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MONSTERS: DARK CONTINENT
May 3, 2015
Unexpectedly, Monsters: Dark Continent was one of the most disappointing titles presented at the London Film Festival last October. It follows brilliant British sci-fi flick Monsters (2010), directed by then newcomer Gareth Edwards (who went on to direct Godzilla in 2014 and is already working on a Star Wars spin-off due in 2016), and it’s the perfect example of an unnecessary sequel; its level of failure reminds of flops like Jurassic Park 3, Basic Instinct 2 and Speed 2.
Considering that Edwards had a 500.000$ budget for Monsters, and all CGI effects were made with his laptop, some criticism for lack of action in the film was inevitable. To please the audience, Dark Continent stages the main plot in the Middle East. The evergreen conflict between the U.S. army and generic Arab insurgents gives director Tom Green the chance to show off badass soldiers, air-strikes, gunfights with automatic weapons, dying people and the likes.
Unfortunately, Green doesn’t strike as a particularly gifted action director; using the shaky-cam everytime someone fires a bullet is a trick we’ve seen a hundred times too many. Almost nothing remains of the strong character introspections and dynamics, and the thought-provoking (albeit subtle) alien presence seen in Edwards’ original feature.
Ten years after Andrew and Samantha’s journey through the “infected” Mexican area, the aliens have spread to the sandy Middle Eastern countries, where the U.S. are engaged in combat with the locals. As more soldiers are being drafted to face the increasing menaces, Frankie (Joe Dempsie), Michael (Sam Keeley), and their bromantic macho friends decide to leave the squalid suburbs of Detroit, and give purpose to their lives by joining the army.
Their experience in the theatre of war is shocking and painfully eye-opening; the threatening presence of huge tentacular monsters (constantly bombed by American jets) adds to the level of danger and violence in the area. Set for a desperate rescue mission, the group of friends, led by war-junkie official Noah Frater (Johnny Harris), finally realises that Detroit wasn’t too bad after all.
The plot unfolds in the most predictable way; if you’ve seen Battle Los Angeles (2011) or Black Hawk Down (2001), expect nothing different (apart from the herd of roaring aliens in the background). You might find some amusement in placing bets on who will die next, but that only works if you can actually tell the characters apart.
Unlike Monsters, Dark Continent completely misses out on the opportunity for a revealing moment of redemption. Gareth Edwards’ film was a progressive metaphor of the immigration issue between Mexico and the U.S.A., with a militarised wall built alongside the border to keep the aliens from trespassing. The moral was that the so-called monsters were no different from us human beings: they needed enough resources to survive, and only attacked other creatures if attacked first (on second thoughts, they are clearly better than us human beings).
How timely and mature it would’ve been for Dark Continent to adapt this metaphor to the difficult relationship between the U.S. and the Arab world! It could have been a great message of peace, showing that the Middle East is not inhabitated by monsters but by fellow human beings. Sadly, the film never even touches the subject, preferring to rely exclusively on its warmongering mumbo-jumbo, undefined characters, pointless aliens, unbearable soundtrack and prosaic story.
Monsters: Dark Continent is in UK cinemas from May 1st