Few are given the opportunity to view their comfortable lifestyle from the jaded lens of someone far less fortunate. However, if given that chance, it can be one of the most eye opening experiences an individual can experience. By living in one environment or “bubble” it becomes incredibly easy to forget about other cultures and people groups and their particular struggles; what is important or a necessity for one people group could very easily be an extravagant luxury to another. This becomes a major theme running through the heart of Monsters a 2010 British alien movie that follows two people as they attempt to cross the “Infected Zone” located in Mexico in order to head back to the United States. The movie struggles in certain areas, however it presents a common movie trope with both familiar sci-fi elements as well as a unique slice-of-life type of story for how people cope and co-exist with aliens (Similar in that regards to District 9)
six years prior to the start of the film, we are informed that a probe sent out by NASA returned with alien life clinging to it. The probe crashed over south America. In Monsters, Andrew is a photographer. He’s in Mexico attempting to capture photos of the alien “Monsters” that have made half of the country their home. He finds out that his boss’s daughter, Sam, is in the same vicinity as him, and he is then told to get her safely back to the states. That, however, is easier said than done. After losing Sam’s Passport, Andrew decides to personally accompany her via the land route to the states, which leads them directly through the infected zone. As they find themselves in increasingly dangerous situations they’re forced to deal with various emotions, none of which the audience is clued in on entirely. We are observing broken and scared people whose lives we know very little about. That is not a bad thing; we don’t need to know everything about Andrew and Sam to relate with them. We become content to sit back and watch two people with familiar problems face extraordinary obstacles.
The biggest complaint against this movie is the pacing. Those that hated it hated it because “nothing happens”, which is entirely unfair. It’s certainly no Independence Day, but it doesn’t intend to be. While most audiences expect a good fight when dealing with alien lifeforms on film, this is quite simply two people trying to get through a dangerous zone without seeing the monsters, if possible. All the guides that are hired to lead them are apprehensive about the trip due to the time of season. It becomes apparent that these giant, squid like aliens are as intelligent as any other animal on earth. They worry about migrations and attacks just as a camper would be worried about bears. It’s fascinating seeing a world adjusting to a new set of life forms (far larger and more dangerous than any other) that are as predictable as any other animal. What we’re treated to, instead of an action film, is a short look into what types of struggles would be prevalent in a world thrust unexpectedly into this situation.
While it certainly isn’t the most action packed film, it truly is incredible for how little was spent making it. With an $800,000 budget, the minds behind Monsters (Primarily Writer/Director Gareth Edwards) used easily accessible cameras and editing equipment to weave together a beautiful piece of cinema. It becomes a little heavy handed in it’s message about seeing the world through other eyes at points, but it’s nothing to dismiss the whole film over. Monsters shows that with determination and drive, true talent can be put to great use. The overly simplistic plot works well with the type of story it tells. In the film, the monsters are hundreds of feet tall, organic squid-like towers of bio-luminescence. But it begs the question; what are the real monsters in our time and culture?