The film industry is regularly slammed for producing too many sequels and not enough fare based on new, original, ideas. But, how can you blame them? Why would you not want to try and repeat/build-on your successes?
Let us say you made a movie ostensibly about monsters (aliens, really), but much more about a guy on a journey. The movie asks interesting questions, does solid work on a small budget, and shows that you can make a monster movie without showing all that many monsters. The director of the movie, his first big screen film by the way, does well enough that he is next handed the keys to the biggest monster of all time.
Why would you not want to take another trip to that well?
The obvious answer, of course, is that you no longer have Gareth Edwards at the helm, but rather as an executive producer. Nor returning cast, nor much in the way of story that would really cause this to need to be a sequel (although I think this last thing may be beneficial, but I will get there later).
The results here with “Monsters: Dark Continent” are less than good, and assuredly there will be a whole lot of folks coming out of the woodwork to point at it and suggest that the film industry should get out of the sequel business. Or, maybe there would be if this was a larger scale movie.
Directed by Tom Green (not that Tom Green) from a script by Green and Jay Basu, “Monsters: Dark Continent” is, as indicated above, only related to Edwards’ “Monsters” in that the same aliens are still on planet Earth. The movie takes place a decade after the original, features a new cast, and has a new location.
This time out, we’re in the Middle East. The United States still has human enemies there, and now a whole lot of monsters inhabit the area as well. The tale itself is the story of one group of soldiers caught between a rock and a hard place as the soldiers have to deal with human and alien enemies.
Essentially, you have a team of newbies who don’t know what they’re doing alongside a couple of seasoned leaders who wonder if they were ever quite so young, and a mission that deteriorates rapidly. It is nothing that everyone in the audience hasn’t seen before, Green doesn’t tell the tale in a particularly effective manner, and it fails to offer up terribly interesting characters.
If the film industry should be criticized for something, rather than it being sequels, it should be overuse of certain stylistic choices. “Monsters: Dark Continent” uses a significant number of shaky cam shots which, rather than enhancing the reality of the situation, do nothing but pull the viewer out of the action. At this point, rather than the technique adding to the documentary-esque nature of the story it does nothing but annoy and bewilder At times it is difficult to know what’s happening, and those tend to be the times when you would most want to be able to sort things out.
The shaky cam combined with the stock characters have the audience rapidly lose any desire to put in the effort to follow along with what’s happening. That is hugely unfortunate because the original “Monsters” had something to say about our world and this one might as well, but whatever it’s trying to get across is completely lost in the process.
The cynical out there would say that “Monsters: Dark Content” isn’t the last we’ll see of a franchise that shouldn’t exist either. They would say that we are doomed to get ever more degraded looks into the world Edwards first brought to the big screen.
I prefer to see it differently – I would welcome another “Monsters” film. Essentially, they have now established an identity where the stories can be set at a different time, different place, and with different characters than before. The only constant has to be that mankind is dealing with an alien invasion, or hat said invasion is happening while mankind deals with something else. There are, assuredly, interesting tales to tell about such a world. After all, so many stories in the vein already exist. “Monsters: Dark Continent” however, isn’t that interesting – it needs depth that simply isn’t there.
“Monsters: Dark Continent” opens in theaters on April 17th.
photo credit: Radius-TWC