Monsters Dir. Gareth Edwards

[Magnolia Pictures; 2010]

Styles: sci-fi
Others: District 9, Jurassic Park

Some spoilers are more welcome than others. While few readers like it when a review reveals a surprise twist or the otherwise uncertain outcome of a movie, many would find it worth knowing whether a film about battling with gigantic aliens — a film named Monsters — is even the slightest bit scary. So, SPOILER ALERT: one would have to be a tremendous pussy to find Monsters at all frightening. I can’t even promise you’ll get a raised pulse.

It’s not that Monsters doesn’t have the necessary elements for a thrill-ride. A seasoned photojournalist (Scoot — not Scott, Scoot — McNairy) is threatened with the loss of his expense account if he doesn’t get his publisher’s prodigal daughter (Whitney Able) out of Mexico and back home to her fiancé. Problem is, creatures from another planet landed there about a year ago, turning the northern half of the country into a war-zone one isn’t advised to enter. Predictably, passports are lost, boats and planes are rendered unavailable, and the duo find themselves with no other choice but to travel directly through the restricted area. After all, sitting on their butts and waiting for the situation to improve wouldn’t make for much of a movie.

Considering these contrivances, you’d assume Gareth Edwards, an acclaimed visual effects coordinator making his directorial debut, planned to justify them with a riveting adventure. But all his efforts appear to have gone into finding authentic locales and crafting the admittedly exquisite CGI; the action sequences themselves are little more than Jurassic Park retreads, right down to the crushed cars and battles over a flashlight. Edwards doesn’t seem to realize you can have fun with the way a movie moves, as well as how it looks.

With the film’s vague references to border relations, Katrina, government-driven misinformation, and zeitgeisty such-and-such never really cohering into an actual metaphor, it’s up to Monsters’ leads to keep us invested in their story. Sadly, their B-movie charisma can’t even hope to justify a climax so absurdly maudlin I’m once again attempted to reveal it for your own good. Seriously, sometimes spoiler is just another word for “warning.”

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