Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Of Monsters and Mooks
Monsters was pretty danged good. It was one of those flicks I'd hoped to catch at the theater when it came round, but circumstances decided otherwise. Streamed it on Netflix last night, and I've gotta give it three habanero martinis out of four (not that I've ever quite knocked down four habanero martinis during a flick, but that's another story).
A space probe carrying alien life forms has crashed to Earth, resulting in an "infected zone"—mostly northern Mexico—where the gigantic critters take root. A massive barrier separates Mexico and the U.S., and it really is intended to keep out aliens, which, in this case, are distinctly unpleasant—and quite spectacular when revealed, albeit with relatively little screen time.
Monsters is a story of survival, primarily focusing on two characters, photojournalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) and his boss's daughter Samantha "Sam" Wynden (Whitney Able). They're stuck in Mexico and, quite understandably, need to go elsewhere. Neither character is particularly likable from the get-go; they're both self-centered and somewhat egotistical. However, they're also very "typical" as human beings, and the actors succeed in portraying them for sheer believability. As the film progresses and the characters' predicament becomes more dire, they do mellow a bit and manage to become somewhat more sympathetic. By the time the end rolled round, I found myself hoping they'd reach their objective.
One very refreshing aspect of the picture is seeing ordinary Mexican people portrayed in a realistic and sympathetic light. They aren't just a bunch of stereotyped Latinos, as in so many standard Hollywood outings. Even the coarsest, most opportunistic of the lot are shown with some human depth, and our protagonists' interaction with them is absolutely believable. Given the low-key aspect of the monsters themselves, it was this type of detail that helped keep the movie moving and engrossing.
As for the monsters...yes, they have a small amount of screen time, but what you get is excellent quality. Forget the cheese here; these are creepy, chill-inducing critters that you just don't want to meet on a dark corner. The movie reveals their nature by what they leave behind—toppled buildings, wrecked vehicles, remnants of crashed aircraft, mangled human bodies. Though the monsters' appearance on earth is satisfactorily explained, the film retains an appealing aura of mystery from beginning to end.
Far superior to Cloverfield—almost certainly its nearest rival—Monsters may be a bit slow and a tad lacking in spectacle, but it makes up for that and more with its beautiful cinematography, lush setting, and an atmosphere laden with menace. Damned Rodan gives the film a very solid B.
On other fronts, things are moving with the upcoming divorce. Could be better; could be worse. In the end, I hope we both achieve satisfaction.
I do find myself increasingly bewildered, maddened, and saddened by the increasing polarization of people in this country, extreme enough even among people I know, to the point that friends are either no longer friends or their friendships are strained because of politics, religion, world views, what have you. I've never known it to be so extreme in my lifetime. My cynical, conspiracy-theorist side sees it all as a divide-and-conquer tactic by the powers that be (and the powers that want to be). The upside, I suppose, would be that more people than I've ever known are taking active interests in politics and social affairs; the downside is that so many are unapologetically exposing their stupidest, ugliest sides to the world at large, and I find it horribly depressing. "In diversity there is strength," we hear tell. Well, maybe. All I know is that all kinds of stupid does not necessarily constitute diversity.
So says the old man.