Take the following moments to picture this. . . A science fiction film in which literal monsters, terror and intensity are replaced with metaphorical representations of present day issues both social and political. Now, place two rather unlikeable people into the mix and observe them as they trot about a "treacherous" land and discuss such themes as "love" and "identity" as they occasionally become frustrated with one another and toss subtle, tender gazes back and forth. Sound like an entertaining foray into sci-fi? Yeah, didn't think so. MONSTERS is one of those flicks that I just don't get. All of the hype, all of the acclaim, all of the positive reviews--to all of that I simply say, "Really?"
The so-thin-it's-nearly-invisible narrative involves a young woman and the man charged with escorting her back to her father. During this prolonged escort mission, the soon-to-be-couple encounter. . . Well. . . Nothing really. You'd think actual monsters, but no. The film's title creatures are only given about five minutes of actual screen time. The rest of the feature's length is built upon bare-bones dialogue combined with obvious improvisation, various scenic shots, and the mere possibility of an alien attack--that's right, no actual attacks outside of some vague imagery.
If there's one big, gaping, gnashing issue that I have here, it's that--as I hinted at above--the "monsters" themselves are reserved as a minor plot point instead of the main focus. If you're going to call a movie "MONSTERS", you damn well better deliver on it. Only during the incredibly brief climax are we given any actual view of them. Before this, only extremely minimal glimpses of the creature's body are given, as well as a short, night-vision tease during the film's introduction. I understand that the entire utilization of the term "monsters" was to define a metaphorical element and not simply a literal one, but director Gareth Edwards has failed on that count as well. 99% of the picture is devoid of any violent content, thus, the depiction of "who's really the monster here--us or the beasts we face?" becomes utterly lost. Instead, the film manipulates sequences into downright tension-less moments of minute monsterdom and incredibly dull scenes of the lead protagonists discussing and pondering the current events--despite the fact that they have nothing relevant to say; nothing you haven't already had dragged across your eardrums. This all makes for an incredibly pretentious watch as the focus isn't placed upon harrowing, creative, or entertaining storytelling; it's placed upon making a point bereft of anything new to say. Again, it feels like all of these recent imitators of DISCTRICT 9 all want the glory and awe which it garnered, but they're completely negligent as to what made it such a powerful science fiction epic. It was a statement, a love story, and a brilliant idea all melded perfectly together into a cohesive whole. MONSTERS and BATTLE: LA alike have simply taken concepts of which they thought were the driving force of said film, and replicated it without any true originality, understanding or heart.
For what it is, however, MONSTERS does supply some nice, brightly lit cinematography on its exterior locations as well as some moody mist-coated shots as well. Set quite well against this are the digital effects which encompass the near entirety of the military vehicles (both operating and wrecked), as well as the octopus-looking monsters themselves. Sadly, while they were well-modeled and lit, nothing about them cried ingenuity; instead feeling like a combination of other, better ideas. Even the "whale-call" it makes is reminiscent to the cry of HALF-LIFE: 2's Striders (except y'know, in that game it's an intensely foreshadowing sound of doom).
MONSTERS is one of those pictures that many a typical critic might latch onto due to its ostentatious presentation, but I'm in the category of simply calling it as it is. The film's themes and messages are monotonous and poorly displayed, the science fiction nearly absent from the entire script, and the love story forced and unrealistic. This is the kind of project that might have worked as a ten-minute short film, but as it is, MONSTERS is simply a big piece of indie-hype which fails to deliver in nearly all categories.