12 October 2010
In certain circles, this movie is all the hype. It was made for $15,000 with a crew of two, it's a science fiction post-invasion (sort of) movie shot for next to nothing that wowed people at South by Southwest and supposedly is getting released in theaters later this month. (A link at the bottom will allow you to "rent" it from amazon.com and watch it now, which is what I did.) It's handheld, shaky, with a tight focus and lots of composited creatures in the backgrounds of wide shots, and it's hard not to compare it on a certain level to District 9. The two plots are pretty different but they share similar views of humanity and morality.
On the one hand, this is really enervating, at least as much so as One Too Many Mornings was, or the short that Blomkamp made before District 9, or for that matter Primer or El Mariachi or Slacker, because it shows what you can do with very little money, a little ingenuity and a good premise or story. Rumor has it Timur Bekmambetov is already producing some new epic science fiction film Gareth Edwards is writing and directing. Just think of that! You make a clever, deceptively simple film and you show off that you can frame a shot, write a scene, and direct some actors. You show you can handle action without overdoing it, you can handle romance without overdoing it, and you can keep the pace moving fairly well, and before your little feature film (made for less than the cost of a new car) hits theaters you're scoring deals and could maybe make a second, incredibly bigger film. That's how it can be done. That's inspiring.
On the other hand, as much as I marvel at its economical storytelling and low overhead, Monsters definitely leaves you wanting more. It feels a tad rushed in terms of events, and just a touch more languid than necessary in terms of pacing. It never feels boring, but some of the meditative moments in the jungle and before they leave Mexico felt a wee bit like scene-padding. I wouldn't have a problem with this except the film has roughly twelve or so scenes, that's it. The trek through the Infected Zone took two nights by my count, and one of those was spent wandering on foot and sleeping atop a Chichen Itza-styled pyramid. How did they move so quickly? Why did they move so quickly? The scenes that are there feel lived-in, thought-out, and real. But where the movie kind of shows its budget is in its limited scope of time. Honestly, I just wanted more story. Like, twice as much.
But otherwise, what I'm given, I'm pretty pleased with. As I implied above, the acting, the cinematography, the dialogue, the pacing, the action, the romantic chemistry even... it all works. The themes take a little while to get going, but by the end I'm pretty satisfied, and in fact they're so beautifully understated that I don't mind. Also, it's got (idealized) Lovecraft monsters, tentacles in the fog. When this does come to theaters, I think I'd like to go see it -- not all chunky and compressed and chugging on my computer monitor -- and see if it all holds up on the big screen.
Seen as an Amazon.com "Pre-Theatrical Rental."