Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Review: Monsters

"I guess that's what they mean by 'Infected Zone'."
I've said before that it takes a lot to scare me, and more so than that, most horror movies will bring me a giggle quicker than a startle.

With that being said, I wouldn't presume to call Monsters a film that intends to scare, or provoke fear. I'll say the provocation of sense of wonder, awe, and misunderstanding in the film about said monsters is more prominent than anything else. Including the images Edwards gives us (doubling as cinematographer).

The Mexican landscapes almost like tapestries before our eyes.

Six years ago, while traveling back from Europa (a moon orbiting around Jupiter) a space probe breaks up reentering Earth's atmosphere over Mexico. Didn't quite make it to Cape Canaveral. Good, I'm about three hours away. Not before long, creatures of massive proportions with tentacles and lights under the skin start arising. Ergo, in possibly the most realistic event of the film, the Untied States scrambles, launches troops and quarantines off half the country of Mexico, declaring it the "Infected Zone."
We later learn a possible explanation for why they chose to label it "Infected."

We meet Andrew Kaulder, He's a photographer in Mexico working for an American publication. Before long, he get's ordered to bring the daughter of higher-up in the company back from Mexico and through to the United States. He's no escort, but when daddy calls, you coma-runnin'. Samantha Wynden is pretty, blond, full of shy grins and coated in anxiety towards the states. Do to the fact she's (trapped we feel) in an impending marriage.

Soon after traveling with him, she asks Kaulder how he feels about waiting around for something bad to happen so he can profit from it, he asks, "You mean like doctors?" I wouldn't say either/or is correct. But they have differing views on the American journalism in Mexico covering the Infected Zone, and the american military battling the creatures there and around it.

The movie isn't so much about the two characters, a sappy romance that could possibly build between, or their own personal problems. Edwards most definitely put the dramatic character arcs and silly over-the-top monologues in the backseat. If we see them eventually come 'round, their understated, altruistic and real. Coming from real people. Not actors in a monster movie. This is about the things that are happening around them as we watch that the monsters, are just maybe beings that have befell a fate here on earth, the absolute worst place in the Galaxy to be an alien. Even if those aliens are other humans.

Starting with the fact that the script was more of a guideline all of 12 pages, with blocking and achievements to be made, no dialogue written, and black for emotion and blue for action is one thing. Then moving that to a 3week shoot traveling in a van and using locals throughout 5 different countries as extras and supporting cast members. All gives us a credit to the filmmakers, all whopping 7 of them. 4 crew, 1 director and 2 stars.

So, that gave Edwards (with time constraints) about 8 months with 1 home computer and store bought software. He personally condensed over 100 hours of footage down to about 94 minutes and 250 visual effects shots in just over 13 months. Yes, 13 months I'll say. Like a baby. Edwards' baby, he made this with care, consideration, and knowledge.

All those stats equaling this movie is stunning, and shows the work a natural filmmaker who understand his goals, and adapts to survive the process, coming out on top with his vision intact.

And what a vision we get. While attempting to conceal certain details, the "monsters" prove to act more like fish, then aliens. A kind of Bioluminescence that we see underwater or insects on dry land. Even the mushrooms they spore onto the trees, mimic ours in a way. Full of multicolored lights they'd look good in a downtown night spot, or, at night in the jungles of Mexico. Greens and reds and pinks, blues and oranges. The whole spectrum. Flashing and responding to flash lights or camera flashes, searching for likenesses and other's like them. Jon Hopkins' ambient and touching score powers charges the scenes with subtle force. 

I understood why they were mostly a nocturnal species. Watching the dance of sugar-plum-aliens in the final moments of the film was certainly something I can say, I've never quite seen before. And was filled with all the glorious wonder of a child staring the tree in Rockefeller Center. A light show Pink Floyd would be proud of. Couldn't help but wonder if James Cameron is impressed or getting his lawyers ready. 

It's as great as it sounds, and though these, things, can be dangerous, one can't help but wonder what Mexico's jungles will look like in a few more years time. There's another sequel in itself. 

Together with District 9 coming just a year before this, we're now seeing the trend in over-the-pond directors of one kind or another take a peanuts budget and give us something truly special. In the age of $250 million plus dollars to get us summer blockbusters, I took a breath of fresh air at what truly dedicated people can do. (Albeit this being no blockbuster, but solid film making just the same)

Seeing this makes complete sense Edwards is geared up for the American remake of Godzilla. A thought that makes me very excited for different reasons altogether. The least being it's getting made again, and the most having had a connection with the great monster since the earliest days of my life. Toho (the original rights holders) and Legendary Pictures (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel, 300) came together to to finance and produce this film. Edwards said to the fans, "I made a movie called Monsters, yes I wanna do this the way it should be done." So do we Mr. Edwards. Cheers.

Munki out.

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