I saw this movie during the day at the Loft. I can't remember the last time I did that. Maybe never, I'm not sure. Because of that I was hoping I'd get to see it in the big theater but, alas, I did not. It would have made the experience a little more enjoyable because Monster is, at times, a beautiful movie.
Unfortunately the camera work doesn't balance out the stilted acting performances by the leads. There is something really uneven and unnatural about the male lead. It doesn't help that the actor's name is Scoot McNairy. Seriously, is that from a Pynchon novel? What a stupid name. I would've been more forgiving if this had been his first film, which I thought it was the whole time I was watching Monsters, but he has over forty credits on IMDb.com. Whitney Able was more believable in the female lead but still seemed really awkward.
Gareth Edwards could've overcome their performances fairly easily by just giving us less of them. I found I didn't need any back story on them at all. If it had been filmed with a more documentary style with the camera working just as a sort of eavesdropper following them on their trip back to the US I would have really loved this movie. I didn't need to know that Sam didn't want to go home to her fiance or what she was doing in Mexico. I didn't need to know that Kaulder had an illegitimate kid that doesn't know he's actually his dad. What do I care? It would've been enough for them to be two people trying to get home. It's the film's great flaw. Edwards does a great job with the camera, capturing some of the really amazing sections of Mexico. He imbues much of the film with a real Mexican vibe and feel.
Apparently this film was made for 15,000 dollars. I'm pretty amazed by that. The monsters look pretty good too. Edwards does a good job showing them to us in glimpses and sideways angles. They actually are scarier when we don't get to see the entire creature. Though in the pay off scene at the end of the movie the creatures still look good when we get a full view of them.
As with every monster movie I'm left with a lot of scientific questions. These creatures are huge, 100 meters tall they tell us, what are they eating? Blue whales are like thirty meters long and I'm pretty sure are the biggest animals that ever existed. Those things eat like 7000 pounds of krill a day. I suppose you could argue that, since they are alien life forms, that our sun's radiation does something to them to make them that big. I'm also not sure why they are so aggressive. They seem to like to pick up cars and throw them around. If they were eating the passengers it would make sense but they just sort of randomly kill people and leave them there to rot.
Obviously there are comparisons to be made to another recent alien invasion movie, District 9. I have to say that the movies have a radically different feel and have different intentions. I still think District 9, despite some of the issues I had with it, is an amazing feat of film making. I don't think Monsters is quite on that level. District 9 had a solid cast with many believable performances. The only actors I bought in Monsters were the Mexicans helping them get home, whom I assume were not actors at all. District 9 looked like it cost 100 million dollars to make while only costing thirty. Monsters looked like a movie that should've cost a million to make. Edwards did an amazing job with his budget. I'd almost be willing to watch a making of featurette on a dvd but I'm just not that kind of person. I'm impressed by Gareth Edwards and Monsters and look forward to what he might do next.