Follow-up is a monster mess
Monsters: Dark Continent (15)
Monsters was a surprise critical and commercial hit back in 2010 but having moved on to the big time with Godzilla reboots and Star Wars spinoffs, original director Gareth Edwards is a noticeable absentee from this very different sequel.
Tom Green — making his big-screen bow after working on TV’s Misfits — takes over behind the camera and co-wrote the story with Jay Basu (Fast Girls).
Set 10 years after the events of Monsters, Dark Continent sees the zones infected by alien creatures spread worldwide, with the focus on a US Army troupe attempting to deal with the threat of both the extraterrestrials and local insurgents in the Middle East.
Yep, we’ve moved on from the original’s inventive flipping of Americans trying to cross the Mexican border to the familiar bombastic ‘War on Terror’.
Much like The Purge, the filmmakers decide to take the first flick’s premise and go in a completely different direction; Alien-to-Aliens comparisons will also be made but don’t go in expecting full-on man versus beast shoot-outs.
If you thought the titular creatures were secondary in the original then prepare yourself for even worse here — the monsters providing nothing more than visual window dressing.
Sure, there are new beasties, including buffalo-like herds and small, jaw-snapping pests ripping dogs apart, but for all the impact they have the FX team needn’t have bothered putting in all of their hard work.
No, this is a war movie — pure and simple. It’s like Battle LA with a little more thought behind the story and more human-on-human conflict and emotion.
Johnny Harris (This is England ‘86) brings his usual intensity as squad leader Noah and the others in the cast, led by a raw and rage-filled Sam Keeley, convince as a group of wet behind the ears soldiers thrust into hell on earth.
The film’s highlight comes about half-anhour in when the team come under attack in a visceral, intense set-piece complete with lost limbs, blood, sweat, tears and buzzing flies.
Green and Basu deserve credit for refusing to sugar coat the effects of war — and giving credence to both sides of the divide — but they lost me the moment they present a school bus loaded with critically wounded kids. It’s an unnecessary, uncomfortable moment that takes things too far, especially in what’s supposed to be a sci-fi blockbuster.
The former does, though, show directorial promise with several inventive visuals, including a Jurassic Park T-Rex-like close-up of one of the aliens’ eyes peeking in a window and a tracking shot of motorbikes riding through the desert.
But it’s not enough to save this disappointing, frustrating follow-up that feels like false advertising at its worst.
A Monsters movie without Monsters? Why bother!?
Creature conflict The military go to war in this sequel