Monsters (2010 film)
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (September 2012)|
UK theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gareth Edwards|
|Written by||Gareth Edwards|
|Music by||Jon Hopkins|
|Editing by||Colin Goudie|
|Distributed by||Magnet Releasing
|Running time||94 minutes|
After a NASA deep-space probe crash lands in Mexico, extraterrestrial life forms spread throughout the U.S.–Mexico border region, leading to the quarantine of the nothern half of the country. U.S. and Mexican troops battle to contain the creatures, while a wall stretching along the American border ostensibly keeps the U.S. protected. The film begins with night vision footage of a U.S. Army patrol being attacked by an enormous tentacled creature, which is destroyed in an air strike along with the town where the encounter takes place.
Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), a young American photojournalist, who is instructed by his wealthy employer to get the latter's daughter, Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able), back to the U.S. from "San Jose, Central America." Andrew has no interest in being an escort but is pressured into doing so. He locates Samantha in a Mexican hospital, where she is being treated for an injured wrist. Samantha seems at odds with her impending marriage to her fiancé. The pair leave the hospital and board a train with the intent of leaving Mexico, but the railroad ahead of them is destroyed. They learn that if they do not leave the country within a few days, sea and air travel will be blocked for six months. With that deadline looming, Andrew and Samantha decide to hitchhike their way to the border.
Arriving at the port, they learn that the last ferry will leave the next morning. Andrew is forced to buy Samantha a single ticket costing an exorbitant price of $5,000, from a unshakable ticket agent. That night, they enjoy the local nightlife, but Samantha refuses to sleep with Andrew. Andrew instead sleeps with a local girl, who steals his passport along with Samantha's the next morning. Unable to board the ferry without the passport, Samantha is forced to barter her engagement ring in order to travel through the quarantine zone.
Their journey takes them across the Mexican quarantine zone. Initially they travel by riverboat, where they hear and partially see alien creatures along the way. Eventually, they are dropped off and transferred to a group of armed escorts who are to lead them overland to the US-Mexico border. While they are traveling in a convoy, it is attacked by large aliens. As the tentacled creatures begin to demolish the other vehicles in the convoy, the escorts guarding Andrew and Samantha abandon them to try and gun down the attacking aliens.
The sounds of battle soon come to an end, and Andrew and Samantha are forced to hide in silence as the creatures surround and inspect the remaining vehicles. After Andrew shuts off the light in their van, the nearby aliens ignore them. They instead destroy the remaining truck that had its headlights still on, indicating that light is of importance in some way to the aliens. When morning comes, it is evident that none of the guards has survived the ordeal, their bloodied bodies strewn across the jungle.
One of the corpses is that of a female child. On finding the girl he removes two camera lenses from his bag and then pulls out a coat from deeper in the bag which he uses to cover the girl and onto which he places a yellow flower picked from the jungle. There is nothing in this scene which shows him taking any photographs, possibly emphasizing how his view of the matter has changed since his earlier cynical comment that a photo of a dead girl would be worth $50,000. He salvages a pair of gas masks from two of the bodies before returning to Samantha.
They make a day's worth of progress before they spend the night at the top of what appears to be a pyramid with the US border wall close by. The next day, they arrive at a checkpoint nestled in a gap in the massive wall, but it appears to be unmanned. As they cross the abandoned checkpoint and explore a nearby ghost town, Andrew and Samantha realize the American border has been evacuated and the aliens have advanced into the United States.
After walking along an evacuation route, the two stumble across an abandoned gas station. Andrew calls the police and is informed they will be picked up. Andrew and Samantha phone their respective families. Andrew speaks with his son, becoming visibly emotional as he does so. As they finish their calls, a lone creature silently approaches the gas station from behind. Andrew fails to notice it as he lies on the concrete of the pumping station. It sends its tentacles into the store, setting off the typical door-chime. Samantha, thinking it is Andrew coming inside to join her, looks up smiling but quickly begins to scoot away across the floor, horrified. She hides behind a set of shelves as two tentacles explore the inside of the store, getting dangerously close to her several times. They soon turn their attention to a TV that is displaying the news, pressing the tips of the appendages against the screen as pulses of light run up their lengths. Realizing their attraction to the electrically-produced light, Samantha quickly unplugs the TV and the creature loses interest in the store.
The creature strides to the road beside the gas station as Samantha leaves the store to join Andrew. They both watch in amazement as a second alien appears and begins communicating with the first. Their communication appears to be more than simply vocal, as their tentacles interlace and pulse with light rhythmically. In this rare spectacle, the giant creatures no longer seem monstrous killers, but instead appear as gentle giants sharing a tender, beautiful moment. However, as quickly as they came, the creatures part ways, leaving Samantha and Andrew alone together as they wait for the military to arrive. As the convoy approaches the gas station, one of the soldiers hums Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries." Watching the creatures vanish into the night, Samantha tearfully declares, "I don't want to go home" and they share a brief kiss before they are interrupted by the military rescue convoy.
The film was devised, story boarded and directed by Gareth Edwards, who also worked as the visual effects artist. Allan Niblo and James Richardson of Vertigo Films work as producers on the production. The filming equipment cost approximately $15,000, with the budget coming in at "way under" $500,000. The film was able to be made on such a low budget due to the use of prosumer cameras to capture digital video rather than the more expensive 35mm film. Any settings featured in the film were real locations often used without permission asked in advance, and the extras were just people who happened to be there at the time.
Edwards had the idea for the film while watching some fishermen struggling to haul in their net and imagining a monster. He had the idea to make a monster movie set "years after most other monster movies end, when people aren't running and screaming, but life is going on" and "where a giant, dead sea monster is considered completely normal." He pitched the idea to Vertigo Films, and they asked Edwards to watch a film called In Search of a Midnight Kiss which starred Scoot McNairy and had been made for $15,000. As the chemistry between Edwards's two characters was so important, he wanted a real couple, and luckily McNairy's then-girlfriend (and now wife) Whitney Able is an actress, and joined the project.
The film was shot in Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Texas in the United States, over three weeks. For about 90% of the filming the crew comprised seven people transported in one van: Ian Maclagan (sound operator), Jim Spencer (line producer), Verity Oswin the Mexican 'fixer', Edwards, a driver, and Able and McNairy, the stars. As the low-budget production didn't run to a camera dolly, Edwards made do by sticking the camera out of the van window, cushioned on some bundled-up clothing.
As most of the extras were non-actors who were persuaded to be in the film, their action was improvised. "As a result of all this random behavior, the idea of scripting the film went out of the window. Instead I had a loose paragraph describing the scene with just the main points that had to be hit; how the actors carried this out was left up to them." Each night during the shooting period, the editor Colin Goudie and his assistant Justin Hall would download the day's footage so the memory sticks could be cleared and ready for the next day's filming. While new footage was being captured, the previously captured footage was being edited back at the hotel in which the production team was staying.
Back in the UK, Edwards had over 100 hours of unique, ad-libbed footage (rather than repeated takes of scripted scenes) to edit into a coherent film. Edwards did all the special effects himself using off-the-shelf Adobe software, ZBrush and Autodesk 3ds Max. The first assembly was over four hours long, but this was trimmed to 94 minutes after eight months of editing. Once the film was locked, Edwards had five months to create all 250 visual effects shots, a process he undertook in his bedroom. "[I was] churning out about two shots a day, which was fine until I got to the first creature shot. Then suddenly two months went by and I still hadn't finished a single creature shot; it turned out to be the hardest part of the whole process." Due to time constraints, the sound effects had to be produced before the special effects were undertaken. Edwards claimed that the advances in computer technology in recent years made it possible for him to create the films visual effects on such a low budget; "You can go in the shop now and you can buy a laptop that's faster than the computers they made Jurassic Park on".
Monsters premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival, as part of the SX Fantastic screenings, on 13 March 2010. On 17 March, Magnet Releasing acquired the rights for the North American distribution. In May, the film was screened at the Cannes Film Market. Monsters had its UK premiere as part of the 64th Edinburgh International Film Festival, on 18 June 2010. The Los Angeles Film Festival also held two screenings, part of the Summer Showcase, on 23 and 26 June. The film's theatrical release took place in Russia on 30 September, distributed by Volgafilm. Magnolia Pictures released Monsters in U.S. theatres on 29 October 2010. The Canadian theatrical release was on 5 November, after DFilms acquired the rights on 24 May 2010.
Monsters received generally positive reviews from critics, with the film garnering a 71% "fresh", or 7.1/10 rating, on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes with the site's consensus stating, "It doesn't quite live up to its intriguing premise, but Monsters is a surprising blend of alien-invasion tropes, political themes, and relationship drama." Roger Ebert awarded the film three and a half out of four stars and said "Monsters holds our attention ever more deeply as we realize it's not a casual exploitation picture." Peter Bradshaw reviewed the film for The Guardian and gave it four stars out of five, described the film as a "terrifically exciting sci-fi movie" and concluded that Edwards "channels the upriver nightmares of Herzog and Coppola, with a strong streak of Spielbergian wonder at the sight of two aliens apparently dancing". The film ranked #3 on Moviefone's Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of 2010 list. Filmmaker Kevin Smith is a fan of the film, saying on his Podcast Hollywood Babble-On "It will appeal to everything about the child in you that used to like the Four o'clock movie."
According to Box Office Mojo, "Monsters" grossed $4,242,978 from worldwide ticket sales, of which $237,301 was earned in North America during a 59-day run ending 26 Dec. 2010.
Monsters was nominated for six British Independent Film Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, and eventually won the Best Director, Best Technical Achievement, and Best Achievement in Production awards. At the 2011 BAFTAs, Monsters was nominated for Outstanding Debut by a British Director, but lost to Four Lions. It won Best Independent Movie at the 2011 Scream Awards, and was nominated for Best Science Fiction Movie but it lost to Super 8.
In the weeks leading up to the UK release date of 3 December 2010 a marketing campaign using social network Foursquare was announced. Vue Entertainment and Cineworld Cinemas set up 'infected locations' which gave users access to exclusive Monsters content and the chance to win random on-the-spot prizes.
A sequel titled Monsters: Dark Continent started filming in Jordan and Detroit with Tom Green directing, Jay Basu writing and Gareth Edwards and Scoot McNairy returning as executive producers. Johnny Harris, Sam Keeley and Joe Dempsie will star in the film.
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- Monsters sequel shoot underway
- Official website
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