The Legend of “Monsters”

“Monsters” –  Gareth Edwards

The back-story of “Monsters” should almost be its own little film. Writer, Director Gareth Edwards, a cast of two and a crew of four travel across South America shooting scenes where they can, when they can, with whomever might be standing around as their supporting cast. “Guerilla” Filmmaking in what can only be considered the purest sense, sans actual guerillas.

 There is a heart to the whole production story that is so unique and captivating.

 I can easily say this film is so beautifully shot.

Edwards comes from a visual effects background, and does have a fantastic eye. With the writer and director himself carrying the camera, each shot is framed and captured with a direct link into the creative vision. The landscapes ofSouth Americadid nothing but lend to the overall richness and Edwards was able to deftly capitalize on them repeatedly.

The look of this flick easily compares to any large budget “studio” film.

However, if you were to close your eyes and listen, you would realize the visual is what carries the abundance of the weight of the film.

Two cast members were on direct payroll, Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy, whom on a side note I personally applaud, working inHollywoodand keeping the name “Scoot”. The supporting cast was chosen by what appears to be open casting calls, which equaled standing in the middle of the street and asking the fruit vendor if they were “Open” to being in a movie.

The local, literally, off the street cast did an amazing job, and delivered more genuine performances than many that would consider themselves “Actors”. I am sure South America was awash with various passersby headed off to rehab once shooting was done, to keep in the spirit of theHollywoodintroduction.

Edwards had an idea, a concept and a vision. Unfortunately it felt like the talky part of that vision was secondary to how it looked.

A little about the story:

Space probe harvested ice from a moon, came back to earth, broke up, deposited life forms in a strip across South America, and six years later we begin our journey.

The “Infected Zone” is an area that is quite clearly labeled. There are many shots of our lead actors standing in front of or near a sign labeled “Infected Zone – You are Here – Monsters There”. Avoiding the area would seem quite simple.

Our hero, photojournalist Andrew Kaulder (McNairy) is in town to grab some shots of the beasts themselves, when he is pulled off that assignment to check on the bosses’ daughter.  Samantha, (Able) the aforementioned daughter was caught up a bit in a Monster versus Marine Versus Hotel drama.

Here is where there I discovered a vast difference between the look of “Monsters” and the logic of “Monsters”. Now mind – I can forgive a few pieces of thought that must be suspended for a little plot advancement. However, when I have to remove my entire brain from its little pan in my skull, there is a conundrum.

Kaulder, is now tasked with taking our little magazine heiress Samantha to the border.

Now, one ponders at this moment how much this little ladies father really cares for her.

Of all his resources, money and power, he decided to send “The Photographer” to save his little girl. Now, I mean not to speak ill of photojournalists the world over, I am simply saying that were my daughter in possible peril south of an inhospitable “infected zone”, I might send more than a digital camera and a train ticket.

There is an unspoken chemistry between the actors, probably because they are married in real life and a lot of that carries to film, however, there is no explanation early on why there would be any chemistry. If anything there is an aggressive attempt to cause strife between the two, which does not come off as much as “tension” as Kaulder is just a dick.

The writing feels a bit clumsy, attempting more so to underscore the visual story. Its cinema, its a visual experience, however its not so visual it looks more akin to vacation photos: “My Horrific Summer InHonduras; with Monsters”.

So, after multiple pieces of bad luck, each one accompanied by the now mandatory “Monsters are Here” sign – and the occasional pan away to helicopters flying in the distance, (another side note: perhaps having daddy rent one of those?) we find our heroes in the “Infected Zone”. I am not worried about spoilers, because if at some point from opening titles to ending credits you did not already realize they would eventually be there, then you are unable to read my printed text.

The movie progresses, with what feels like one cockeyed reason to take the next step after another, with some possible subtext on immigration, cultural awareness and more than one awkward scene of vulnerable teen like angst. 

I am making light of a very ambitious project, and being a non fan of “Hollywood” as it sits, and the sameness they crank out, I enjoyed this flick for being different, to a point.

It was good. With a little help on the writing, it could have been great.

There is a moment, at the end of the movie that carries a shot that has so much heart it moves you. In that moment, that captivating few seconds, you can feel Edwards’s intention, his desire, and ultimately in that shot you can see the movie he wanted to make.

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Published in: on May 27, 2011 at 3:05 am  Leave a Comment  

To Critique the Critic

There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.Audre Lorde

I am not a filmmaker. I am not a critic. I may spend some energy “critiquing” a film, (admittedly, very little energy) but all that makes me is a fan with internet access.

I never view a flick for free, number one no one ever offers, number two I think one major element of a film is “Was it worth it?”. Where does it fall in spectrum of preferred avenue of viewing? Worth shelling out the bucks to see it on the big screen? Better to wait and support your local video store with a reasonably priced rental? Or, is it relegated further down the wactchability food chain that a cable viewing will be just fine?

Now, sometimes there is a movie that is simply unwatchable, so unwatchable that if someone offers you money to view; negotiate a higher payment. Of course, this is said knowing there is an audience for virtually every horrible idea ever committed to celluloid.

I think there are elements that influence you in regards to a film, elements that are as important to the viewing as the film itself.

Was the flick seen in theater? How full? What kind of showing, mixed or did you catch the Friday night PG13 crowd?  Did you see it at home? Alone? When you sat down to watch the flick did you sit down to watch or did you sit down to critique?

Every film should be watched. First and foremost you should experience your viewing. Even horrible films had a dedicated cast and crew trying to create something, so you should at least be willing to try and lose yourself in the story before you pull your head up and declare it crap.

Oh, and crap some of it is. Far too many times I will watch a flick and wonder exactly how the hell did this ever see the light of day. Wonder what happened in the creative process where NO ONE was willing to just pause and wonder aloud “I’m sorry, but we all realize this is shit right?”

I have grown into the opinion that most “professional” critics lost their way long ago. I think that once you are paid for your opinion, your opinion becomes skewed, your prism becomes a little shadowed and hesitant.  Unintentionally, but once it is your job to be opinionated, you cannot help but be overly opinionated.

When you sit down to critique a film, you forget why you fell in love with film in the first place. To go on a journy, being taken somewhere outside of the bounds of reason. To be challenged, being reminded the world is larger than you. Or sometimes, all you want is something as simple as enjoying the idea that toys become animated when your back is turned, and keep watch over their own.

Published in: on May 25, 2011 at 7:10 am  Leave a Comment