The original Monsters came out the year after Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 and proved to be a worthy challenge for the top spot as politically charged modern sci-fi films. Both were very different. District 9 was a big budget, violent and visceral critique on apartheid. Whilst the original Monsters was a done on the very cheap subtle road trip love story that explored immigration. But both films resonated with political allegory and were fantastic in their completely different approaches. Now shortly after the release of Blomkamp’s third slice of sci-fi action social commentary Chappie, a follow up to Edward’s original Monsters movie has arisen (this time directed by Misfits director, Tom Green as Edwards was caught up over the filming schedule with Godzilla) and once again, the political commentary is palpable.
Monsters: Dark Continent is a war film and contains many of the tropes of the genre. It’s a completely different beast to the original’s lucid and tranquil road trip and in a lot of ways has more in common with Blomkamp’s style than Edwards’. It’s a violent, dark and visceral action movie that’s as likely to turn away as many people as it wins over. Gone is the love story from the original and sadly, so is much of the charm. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have its own beautiful moments. There are still sweeping shots of incredible environments and pervasive moments of surreal tranquillity amongst the chaos making it reminiscent of the original Monsters. But Green’s world has become a far more destructive place than Edward’s and there’s nothing romantic to warm our hearts. It is still a road trip. Only this time it’s a road trip through Hell on a journey akin to the Heart of Darkness. As it was with Apocalypse Now, Conrad’s classic is a clear influence on Green’s dark fable of war, where souls searching for the lost, inevitably risk becoming lost themselves.
Visceral and aggressive, Monsters: Dark Continent is the tonal opposite of the original. You might not enjoy it like you did Edwards’. But then you’re not meant to. This is a film that should stand on its own. It’s a hard slog, and a dark film. After all, the adjective’s in the title and whilst the Middle East conflict allegory may sound bombastic on paper, in the movie it works extremely well. It’s intelligent and provocative, the commentary is sharp and the character studies are haunting. In the absence of Gareth Edwards, Vertigo Films have found their new Frankenstein in the form of the very promising Tom Green. The result is a totally different film, but the monster he’s created is, as it should be, scary, ugly and disturbingly recognisable.
Monsters: Dark Continent is out May 1st