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New Release Review - MONSTERS: DARK CONTINENT

Sequel to Gareth Edwards' 2010 low budget sci-fi drama.



Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Tom Green

Starring: Johnny Harris, Sam Keeley, Joe Dempsie, Nicholas Pinnock, Kyle Soller, Parker Sawyers



"We've seen several sequels to sci-fi and horror movies transfer their action to a military setting; sometimes it works (Aliens), sometimes not (The Hills Have Eyes 2). Monsters: Dark Continent falls into the latter category."



Writer-director Gareth Edwards made an instant impact with his low budget 2010 debut Monsters, so much so that he immediately found himself in the director's chair for last year's Godzilla reboot, and is now involved in the new crop of Star Wars movies headed our way over the next few years. Despite its premise - a satellite crash lands in Latin america carrying alien spores that give birth to giant creatures - Edwards' movie was a low key character drama, focussing on the efforts of its protagonists to cross through an 'infected zone' to the US border. The immigration allegory was all too clear, but played out with subtlety, and the movie allowed us to fully invest in its characters' journey. Busy with much bigger projects, Edwards sits out this uncalled for sequel, and his absence is all too notable.
An opening sequence brings us up to date with a new development since the first movie - fragments of the satellite also landed in the Middle East, infesting the area with the titular aliens. Taking a 'better to fight them over there than here at home' stance, the US military is deep in an operation to destroy the creatures, but the havoc caused by their campaign hasn't endeared them to the locals, resulting in an insurgency campaign. We follow a bunch of army buddies as they leave the ruins of their hometown of Detroit (a location we're seeing in an increasing amount of movies lately) for the Middle Eastern front, where they wage a two pronged campaign against monsters and men.
The allegory of Edwards' original film is dispensed with here for a movie that doesn't even bother to cloud its subtext. The Middle Eastern country may be unnamed, but save for the rare appearance of monsters, this is basically an Afghanistan/Iraq war movie. 'Who are the real monsters?' the movie asks, and the answer is bluntly clear - the crudely drawn ISIS wannabe villains who pose a greater threat to the protagonists than the physical monsters, who are relegated to merely popping up at all too convenient moments to save our heroes from impending beheadings.
Sci-fi fans will feel cheated here, while war movie fans will likely find the monsters an unwanted distraction, but the movie's greatest weakness is that, unlike Edwards' film, we don't care about its characters, who mostly come off as a bunch of obnoxious jerks. We've seen several sequels to sci-fi and horror movies transfer their action to a military setting; sometimes it works (Aliens), sometimes not (The Hills Have Eyes 2). Monsters: Dark Continent falls into the latter category.



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