With the success of recent sci-fi films like District 9 and Avatar, there has been a trend with filmmakers to humanize (no pun intended) an alien invasion. From newcomer, Gareth Edwards, Monsters is a clever and very ambitious film that embarks on a journey of character introspection and social commentary. But despite its ambition, Monsters falls short of accomplishing what it sets out to do. Namely, create deep, interesting and believable characters that an audience would care about in a sci-fi character study especially when the film depends on it.
Monsters is set six years after an alien invasion where the aliens didn’t come to Earth in flying saucers to conquer humanity but rather in a strange organism. This organism has quickly spread through rivers to evolve into large transparent monsters. Set in central Mexico, a photo journalist is assigned to deliver his boss’ daughter from a chaotic landscape to the American borders. When the duo is denied transport to the states, they must travel through the infected zone to reach solace (see the social commentary). An interesting premise to say the least, I found this to be very refreshing from a typical alien invasion movie. But the creature creation (although really impressive) is not what this movie sets out to do. Its main focus involve this budding romance between the two protagonist, which greatly falls short.
The on screen chemistry between Andrew and Samantha played by Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able is lacking and extremely unbelievable. The filmmakers do a poor job convincing an audience of their romance or even remote interest in each other outside of subpar character building. I found no emotional attachment to these characters, not to say I didn’t feel sympathic to their plight, but to me they were just completely unlikable and tedious. When a film is dependent on their on screen chemistry, it is important that the actors actually have some. I found their performances to be very wooden and awkward and completely unsatisfying.
As I mentioned before, I did find the creature creation to be very well done and effective. The filmmakers do a good job in creating a very believable world where monsters live and breathe with human beings. Creating a sense of chaos and dismay is very important to this end. I applaud the ambition and vision but for all its creature creation and atmosphere, Monsters fall short in creating satisfying characters.