There are so many science fiction efforts nowadays that get lost in all the special effects. Many filmmakers end up forgetting that having a foundation in the real world can be your biggest asset in winning fans over. “Monsters,” directed by Gareth Edwards, avoids many of these problems, inserting viewers into an incredibly tangible world that sucks you in from the first frame.
If you follow underground, low-budget movies, then you’ve probably come across this highly buzzed about film. Even with a budget equivalent to a Toyota Corolla, “Monsters” looks fantastic and its visuals mirror Neill Blomkamp’s masterpiece, “District 9.” Without being gimmicky, the film does a fantastic job paying homage to other great films, while managing to stay unique.
Following the journey of two people traveling through Northern Mexico in order to get back to the U.S., “Monsters” mixes a deep drama with slick sci-fi aliens. In the film, aliens come to Earth and inhabit the abandoned wasteland of Northern Mexico where they clash with American and Mexican armed forces.
Many scenes within the film seemed so real and unscripted, I felt as though I was a part of the group documenting their adventure. For that, I applaud Edwards.
With all of my praise, “Monsters” wasn’t without its problems. There was never a real sense of danger, even in the film’s most tense scenes. While the characters travel through the infected zone, they never once appear to be on the verge of death.
Now for something that may shock you. Despite the film’s title, you rarely see any monsters. I understand the plot is mainly character-driven, but this technique only works with the right film material. This movie is not “Jaws,” so there is no real need to create fear in that manner.
The script called for the story to be pushed along by the male and female leads. If this movie had a bigger budget, more well-known actors might have taken the lead roles. However, the characters of Andrew and Samantha were perfectly portrayed by newcomers Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able.
McNairy plays Andrew to the best of his ability. Everyone can imagine an Andrew in their respective lives and again Edwards brings the script back to Earth because this character is realistic. The audience does not get lost in his star power or his super good looks. Instead, they see a guy with faults. Over the course of the film, the development of his character really makes the movie that much better.
The film has become one of my favorites of the year thus far, and in my opinion, people need to see “Monsters.” While some will not like the pacing, I know others will definitely find beauty in it like I did.