Saturday, April 04, 2015

‘Monsters: Dark Continent’ is Another Angsty War Drama… But With Cthulhu Aliens!

I greatly liked the first Monsters movie back in 2010.  It was a beautiful, thought-provoking film which depicted the USA-Mexico border having been transformed into an “infected zone”, wherein Cthulhu-like aliens have surfaced and settled after a space probe crashed in the area.   This sequel, Monsters: Dark Continent, is set ten years after the events of the original film.  Another “infected zone” has emerged in the Middle East, and American troops are deployed to fight an all-out war against the alien monsters.  But aside from the alien monsters, American troops also have to deal with the typical armed insurgencies in the region (so it ended becoming a chaotic “three-way war”).  

The different setting and premise of Dark Continent from its predecessor gave it a very different tone, too.  For one, Dark Continent was action-packed.  It was also apparent from the cinematography and visual effects that it enjoyed a bigger production budget.  Most importantly, while the first movie was a thoughtful drama, this sequel is an attempt to be a thoughtful action-drama in the vein of American Sniper.  But the political theme allegorized in it is not as clever as its predecessor’s.  Besides, it felt like such themes are too worn-out at this point.  Still, though Dark Continent’s depth suffered from that – the first movie is definitely more thought-provoking – I still appreciated how the clichéd themes are uniquely portrayed by the fact that Cthulhu-like aliens are involved in the metaphor. 

The beginning and middle acts were truly engaging, although the weak last act exposed to me how derivative the movie really is.  I was just too entertained by the previous acts to notice the fact earlier.  When the narrative started slowing down, it gave me time to reflect, and I quickly realized how lacking the movie really is.  I think if it were a bit more action-heavy till the end, it would have distracted me from its flaws; I would have liked the movie more.      

Monsters: Dark Continent has its problems, but I liked it overall.  If one expects this to be as rich as the first movie, one will be easily disappointed.  But take the movie as it is – like I did – and it’ll be an interesting watch.

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