The giant monsters movie genre, at least in the most nostalgic terms, is nearly extinct. Sure, Peter Jackson’s King Kong was pretty good. And Cloverfield saw a good bit of success financially and critically. But it seems as if the movie-going public’s imagination is uncaptureable, by any good measure, by the idea of enormous, loud, dangerous creatures (Rush Limbaugh doesn’t count). But rumors swirling through the festival mills about an indie gem called, unceremoniously, Monsters held great promise for the movie niche. And, it seems, these rumors are well founded. Gareth Edward’s feature film is charmingly ethereal and, at times, staggeringly beautiful.
Much like 2009′s District 9, aliens end up stranded on our planet. But in Monsters, it’s our fault. A sample-collecting something-or-other returns to earth from a mission, but breaks up in the atmosphere over Mexico. After some time has passed, enormous squid-like creatures start to appear and, understandably, people get spooked. Especially the USA, prompting them to build an enormous fence along the entire US/Mexican borders. To keep the monsters out. Get it?
So the film’s not-so-subtle political message is, at its base, as annoying as Dora the Explorer. At one point, while several Mexicans are gathered around a camp fire discussing the disrupted climate of the area with two Americans, one of them actually points out that America’s walls are only helping imprison America. Another local mentioned that the monsters present no problem if you don’t cause problems for them. And that, I believe, is what they call liberal media. This may present as more of a problem for some than it is for others. I, personally, would rather hear about hot button immigration issues on NPR, right after their recommendations for which wines I should pay attention to this fall. However, if you’re not particularly sensitive to PSAs, it’ll be easy to look past.
Check out the rest of our Monsters theatrical review.
Monsters Blu-Ray is distributed by Magnolia. And like most Magnolia Blu-Rays, it’s packed with a whole lot of extra features:
- Audio Commentary by Gareth Edwards, Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- “Behind the Scenes of Monsters“
- “Monsters: The Edit”
- “Visual Effects”
- Interview with Gareth Edwards
- Interview with Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able
- New York Comic Con Discussion with Gareth Edwards
- HDNet: A Look at Monsters
- Digital Copy
The commentary by Edwards, McNairy and Able is often illuminating, and as always, it’s interesting to learn how things came to be. It’s apparent immediately the Edwards is an interesting man, certainly someone we should all keep an eye on. And the non-professional actors have some interesting input as well. Edwards also gives a solo interview in the extras, and the two actors share an additional interview, which runs twenty eight minutes.
There actually ends up being quite a bit of redundancy. With a bit more planning, these features could have been much more effective if they cut down on the subjects that they talk about two or three times. This is compounded once again when Edwards takes part in a discussion at Comic Con. Even so, there’s a lot of great information to be found here.
The “Behind the Scenes” featurette is humorous and informative. It gives an idea of how much of the film was improvisation (which is quite a bit). And of course, there’s a digital copy which can be downloaded through iTunes which is also an awesome bonus. The twenty minutes of deleted scenes are slow, and meditative. Taken out of the context of the film, they don’t seem to be that beneficial, or interesting to watch. All the bonus features are in high definition.
The Blu-Ray provides beautiful high definition to the locales Monsters takes place in. In a special effects film with such a small budget, you would think HD would be the enemy. But the result is actually quite beautiful. Detail for the most part is great and the special effects look superb. A couple night time scenes take a hit but day time scenes are clean and crisp. Overall, not a bad transfer.
But my favorite part of the Blu-Ray is the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack. I spoke a bit before about how Edwards takes his time building atmosphere tension. So much so that the scenes that do give us action become extremely satisfying. Well this HD soundtrack brilliantly underscores these efforts, effectively making bullets whizzing past a real thrill. This alone makes the disc worth a buy. It’s also incredibly immersive with perfect ambiance effects pulling you right into the film.
Monsters is a great film. Edwards is smart, and he took his time building up to the limited payoffs the film actually offers. He invests huge amounts into the atmosphere of his film. This yields some outstanding results. The feel of the film is otherworldly, exquisite, and exciting. Since Edwards created the visual effects as well, his directorial vision matches perfectly what you see on screen. And when he finally gives you a long hard look at the creatures, they’re enchanting. The decision to use non-professional actors, and avoid the over-used ‘found footage’ device so popular lately also prove to be solid choices that help the film rise above its peers. Backed by a great transfer and some worthy special features, Monsters is an easy purchase.
Movie Score: 4/5
Video Score: 4/5
Audio Score: 4.5/5
Special Features Score: 4/5
Overall Score: 4/5
Monsters was released on Blu-Ray on February 1st, 2011