Directed by: Tom Green
Release Date: April 17, 2015
Rating: 4.00 stars out of 10
Review by: George Beremov
Scheduled for release on April 17 in the US, and May 1 in the UK, Monsters: Dark Continent is a follow-up to Gareth Edwards’ surprisingly well-crafted indie debut feature Monsters form 2010, that proved low-budget sci-fiers can be successful, too. While the latter was definitely a stepping stone for Edwards, who in 2011 was offered to direct last year’s Godzilla remake (and he did a great job with it), this sequel will hardly do its creator Tom Green the same favor, for the fact that the film simply fails to live up to its predecessor, let alone surpass it.
The plot takes place ten years after the events of the first movie, where ‘Infected Zones’ have now spread worldwide, and revolves around a group of young American soldiers, sent abroad to contain the monsters, as well as to deal with the insurgency that has begun in the area.
The inevitable comparison between Monsters and its sequel shows that they have two things in common – they’re both character-driven, and they’re both, well, lacking in monsters, which kind of contradicts with their titles and premises. But while that happened to be a winning formula for the original flick, it certainly doesn’t work for Dark Continent, due to the many shortcomings of its under-conceived script, and Green’s unfocused, heavy-handed direction.
Monsters: Dark Continent spends quite some time to introduce its protagonists to the viewers, which is supposed to help the latter build a connection and care for them later on in the film. Sadly, none of these characters turns out to be particularly memorable or sympathetic enough for that to happen, despite the director’s forced attempt to involve us in all of their personal drama during the first thirty minutes or so.
Probably the only thing the original was missing was more monsters. Instead of fixing that mistake in the sequel and make those the focal point of the film, the director decides to neglect them (again), and go with a more ‘human’, but not necessarily more engaging story. Therefore, Monsters 2 feels more like a war movie, rather than a proper sci-fi creature feature and that is likely disappoint everyone expecting to see some exciting, monstrous action, especially considering the movie’s 119-minute running time. Unfortunately, Dark Continent feels a lot longer than it already is, as it has more than a few either pointless or overextended sequences that add no value to the story whatsoever. What really makes the whole experience even more underwhelming is the unnecessary and often distracting voiceover, and the countless pacing issues, which kill the little amount of energy the film possesses.
At least on a technical level, Monsters: Dark Continent succeeds to a certain extent. Set in the Middle East for a change, the movie has that gritty feel in the vein of Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, and Paul Greengrass’ Green Zone. Director Tom Green’s visual style is obviously inspired by those two, but that’s hardly a fault, since it works for the most part. Cinematographer Christopher Ross uses a pale, washed out color palette in order to add a further rawness to the visuals, and he definitely achieves that. The humongous monsters themselves are impeccably-designed, and the CGI work on them is polished enough to make them look as realistic as possible. Too bad those creatures are vastly underused, and also too lazy to cause any real interest at all.
Bottom line: Overlong, wildly uneven, and often tedious, Monsters: The Dark Continent fails miserably to improve upon the original, hence, to raise the bar its predecessor set higher, being on par with it only in terms of looks, but never in terms on plotting, characters, entertainment value, or overall impact.