Monsters was one of those rare films that totally surpassed expectations; it made a conscious decision to explore further than its B-movie sci-fi roots, was a character study and critique of US foreign policy and was heartfelt, intelligent and hugely enjoyable.
Taking the political analysis of Monsters as its emphasis , Monsters: Dark Continent (this time directed By Tom Green) aims to be a war- torn Middle East set journey into the heart of darkness (the Joseph Conrad-recalling title is no accident). Unfortunately, in its attempt to explore the horrors of war , it reduces its attraction, the creatures themselves, to almost irrelevant background noise.
Monsters succeeded through constructing an interesting ‘what if?’ scenario then building characters within it – Dark Continent instead just adds aliens to a real world scenario (the Iraq/Afghanistan wars) as visual details with no real influence on the plot. As visual backgrounds they are stunning – one shot towards the end is nothing short of breathtaking – but the tangible presence they provided in Edwards’ original film is missing.
Furthermore, the film’s themes of the dehumanising effects of war are left underdeveloped; characters shout over a nu-metal soundtrack and impacts are shown in gratuitous slow mo. It’s fine, but we’ve seen this many times before in films and series such as Jarhead and Generation Kill. To make matters worse, none of the leads are anywhere near as compelling as the desperate love/hate couple of the first film.
It’s a shame that Dark Continent disappoints because a low-budget franchise focusing on the real-world ramifications of these alien’s presence would be a potentially fascinating prospect. Unfortunately, it appears that Monsters was a one-off.
Images: Vertigo Films