(This article was originally written for the coll3ctive blog on February 11th 2011)
I was off surrounding myself with Geeks last weekend (at the SFX Weekender – The missus and I – and seemingly every other participant – won tickets) and caught a showing of “Monsters”. I was intrigued by this because despite huge critical acclaim it never got shown at our Huge-Monstro-Cineplex because it didn’t star Martin Lawrence in drag (“Big Monsters House 3″, anyone?) – I was doubly excited because it was going to be introduced by the director Gareth Edwards who was going to do a Q&A session afterwards.
As it transpired, however, Gareth Edwards couldn’t make it. He’d been flown out to Hollywood for a top secret project he’d been given – turns out he’s got the gig as the director of the new Godzilla movie.
My seating position wasn’t ideal. The chairs were very low and as Monsters is set in Mexico, there are a fair few subtitles. Cue everybody comically half standing up every time subtitles appeared.
But, I digress. Monsters. The poster would have you believe it’s a big special effects and action epic, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The background is simple – a returning space probe several years back crashed on Earth in Mexico carrying some samples of extraterrestrial organic material. Since then, said organic material became huge monsters and most of Mexico (and certainly the border between it and the US) is now a quarantine zone. The story follows a war reporter trying to get the daughter of his boss safely back to US soil. Right, let the action begin, eh? There will be at least a couple of gunfights, some big explosions and the guy you just KNOW is going to betray the team is going to be ripped in half by one of these huge beasties.
Sorry, it’s not that kind of film. And it’s all the better for it.
I can’t say too much without spoiling it, but the pace is very different from what I expected. The monsters have been around so long that they’re almost part of the scenery – a very real threat, admittedly, but are as much of a novelty as wild bear attacks. What threatened to be a brain dead actioner turns out to be a character drama with two very convincing leads – the monsters in it just act as background, as scenery almost. Almost in the same way that many films are set against the backdrop of World War 2 but don’t actually have any war scenes in them.
Don’t get me wrong, there are monsters in it – and they’re excellently realised too – and on a stupidly low budget, apparently – but they’re not what the film is about. They’re a metaphor for something else, which will become apparent if you watch the film.
So, despite not watching it in its optimum surroundings (big screen cinema with fancy sound system), I thoroughly enjoyed it. Although, as a word of warning, many others didn’t. They were clearly expecting the F15 jet explodorama that I was frankly relieved it wasn’t. Be warned.