Tuesday, March 17, 2015

aaahh!!! real monsters

Remember five years back when the then unknown bedroom director Gareth Edwards made his lo-fi debut with the fantastic Monsters?

A film so simple yet so affecting in it's telling of a tale of two lost souls journeying thru' a Central America overrun by lumbering Lovecraftian creatures who'd accidentally arrived on Earth via a crashed satellite.

Basically it was one of the best (and most realistic) on-screen love stories for years.

And it just happened to have huge monsters in it.

Jump forward four years and Edwards' career has gone from strength to strength, not only did him manage the impossible by making an actually halfway decent western version of Godzilla but he's also been given the keys to the X-Wing-centric Star Wars spinoff Rogue One.

Jealous much?

Well all this cinematic success and audience popularity means that he's had to leave his original big screen baby in the hands of another for it's long awaited sequel.

Unfortunately the hands chosen weren't all soft and lovely like Fairy Liquid fingers but sinister and sausage-like.

With dirty nails.

And made from wood.

Ladies and gentlemen I give you.....

Monsters: Dark Continent (2014).
Dir: Tom Green.
Cast: Johnny Harris, Sam Keeley, Joe Dempsie, Sofia Boutella, Kyle Soller, Nicholas Pinnock, Parker Sawyers and some monsters but only occasionally and then just out of shot in the background.

Serious film, serious poster, serious font, serious lack of imagination.

Beginning in a depressingly dull Detroit - lots of shots of skinny teens playing basketball, sitting on street corners and skulking about calling each other 'Nigga' and 'muthafucka', you get the idea - ten years on from the monsters first appearance, the overly earnest Michael (Keeley, all cow eyed and wobbly lipped and looking like a drug addicted Ernie from Sesame Street) has decided to join the army because, and I quote:

"it’s better than dealing crack."

This, my friends is as subtle as the movie gets.

It seems that the films titular creatures have decided that they'd be much more socially relevant if they moved to the Middle East for a bit in the vain hope that the Americans will turn up and upset everyone whilst trying to 'help' the locals with a problem that frankly doesn't concern them.

Yeah like that would happen in real life.

Anyway after a rap-scored drugs, sex and drink montage our hero, alongside his 'homies' (no me neither), Frankie (the ex-partner of Makepiece, Dempsie from Game of Thrones) and new dad Shaun (Sawyers) are shipped off to the sweltering deserts of Iraqistan and into the arms of the tough yet deeply sensitive Sgt. Noah Frater (Fortitude's mad dad Harris).

You can he's sensitive by the way that in-between his job as a sniper he phones his wife so he can hear his daughter breathing as a single tear drips down his cheek.

How can one movie have so many feels?

War might be hell but at least there's a chance of a bullet to the head to end it quickly...this goes on for hours.
After a fantastically ham-fisted (and embarrassingly cloying) scene where the team bond in a dust-filled backstreet whilst coming to see that, gulp, these dirty foreigners are people too our heroic boys in khaki are sent off on a dangerous mission to rescue some people from a slight and quickly glossed over danger somewhere in an insurgent held bit of desert.
Cue long shots of the boys - still calling each other 'Nigga' and 'muthafucka' - driving about in dust clouds as stringy plasticine space horses run passed them in an amusing manner.

Luckily something exciting happens (finally) when one of their vehicles hits a roadside bomb, quickly dispensing with half of the cast.

Unfortunately seeing as:

A. They're all dressed the same.


B. They all act the same.

We have no idea who's dead and who's alive.

But to be honest by this point I really didn't care, I just wanted some monsters to turn up and do something.


But Ashton, I hear you cry, perhaps man is the real monster here.

And if I'd sat down to watch The Hurt Locker or American Sniper I might agree.

Only might mind you as I'm in one of those moods.

"Look at the dog!"

There's no time to argue tho' as those pesky insurgent types have the squad pinned down with heavy gunfire leaving our hard-hatted heroes no choice but to leg it to the nearest building in the hope that help will arrive before they've all been shot.

Or in the case of the team medic died of dehydration due to crying at the death of a comrade.

You see war isn't a game, it's hard and tough.

Eventually only Michael (due to his top billing) and Frater (due to having the same style of beard as the locals) are left standing.

Well I say standing but actually mean tied to a chair by the filthy foreign types.

You can tell these are bad men because they wear western style fashions (by that I mean shirts and trousers not that they're dressed like Roy Rogers, tho' that might have brightened the movie up a wee bit) and carry guns.

But more importantly they seem to have this totally crazy idea that the Americans, who've turned up out of the goodness of their hearts to risk their lives blowing up schools, farms and hospitals in an attempt to destroy the monsters are somehow making things worse.

I think that there may be a bit of political commentary there but not too sure.

I mean are they comparing the soldiers to monsters?

Or the insurgents to monsters?

Or are the monsters really monsters?

It's all too clever for me.

Talking of monsters one actually does turn up at this point (we don't see it tho' only hear it as it attempts to have sex with the building the duo are being held in) which not only gives Michael and Frater a chance to escape on a couple of motorbikes but another opportunity for the viewer to enjoy even more shots of vehicles driving passed shit that the Americans have destroyed in an attempt to keep the monsters at bay.

Including, quite subtly a school bus.

I think that must have been an important metaphor for something seeing as it has the effect of making our heroes gaze meaningfully into the middle distance for a few minutes as some big blurry shapes wander passed in the background.

"Laugh now!"

Will Michael and Frater complete their mission before the films subtle emotional content totally overwhelms them?

Will the movie ever get interesting?

And will there be any females characters of note turning up at any point that have either dialogue or clothes?

I mean Sofia Boutella is top billed on IMDB but she's not turned up yet and I seem to have been watching this for about 6 hours so far.

Perhaps the director mad her grown a beard and I just haven't recognised her.

Who knows?

Is Boutella too juicy for you?

Imagine if you will a world where during the planning stages of Jurassic Park, Spielberg decided to throw out his action adventure script and rework the film so that the whole thing was told from the point of view of an employee of the park from his office in America, the dinosaurs would still feature but only on monitor screens in the background as our hero battled valiantly to get thru' to the island by phone to see if everything was OK after the storm.

Or if Aliens had been all about Gorman fretting away inside the armoured personnel carrier as he desperately tried to raise Apone on the radio in between ringing his missis to see if the cat had been fed and checking that the cannons were oiled.

Well imagine no more because that's effectively what Tom Green (not that one) has decided to do with Monsters: Dark Continent, a sequel so unnecessary and so misguided that the only reason that it got made was to create a backlash against Gareth Edwards himself for creating the original.

Yeah, fuck you Edwards, why couldn't you have arsed up Godzilla so you'd have had to come back with your tail between your legs and beg them to let you make this?*

I mean how selfish can one guy be?

It ain't easy being green.

Perhaps then we wouldn't have been subjected to the cinematic equivalent of a loud-mouthed, middle class sociology student drunkenly lecturing us on world affairs like we were all 12 years old.

Whilst at the same time leching over the female bar staff.

Because according to this movie all women are portrayed as either naked crack whores or (naked) moaning mothers.

I'm guessing that Frater's wife was naked on the phone and possibly doing a line of coke which is why she was so angry.

How very forward thinking of them.

It comes as a real surprise then that when Sofia Boutella (as the dusky Bedouin Ara) does finally turn up that she's fully clothed and fairly sympathetic.

She does talk in a funny accent and isn't subtitled tho' so she obviously isn't that important.

Maybe there's a deleted scene where she gets high on camel dung and gives Michael a reach round as the monsters spew forth florescent seeds into the night sky?


Fair enough then.

No fun, no mercy, no point.

File under a bloody big rock and forget about it.

God knows I'm going to try to.

*It's not a real tail by the way but a metaphoric one. Tho' he may have a real one I just don't know.

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