Magazine article Screen International

Monsters Dark Continent

Magazine article Screen International

Monsters Dark Continent

Article excerpt

Dir: Tom Green. UK. 2014. 116mins

In Gareth Edwards' near-homemade indie sci-fi hit Monsters, extra-terrestrial behemoths infested the tropical regions of the planet. The film was set in Mexico and was a road romance - surprisingly close to It Happened One Night in its heiress-and-reporter plot - taking place in the shadow of a global catastrophe.

The mash-up of science fiction and war film is more commonplace than the story told in Monsters, but there is a sense of escalation from the first film's study of small human foibles and wonders to the chaos presented here.

In this higher-budgeted (yet still economical) sequel, which had its world premiere at the London Film Festival, the action shifts to North African deserts and the genre template is the gritty, antiheroic war movie, with nods to Platoon, Jarhead and (especially) The Hurt Locker. Here, hapless GIs have to contest with IEDs as well as ETs.

The American military are deployed against the monsters, but also find themselves fighting local insurgents who resent both foreign presences in their homeland. On a botched mission to rescue a lost patrol, Sergeant Noah Frater (Johnny Harris) - an assassination specialist -- begins to spin out of control. Meanwhile, new grunt Michael Parkes (Sam Keeley), who has come to the war from the grimmer stretches of Detroit along with a tight-knit band of mostly short-lived brothers, realises the situation on the ground is crazier and less clear-cut than he thought.

Director Tom Green (who has worked on the UK TV series Misfits) and writer Jay Basu (The Dinsoaur Project) take over from Edwards, who has gone on to the enormously-budgeted Godzilla reboot, and tell another story set in the world established by Monsters, with different central characters (soldiers rather than civilians) and a different context. It has more and more ambitious monster effects, with astonishing and seamless insertion of giant unknowable tentacular things into arid landscapes. A helicopter's close encounter with a tentacular appendage is the equal of any effect in Godzilla, for instance.

It's also a much more male-centered film than the even-handed Monsters - women tend to have non-speaking wife/hooker/saintly native roles, while violent men agonise over their inner pains even as they lash out at everyone around them. …

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