) the mind boggles at what he might be able to produce.

Crafting the sfx himself, he cuts out the middle man who are largely responsible for most high grossing films for the last few decades, and that would be the special effects and CGI teams.

The Ray Harryhausen’s of today are more anonymous today then ever before, but as technology becomes increasingly available these guys who can already cook themselves what Michael Bay has to order.

Greater availability and cheaper tech will hopefully allow these animators and designers to take the reigns from their lessers and let their imaginations run wild.

As a portent of genre cinema to come “Monsters” is excellent food for thought even if its not there quite yet.

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