Monday, June 29, 2015

No More Monsters For Me: A Review of Monsters: Dark Continent

Director: Tom Green.

Writers: Tom Green and Jay Basu.

Cast: Johnny Harris, Sam Keeley, Joe Dempsie, Parker Sawyers.

Monsters: Dark Continent is the sequel to Gareth Edwards' 2010 film, Monsters. The sequel takes place ten years after the first, when the threat has reached a global scale. The only thing the two films share is the fact that the monsters themselves play a minor role, and that they lack entertainment value. Other than that, the two films are essentially unrelated. In Dark Continent, writer/director Tom Green (not of "The Tom Green Show") revolves his story around a group of infantile roughneck soldiers from the ruins of Detroit who have been recruited to head to the Middle East for a special mission. Unfortunately, Green's own mission is not clear—is this a sci-fi action flick, a creature-feature, or a war film? Whatever the case, neither was executed well. Furthermore, the film's message is a bit foggy; it's hard to decide whether this is a pro or anti-America film, and also who Green's audience is—sci-fi nerds, war movie enthusiasts, or a pack of dim-witted bros. The latter being the more educated guess.

Actor Sam Keely is shown here as Parkes.

Dark Continent opens with newspaper headlines thrust at the screen, bringing the viewer up to speed; the headlines, like the film, are tacky and pointless, accompanied by violent imagery. Next, we are taken to Detroit where our protagonist, Michael Parkes (Sam Keeley), and his crew of low-life locals stomp the grounds on their final day/night before deployment. The Detroit scenes are stereotypical, overdone and uninteresting. The group of low-grade thugs run amuck through town, playing basketball, watching dog fights (dog versus creature) and doing hookers and blow. The scenes are set to cheesy rap and hard rock, making it all the more painful to endure. Even despite the early scenes, the film is irritating and awkward; its narrative (Parkes' voiceover) seems often misplaced, and the pacing is jumbled. While the acting is decent, the characters are insufferable; the macho antics grow tiresome, and the female “characters” are portrayed as either orifices or wombs, serving no real purpose. Even the feeble attempt at introducing a strong female Middle Eastern character goes nowhere, much like the plot. This film drags on for about two hours, leaving you feeling like the character Sergeant Frater does: “Why am I here? Tell me!”

The creatures add very little conflict in Monsters.

The most compelling aspect of the film is, unfortunately, the part that's given the least attention—the monsters. It's a shame, too, because they look really good! Kudos to the special effects team on this film, as they create different versions of the creatures that all look fantastic. We see large-scale, bug-like creatures, a pack of animalistic ones running across the desert like hyenas, jellyfish-type glowing creatures, and even an adorable winged baby monster. Cool as they are, these creatures don't serve a significant purpose in this story, besides adding visual interest. It's suggested, then, that the “monsters” of the movie's title aren't the creatures at all, but rather the humans. The first film gets this message across, but it isn't working in Dark Continent. Here, the writers are all over the place, and it's unclear as to whose side we should be on. This viewer had it in for the Americans from the first few scenes, but are we supposed to hate the American characters? Are they the monsters, or did the writers just created terrible, unlikable characters due to lack of ability? Either way, it doesn't serve the purpose of entertainment.

Monsters: Dark Continent is a film to be avoided. While potential for quality does exist within this movie, (some of the acting and special effects) it is buried so far underneath a terrible plot and awkward direction that it never has a chance to breathe. If you are a fan of 2010's Monsters, you will not enjoy the sequel. In fact, it seems ridiculous that Green uses the name, as it bares no resemblance whatsoever to the original. This viewer was not a fan of that film either, but at least the message in the story was clear. Dark Continent had a bigger budget than the first Monsters film, but the money spent on special effects left nothing for where it was needed most—writing and editing.

Rating: 3/10 The creatures saved the film from receiving a 1/10.

Some of the creature effects can be seen in an earlier trailer, here:

Monsters: Dark Continent First Trailer

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