FWIW, here's the blurb I wrote and then parked on my hard drive, with a few minor edits:
Alien lifeforms have "infested" northern Mexico, and a caddish photojournalist has to escort his boss's daughter back to the United States so that she can marry her fiancé. Sounds like a premise with potential, no? Anyone looking for a cross between District 9 and It Happened One Night will be sorely disappointed, though. The conversations between our unlikely couple are banal in the extreme, and what few glimpses we get of the monsters themselves are nothing special (and there are, indeed, very few such glimpses, despite the movie's title). Oh, and the photojournalist character, in particular, is so stupid as to be annoying: he's been told to bring his boss's daughter safely home, so what does he do on the night before they're supposed to catch their ferry? He gets drunk, makes a pass at her, and then, when she goes back to her room without him, he gets even more drunk, sleeps with a complete stranger, and then acts surprised when his one-night stand steals his passport. Perhaps there wouldn't have been a story to tell if this character hadn't screwed up like that, but it's probably not a good idea to let the audience spend the rest of the movie thinking, "This guy deserves whatever he gets, now." As for the creature effects, they're nothing you haven't already seen in movies like The Mist. (The one genuine jolt comes not from one of the monsters, but from a woman pushing a grocery cart, if that tells you anything.) Writer-director Gareth Edwards may have gotten his start in visual effects, but to judge by what's on screen, he didn't have to call in all that many favours to get this movie made. And despite the giant wall we see on the American-Mexican border, there's no real political subtext to this movie, either. It's just kind of pointless in about every conceivable way.I have since been told that the budget was even lower than I thought, so I partly rescind the bit about not needing to call in all that many favours to get this movie made; obviously, quite a few people must have worked for free on this, just in terms of the acting or working the equipment or whatever. But there are still far, far fewer visual effects than you might have expected, given the director's pedigree and how the movie is being sold. You're mostly just stuck with these two people, neither of whom is particularly sympathetic.
Boy, do I disagree with pretty much everything you wrote here, Peter. I just saw this last night, and I thought it was outstanding - especially for a film made for 800K. I infer from your blurb that perhaps YOU were looking for a cross between District 9
and It Happened One Night.
Whether you were or you weren't, I think it's pointless and unfair to the makers of the film to compare Monsters
to an imaginary film you think you'd enjoy more.
As for the blunder of the main character, I loved it. It felt about as true-to-life as it gets. Waking up in a Mexican hotel room with a one-night stand, then stumbling outside while hungover is exactly
the kind of singular mistake that normal people in the world make when they drink too much. Yes it was stupid of him - but otherwise he demonstrated tremendous decency and unselfishness in the film - and yes, he paid dearly for his mistake, and did his best to recover from it.
What you seemed to miss in the film was the remarkable poetry of the imagery and the interesting blend of wondrous eyes-open patience with subtly mounting tension - I found this blend very unique and engaging.
There is a huge, obvious metaphor in the film about immigration/fear of the immigrant, which gives each sequence unique political subtext.
As for visual effects, you are repeating the same mistake I saw critics make with Children of Men
: many critics couldn't understand why that film cost 80 million and had so few visual effects -- but just because you can't pick out the visual effects doesn't mean they're not there. In fact, the best effects never feel like effects. There are hundreds
of effects shots in Monsters
, but they're so good, they don't feel like effect shots. Why do you think the production value was so rich and full? Do you think all those planes and helicopters were real? Do you think they built
all those downed aircraft, giant signs, and the huge separation wall? On a budget of 800K? Only because I have a much better than average eye for picking out effects and because I understand what's impossible on an 800K budget, I was able to see just how many effects shots there were in this film - they were everywhere.
And lastly, you seemed to completely miss the poetry and emotional significance of the ending, which is really what the film is about. The final scene was an epic achievement, even if it wasn't flawless. The film may not provide much cerebral information to dissect, but the aesthetic experience and emotional journey of these characters was deeply fulfilling for me. And the scene-to-scene directing and use of natural locations was phenomenal - absolute first class filmmaking.
I've never seen more accomplished with less money in a film.
Edited by Scott Derrickson, 14 March 2011 - 12:08 AM.